Photographer To No One Or For All Of Us, well sort of…
I’ve known David Moyle for many years now and one thing I can say for sure is he is a passionate man. He feels deeply and sometimes, I have observed, is consumed by the love of his art, the care and love for his children and the belief in his convictions. If you have ever met Dave and seen his work, you can see how much he loves photography. Although his work is clearly not intended to please everyone, and trust me it doesn’t. But for those who admire his work there is a diverse and eloquent body to choose from. From his commercial work to pay the bills to his own extremely personal expression of art, you’ll find something you like in his portfolio. But just as easily you might stumble across something you don’t. I invite you to take the journey and don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when you observe something you don’t appreciate, keep looking. . . He just might make you jealous over how much talent he has considering how little formal training he has received. This makes Dave the perfect subject for this article: One man’s turn off is another man’s passion. And, oh yeah some of this article and its content is intended for adults over the age of 18. Here’s most of my interview with Dave.
CR: Tell me about your photography.
DM: Wow. Where to begin? I have a very wide, eclectic range from corporate head shots to product photography, commercial work that involves manufacturing, to pole fitness and aerial arts photography. And, then there is my art photography, everything from romantic, to fetish, to the macabre. I do tend to gravitate toward darker images the noir, darkly lit, grainy, high contrast look that show form and curves. I love just using the light I have available when I can. I usually use a single light source setup, but if I can find a window with amazing filtered natural light I'll do that first. I like to experiment. I just love the art of it.
CR: Tell me about your training.
DM: I was always in love with photography, like I think a lot of people are. I had an uncle that took a class when I was very young and I would see what he developed himself, and that's when I think I became mesmerized by it. My dad had an old film camera he got in Vietnam, a Yashika Electro 35. It's still around in a box somewhere. I dented it for him. I've taken one photography class in my life at Fullerton College. Everything else has been ongoing learning since I was about 10. I read a lot of books on lighting, exposure, how to use a camera. Then I practiced a LOT. I come from the days of film where you had to wait days to see what you got, and if you developed yourself it was very fluid. You could develop the same photo many different ways. With the advent of digital, I grew faster because you could see the results much more quickly and experiment more cheaply. I took a lot of color correction and retouching classes and that helped me the most to understand color temperatures and what makes up good skin tones and good solid blacks, etc. I was a retoucher for a couple years for an in-house advertising department. That can really make a difference in understanding what will happen to your work on different mediums.
CR: You dabble in lots of types of photography, correct?
DM: I love many areas of photography and I'd like to think I am good at them all. But it seems that people are always trying to define you in this art form. Is he a portrait photographer? Is he a product guy? Does he specialize in something? Food? And I've actually wrestled with this. I tend to experiment a lot and have never committed myself to one specific genre. My current show has some playful nudes, some slightly erotic work, some pinup work, and then some very dark macabre work.
CR: What are you most proud of in your career?
DM: This is kind of a toss-up, again, between my commercial work and my artistic work. Artistically, I'm most proud of my recent award in B&W Magazine and my Kinsey Institute Show image acceptance from a couple years ago. B&W magazine is THE world renowned publication for photographers for having been recognized by your industry. I spent a decade wishing I was good enough to be on those pages with my peers and I did it. It's humbling and surreal to look at my image in there next to others'. And Kinsey is the institute that gave a voice to human sexuality, made it ok to be sexual and erotic and human. To have them accept an image of mine as what they view as quality art was a huge compliment. When I was there I got to visit their library of what they consider to be erotic art and writing, as well as scientific works on reproduction and the human sexual psyche. It was very humbling to look at it all and very honoring to be included in that. Commercially, I'm proud of the long list of great clients I've worked for in the last decade or so. But I think I'm also proud that I have managed to become friends with everyone I've worked with artistically.
CR: What or who is your muse, what inspires you?
DM: This is a very good and difficult question. It depends on how you define a muse. Obviously the horror genre has inspired me quite a bit. And I've even gotten inspiration from past bad dreams and life experiences. My recent award in B&W magazine was for an image inspired by a miscarriage my former wife had 9 years ago. So you could say I find inspiration everywhere, and sometimes unexpectedly. But if you look at muse in the classical sense, that of a guiding spirit, I would have to say my longtime friend and now my girlfriend. She has inspired me to never give up on my photography constantly. She always tells me when she thinks I didn't quite live up to my own standard of work (which thankfully hasn't been often). And she poses for me quite a bit when I have an idea. A couple years ago I started illustrating again based on our relationship experiences and mutual sense of humor. And, whenever I have an idea and just can't find a model she's been willing to let me call on her. In my more mild works, my children have also been my muses. My daughter is very into light macabre work as well, things like Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and Monster High. She's starting to inspire some ideas that could appeal to all audiences and I have some ideas I'm working on using her as a model. I want to share my daughter's artistic side and her love for family-friendly macabre genres.
CR: Do you feel you need to explain anything about your photography? If you so, why?
DM: Not really. Thankfully most of my photography has been received well by women. Which pleases me a lot. Generally, men are easy. They see breasts or a vagina and they stop there most of the time. When a woman looks at a nude of a woman and says "Wow, that's beautiful" then I know I did it right. But, I am a little nervous about my newest showing of work at Proof Bar and Lounge. It contains a lot of work that I allowed my friend, a professional curator, to choose. And some of it is work I haven't had the guts to show to too many people. Some of it is fairly dark work. An acquaintance recently said "Any bio of you that doesn't contain the words 'dark' and 'twisted' is going to seem like pure spin". Well, he hasn't seen the half of it yet. Do I feel the need to explain? Not really. But, people may be left wanting an explanation. I see it as a compliment though. It made them think.
CR: What do you think of the recent advances in photography?
DM: I love them and I hate them. I sometimes feel like professional photographers are slowly being reduced to a commodity. I feel we are losing respect because people feel they can do something "good enough" with software and hardware themselves. However, I love the tools that are available to us now. I love how easy it is to promote my own work with smart phones. I am competing with photographers that don't even understand the basics of classical photography. Well, it's always going to change; it just isn't going to go back. That said, I love digital and being able to experiment with different looks for the same photograph very quickly. What used to take multiple cameras with different films for different effects is now doable in much less time. And retouching is much different. In some ways it's easier. But that is a dangerous word because it implies a lack of skill requirement. People expect it to be done like magic now and don't see a value in it as much as they used to I fear. It's taken me a lot of time and practice to perfect my retouching. So, I can do it very quickly sometimes because of modern tools. Should that devalue it any more than any other technical skill? We all wrestle with this I think. Plus, the film used to be the limiting factor and equipment was a lot less expensive. So, our magic boxes cost a lot of money and yet people want to pay less because they think it's so easy now. How often do you hear "just Photoshop it"? It's made everyone lazy too I think. "We don't need a makeup artist; we can fix it in post." Well, sure, but it’s still time. And time is someone’s cost. I could go on for an entire chapter about the ups and downs of technology.
CR: Are there new projects or shows in your future?
DM: Shit. I hope so! Or why pick up my camera tomorrow? LOL! I am always working on some new idea for something. I wish I had the time to accomplish all the ideas I've wanted. Or the budget! I have a new project in the discussion phase that came up out of the blue that will tie my creative, artistic work into some commercial work I do related to pole and aerial performance. I've been lucky enough to meet some very successful and awesome people in the competitive pole and aerial world and to be the only photographer to photograph all of the top performers currently. I was approached about an idea to do more of this work around the world. So, we'll see what happens there.
CR: What do you want your legacy in photography to be?
DM: Honestly, I want my kids to be sitting down with their grandkids someday telling them that their great grandfather was a great photographer who followed his dream and did some amazing things with his career. I'm not about trends, setting them or following them. I don't know if it's possible to be like one of the greats at this point with an art form that is so competitive and so saturated. I'll keep it simple for now.
CR: How personal is this medium to you?
DM: Wow. Good question. I think it can be very personal in the sense that you sometimes get to see people at their most vulnerable and tell a story, or even change a life. I've had women tear up after seeing their photos and realizing how beautiful they are. I've had women hire me to do nude photos of themselves to get their self-esteem back after a rape and not tell me until after they saw the photos. I've had people who hate every photograph ever taken of them laugh with joy upon seeing the final images. And, I've had people have some pretty wide ranges of gut reactions to my artistic work. Sometimes the same image creates a very strong negative reaction in one person and the exact opposite in another. So, it becomes very personal for me in that people are entrusting me with their personal vulnerabilities. And, when it comes to my artistic work it's personal in that sometimes it is my own dark fears and anxieties spilling out onto a particular image. And sometimes it's just my twisted sense of humor.
CR: Do you have an agenda?
DM: Again, interesting question. I don't know that I started off with any particular agenda. I like showing people, especially women, that they are all beautiful. I've started to enjoy showing people that they are just as amazing as the people we see on magazine covers. I like when a man I meet comes up to me and shakes my hand and says "Thank you for the photos of my wife. It really did a lot for our relationship and her self-esteem". It gives me a great feeling when a woman who feels like she lost something somewhere in her busy life, get with my makeup artists and stylists, do their hair and makeup, light them properly, and prove to them that they are just as good, if not better than the women on magazines. And I love it when I hear that their husband went crazy over the photos and snuck them into work to show his buddies to the proud embarrassment of his wife.
CR: Does your art have a message?
DM: I just like to make people wonder what the hell is in my head and where I come up with these ideas. Or, to just realize how beautiful the feminine form is and stop being ashamed of it. To accept that we are all beautiful, sexual beings and that real sexuality can be beautiful and not commercialized like porn. Not that porn can't have a place, but healthy sexuality is not porn. We spend our first seconds of life exiting a vagina and the next year or so suckling a nipple, and then spend the rest of our lives trying to hide from them. That should change.
CR: What is your latest photography really about?
DM: My latest? Well, again, the latest being shown and awarded an award was really taken a few years back when my life was pretty dark. It doesn't have any specific meaning. It just resonated with me. I've always loved the horror genre. The erotic, moody, sultry nude and fetish work I've done is just my inner voyeur combined with my love for the female form and human sexuality. I shot a swingers’ party a year ago and some of that work was interesting. It was like an out of body experience where I was an observer, much like a journalist. The images were highly erotic and very real. Real people enjoying honest pleasure. My latest work has really been very much about beauty and making women and their husbands realize their true beauty. It's more private work that mostly will stay out of the public eye because it is for private individuals. But, it's an extension of my art you could say.
CR: Where has your work appeared?
DM: It's been at the Kinsey Institute on Human Sexuality and Reproduction in Indiana, it's been in several art shows in Orange County, and it's been in a few international publications. A couple related to pole and aerial arts and now B&W Magazine.
CR: What photographers and/or artists move you?
DM: Man Ray, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibowitz. In the horror genre, Gore Verbinski, Hideo Nakata, and Takashi Shimizu. One of my favorite artists has been the classical painter Carravagio. He painted with harsh contrasts and vivid detail and shadowing. His creations were quite ominous and sometimes sent back to be made less shocking. A friend who studied art history once told me my work reminded her of his paintings. I've always wanted to create a scene in a photo in that style.
CR: You won an award for your work, can you tell me about it?
DM: I recently won an award from B&W Magazine in their 2013 annual single image award edition. The award was for "Metaphor/Abstract" for an image titled "Miscarriage". The image was created several years ago actually, when I was first learning studio lighting. I'd only been doing studio work for about a year at that point. It was an image that was strongly influenced by the early term miscarriage that my former wife experienced. I didn't set out to create it specifically. I simply was working with a model to create some work and practice my skills and it just kind of came together with a prop we found in a friends studio. Some post production work I was doing after completed the look I was going for. The image has gotten a lot of attention over the years from friends and show attendees. Most didn't know the story unless they asked. My now girlfriend has always been drawn to the image as have several other people, some of whom I met because they saw the image and went out of their way to introduce themselves. It kept getting mentioned that I should enter it in competitions and I just never did for whatever reason. I think I wanted to believe I have better work for one. And, it was a sensitive piece for me. It probably helped contribute to my ex-wife not understanding me and us growing apart more. As an artist I like to think I grow and move past something. But, the reality is when something resonates with people you, as the artists, don't control what that is. You just create something that may happen once in 5 years and there it is. And then it takes on its own life. Like the child that didn't come to term in a way. It somehow is a tribute and representation of the sadness that came from that. The energy redirected. It's strange though. Because emotionally you move on. Then when something like this happens, it sort of scratches open an old wound a little. But that's what being an artist is I guess. It's a moment of intense pride for me on the one hand. But somewhat bittersweet on the other.
CR: Tell me about other upcoming shows or projects.
DM: I'm working on a project to try to do more artistic work tied in with the pole and aerial competitor work I shoot. I'm the photographer for a site called PoleAndAerial.com and shoot all their high end still work. I'm working on a way to do more of that type of work for instructors and competitors internationally. I'm also working on a project with a makeup artist called "Traviesa" it’s the feminine word in Spanish for "Mischievous" or "Mischievous Woman". We're working to show women of all ages and body types that they can be sexy and look like a model.
CR: Have you ever combined efforts with another artist or photographer?
DM: Well, I work with makeup artists and stylists all the time in both my commercial work and artistic work. Some of my macabre stuff would never happen without the collaboration of a makeup artist. I always allow my models creative input on a personal project. They are just as much an artist in my mind. I've collaborated on shows with other photographers and we could come up with a co-op theme. I was a part of the now defunct "Nomadic Image" Co-op gallery for a few years. I collaborate all the time on commercial work. Of course, you and I have collaborated on both artistic work and commercial work.
CR: When working on art, how do you determine what subjects to photograph?
DM: It depends on a couple of things. My mood and the model. Both the body type of model and her comfort level. If she's not comfortable looking ugly or with nudity then there are limits to what we can do. The best models are the ones who are totally open to the creative process and like to contribute their own ideas/posing. I had a few favorite models over the years but, as with everything, things change and, really, you can only work with the same person so many times before the work starts to look the same unless they change their look frequently. I like natural beauty for fine art nude work. I don't care if they are a fitness instructor or if they're a size 12, as long as they are confident and open with their unique beauty. With macabre work, I have to be in the mood and the model has to be fun. Some models are just too used to being pretty and don't do macabre well even if they think they want to. I worked with one model that was really cute. And the macabre genre just didn't work. I tried to make her pose ugly and make ugly faces and it just looked contrived. It takes a certain person to be pretty and pull off ugly. Plus, a good makeup artist and some time in post. Sometimes I plan to do one type of shoot and circumstances will change that. One time I planned a fashion-type shoot at a park and it ended up pouring rain. So we tore up the dress, put mud all over the model, and it became a macabre shoot. And sometimes I start framing a model and notice she has a specific feature that stands out and it becomes an art shoot. I'm very fluid with my process.
CR: Do you have a favorite photograph or project?
DM: It's hard to narrow it down to just one based on the wide range of genres I cover. I have favorites in each, but no one favorite. To keep it simple though; right now my favorite art photograph is one I shot of my now girlfriend when we were just starting to be interested in each other. The tones and shadows are perfect in it. I just saw her lying there and the window light worked and I took the shot. My favorite portrait is one of my daughter putting on her pointe shoes for the first time. One of the rare photos I like in color. But the color is muted and it has an almost sepia feel to it. I guess you could say the subjects are close to me so I am swayed by that. Or maybe I did a better job because of that. But, does it really matter? They're my favorites for whatever reason I suppose. I have a favorite photo of my son too, but it's really nothing artistically outstanding on my part. It's just a snapshot I took with my phone.
CR: How can the public enjoy or purchase your work?
DM: Right now, there is my show called "Girls Next Door" and it is at Proof Bar and Lounge on Broadway in Santa Ana until the end of February. It's all work that was taken around the Santa Ana Art District with models from that area over a period of years. Viewers can go to my website: www.davidmoyle.com to see a majority of my work, however, they would need to email me for a password to the nudes and macabre work. It's totally free; I just try to keep it locked down from the view of children.
CR: Who is David Moyle?
Just some dad who happens to be a guy with a camera who likes showing people the world from his point of view and doesn't take himself all that seriously.
On Saturday, February 2nd at Santa Ana’s Art Walk you may run into Dave at Proof. Maybe even have a beer with him and he’ll be happy to discuss everything from his love of cars to music and so much more. Or if you miss this week’s Art Walk, you can still see his work on display until February 28th at Proof Bar, go check it out.