sugar & spikes tattoo feature – photographer chris carr’s art series ‘flesh’

August 31, 2012

Stepping into Chris Carr’s world is like entering a place where all your false pretenses that society has taught you are stripped away leaving you in your truest form, naked…literally. This New York based nightlife and editorial photographer created the company Eat The Cake NYC with the intention to break down the walls people choose to hide behind and force them to get a better look at themselves through his lens. Eat The Cake NYC has brought a diverse community of people together who want to share who they are, honestly and embrace individuality while celebrating the uniqueness of their own skin. I had the pleasure of interviewing Carr in his home and creative space. The first thing you see is that his walls are aligned with nude images he shot. At first, it is a shocking experience but you’d be surprised how quickly this taboo becomes your new norm and it is probably the most comfortable you will ever be in a stranger’s home. With Carr’s art series, Flesh – the exploration of human form, you come to understand through his photography, Carr is a man of honesty, rawness and just wants everyone to enjoy that freedom as well.

– Interview by Mika Kenyah

MK: What is Flesh?
CC: Flesh is the exploration of human form. I’m interested in how people manage images of nudity, ideas of sexuality, their own comfort with nude images and why certain images are cool for one but offensive to another. Also, I like exploring how men and women view human sexuality form differently.
Flesh is an exploration into my own comfort level. How can I photograph and capture nudity in a way that is unique? No props and no crazy backgrounds…just a person and their nudity.

MK: I come across a lot of sites with photographers showcasing nude models and many can come off distasteful. How do you think your work shows nudity in a different way and how do you avoid it becoming viewed as porn?
CC: The biggest difference between my work and porn is the purpose behind it. My goal is not to sell a product based on the fetish nature of men towards women. My goal is not to make a product to make people want to masturbate. Porn has a purpose to make money through sexuality. It is playing off the end result of objectification. With my work, I want people to explore the human experience and come together in a a small space and have to deal with their discomfort, likes/dislikes and have open discussions with other people about it. Nudity deals with something we all go through. We are all naked at some point and we came int this world naked. People usually only get naked when you are about to have sex with them but I get out the shower naked and that doesn’t mean it’s sexual. It’s been reduced to this little box and I want to make nudity normal. Now us wearing clothes…that’s the weird shit! Plus, you only see porn movies where people look the same and even when its fetishsized, that particular look is always the same. I want to shoot everyday people…as long as they are over 18.

MK: How did you first decide that you wanted to shoot nudity?
CC: I got into shooting nude subjects through the tattoo and piercing communities. These are people who are already very self expressive. I was around a lot of people with crazy body art and the the only way to shoot all of it was to shoot it nude.

MK: Do you think people with tattoos are more comfortable with their bodies?
CC: I would just say they are self expressive. They want others to understand their lives and experiences or they are trying to preserve it for themselves. There is something about those type of people that attracts them to an open-minded person like myself. Maybe I was just more comfortable in asking them because I already made the assumption they were already more comfortable with their bodies and out there. That thought made it easier for me to initiate the conversation.

MK: I think that’s a really good point to make because people in general make their own assumptions about people with tattoos. We either party or do drugs all the time.
CC: Through this project I have met tattooed people who are completely straight edge where they don’t drink or do drugs…super straight edge! I went to Columbia and Morehouse and had friends who went into business working for major companies that would be doing drugs in the bathroom at lunch time. So I have learned to never make assumptions. When you shoot nude, as a photographer you meet people and become closer to them. You learn about who they are. I have found that the people I shoot nude end up talking and sharing personal things about themselves.

MK: What was your most memorable photo session with someone?
CC: Probably one my 1st shoots. The girl was 5ft 4in and over 200lbs. At that time I never shot a plus size model and I hadn’t done a full nude yet either.

MK: Did you find this session challenging?
CC: I remember it was a challenge for me to get the lighting and composition right. My job is to take the best picture possible. It stressed me out at first to figure out how do I do this? How can we get a great product? We ended up making great photos and she was happy. She ended up paying me more than I expected. It pushed me to learn more and get better. It taught me not to be afraid of the things that make you uncomfortable. In this project I also let people shoot me nude to test my own comfort level. I shoot people who others may think are not traditionally attractive but it ends up so dope because people become so open and honest with their presentation. They prove you don’t have to be tall or skinny. You don’t have to be anything but yourself. I want my models and I to shoot that and convey that through the product. Let’s make something you won’t see on television or magazines. I found that first in the tattoo and other various forms of body modification communities.

MK: Where can people find and view your work?
CC: You have to come see me live and come to my art shows. I purposely do not put my nudes out there online so that people can differentiate it. I also do large size prints and 4-5 ft large wood paneling.

MK: Do you have a particular style when you shoot nudes?
CC: I like black & white photography and its aesthetic. I shoot digitally and color too but I don’t retouch the subject. I only edit color contrast and slight lighting but I am not fixing fat or wrinkles or anything! It’s all beautiful.

MK: Do people assume you are hooking up with your subjects?
CC: To me it’s work…I don’t know who i find attractive and who I do not. I remove those thoughts because to me it’s all art. I want to shoot a diverse group of races and sizes because I want people to see that humanity is much more than who you see around you and on television.

MK: Did you ever meet anyone you shot who thought one way about nudity before shooting and then changed how they viewed nudity afterward?
CC: I have had people who were not confident before we shot and after they saw their photos they really got excited about themselves…like, “Wow, look at me?” It wasn’t me being like, “I think you are attractive…” They saw themselves from another view they would never see. Whatever I did in my job was good because this person could really see themselves in a new way and love it.

MK: What do you like most about shooting people with tattoos? I like the form, line, designs and originality. The personal nature of it. I love the permanence and thought that goes into putting something permanent on your body. I have 14 tattoos myself that will always remind me of certain period of time.
I’d love to shoot more tattooed people so anyone who’d like to shoot, hit me up!