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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Grand Openings, Readings, Piccies and Summer Fun

I’ve not had a news catch-up in a while on A Hopeful Romantic, so today’s the day. And it’s a good thing because there’s a lot of news!  Hang on to your summer hats and sunshades. There are a couple of fun events coming up, so get out your diaries and write these down.

La Boudoir logoGrand Opening of La Boudoir Boutique

I’ve been asked to be a VIP for the grand opening of La Boudoir Boutique in Canterbury. And I’ll be in good company, reading a bit of smut with my colleague in naughtiness, the Queen of BDSM, Kay Jaybee. Canterbury may never be the same. If you’re in that neck of the woods around one next Friday the 23rd  of August, stop in for loads of fun.

la boudoir 2DSC08099We’ll be celebrating La Boudoir Boutique’s grand opening with our fab friend, the Saucy Cara Sutra, award winning blogger, with Jo Hemmings, behavioural psychologist to the stars, and with award-winning DJ, Charlie Sloth and Victor Ebuwa, who was a housemate on Big Brother Five.

There’ll be toys for grown-ups, books, sexy lingerie, goodie bags, a free raffle  and all kinds of fun stuff and naughtiness. Make sure to check the website for a listing of all the fun events and the schedule. It’ll all be happening from 1:30 onward in Canterbury. I can hardly wait to celebrate with Violet Hall and the gang at La Boudoir Boutique. And I hope I see you there.

Unit 26, 1 Sparrow Way, Canterbury, Kent, CT3 4AL

 

Sh! logologo2Sh! Reading and Poetry Slam

After celebrating in Canterbury, Kay Jaybee and I are heading back to London by fast train to party over at Sh! Women’s Store! Yes, that’s right, we are total party animals, and there’s a fantastic reading and poetry slam going on at Sh! Fun, fizz and filth for a fiver! That’s a great deal! If you’re in or near London, or if you aren’t but want to take a fast train, plane or bus, then do come join us. You can join us just to have a listen and a good squirm in your seat or you can join us and read your own filthiest to an appreciative crowd! Either way it promises to be a fabulous night of naughtiness.

Here are a few of the fab folks who’ll be reading besides yours truly:  Kay Jaybee, Meg Phillip Lexie Bay and Victoria Blisse to tease and tempt you, as well as the amazing poets such as Ali Brumfitt, Lisa Davies and Jane Fae!

poetry-slamHere are the yummy details:

Erotic Poetry and Reading Slam
Friday 23rd August
6.30-8pm
£5 (includes bubbly and cupcakes)

If you’re interested in performing on the night, email Sh! on events@sh-womenstore.com with a saucy snippet, and the lovely Sh! Ladiez will do their upmost to accommodate you into the schedule. It’s first-come, first-serve, so don’t hesitate to send that email!

Booking in advance is advised. Sh! is an intimately-sized venue with limited ticket availability. Email events@sh-womenstore.com to book your tickets today and come party with us!

 

Pretty Pictures in the Paper

KD-Grace-32It’s been almost two years since the fantastic portrait photographer, David Woolfall contacted me with the idea for a photo shoot and an accompanying essay on erotica writers, the women behind the smut. I saw a similar piece he’d done in the Guardian several months before with photos and an essay about ghost writers, so the idea was intriguing. By the time the scheming and planning was done, David had a great group of erotica  together – most of them women I know and respect, not only because they’re great people, but because they’re really ace story tellers as well. Over the course of the next few months, the photo shoots happened all across the UK. David booked a lot of miles in those months to photograph us all, and those of us involved compared notes on our photo-shoot experience via email and Skype. David was amazing to work with, quickly putting me at ease and shooting me in my jungle of a veg garden, back in the pre-allotment days.

Once all of the shoots were done and the photos finished, David put them up on his website. Several months later, the Independent ran an article that included a few of the shots, of a few of the authors, but David wasn’t satisfied. He wanted us all featured and he wanted the complete story shared. He promised us he’d keep working to get our photos, along with our interviews and even snippets of our work out to the world.

This week it happened in a big way, beginning with an article in Slate, followed the next day with an article in the Mail Online’s Femail section online and the next day in the Huffington Post online. All three had lots of David’s lovely photos from those shoots of us, as well as his observations, and the Slate and the Huff Post had our naughty little snippets as well. I couldn’t help but smile that when the actual print version of the Daily Mail came out the next day, they had replaced David’s story and pics of women who write erotica with a story about women who chose to be abstinent. Hmmm. I can tell you that of the two articles, the women erotica writers definitely had the biggest smiles on their faces. Make sure to check out the posts and all my lovely colleagues, Victoria Blisse, Lexie Bay, Lily Harlem, Kay Jaybee, Lucy Felthouse, Jacqueline Applebee, Liz Coldwell, Lavina Lewis, Janine Ashbless, and Louise Cross.

I’d like to thank David Woolfall once again, not only for the totally amazing photos and for all of his hard work, but for his persistence in getting his photos and his impressions and interviews with us out to the public. David, you’re amazing!

In Other News

TE new coverThese past few weeks, I’ve been scarce on social media. My head’s been down, and I’m hard at work on the final rewrite of the third novel of Grace Marshall’s Executive Decisions Trilogy, The Exhibition. Am I having fun? You betcha! I love the final rewrite of a novel. It’s all about seeing everything clearly and making sure everything is sharply focused so that the story is clear and demands the reader’s full attention. It’s in that final rewrite where I truly get enthusiastic about what I hope my readers will find as exciting to read as I have to write.

What can readers expect from The Exhibition? Well you can expect lots more romance and plenty of sex, but you can also expect plenty of dark, chilling twists and turns as old enemies show up again, and things are never quite what they appear to be. I hope to finish the final draft by the end of August or the first week in September, and after that Xcite will get it out to readers ASAP.

 

Summering On

In the meantime, we summer on! The allotment is overflowing with all kinds of wonderful fresh veg, including some truly inspirational phallic veg, and the great outdoors is where we’d rather be. I hope you are all enjoying whatever your version of summering on is and taking advantage of the long days and sunshine. Wishing you all fun and filth in the summer sizzle.

 

 

Someone Once Told Me: Mario Cacciottolo Wants to Know

One of the highlights of Eroticon 2013 was meeting Mario Cacciottolo and learning all about his amazing Someone Once Told Me project. Within minutes of meeting him, I was completely intrigued. Mario’s work is fun, quirky, moving, sometimes chilling, and I’m very excited that he consented to be interviewed for a Hopeful Romantic. Welcome Mario!

KD: First of all, welcome to a Hopeful Romantic, Mario! It’s a pleasure to have you here. Could you start off by telling my readers a little about the Someone Once Told Me project and what inspired it?

MC: I’m very interested in storytelling – always have been. About six years ago I picked up a camera and decided I wanted to get into portrait MarioTaofeeq Adeyemi This Onephotography in particular. Then, one day, I had a thought – how about I use one to do the other? As in, use my camera as a way of getting people’s story out of them, in a very specific way?

Someone Once Told Me (SOTM) sees me ask people to hold up a sketchbook on which they’ve written something memorable that someone once told them. It can be anything, so long as it came from someone else.

I take a picture of them doing so and there’s a new image that goes up on my website every day, with all the previous ones available in a gallery. The subject also explains the story behind why that phrase was said, who said it to them and what their reaction was to hearing those words. The story is written alongside their image – I often use audio to capture people’s stories also.

I’ve had a new image up every day since 8 Sept 2007 and from early June will be travelling for a year around the world, taking many such images, using social media to help me drum up new subjects.

I’m looking for all sorts of people to photograph, all around the world, from different backgrounds and nationalities. The one thing I’ll be asking them is – what’s the most memorable thing you’ve ever been told?

KD: As a writer, I’m always trying to convey an image with my words so that people ‘get the picture.’ Do you find that as a photographer who works with images, is the opposite true? Are you always trying to convey a story?

MC: It’s best if you can do that, for sure. I believe that the most powerful form of photography is one that has a narrative attached, even one that’s implied – if you see an image and your brain starts fizzing, wondering what’s going on with those you can see frozen in time, then that is the best use of photography. I am being quite blunt in getting people to write down a phrase in my photos, leaving only a certain amount to the imagination, but there is room for the viewer to wonder just what it’s all about, before they can read the blurb beneath and find out the story around that person’s choice of quote.

SOTM is quite simple, but it’s powerful and interesting, and the best ideas are the simple ones.

KD: Mario, you do a new picture and a new story every day for your website. How hard is it to keep that up? What do you find the most MarioRachel Wood This Onechallenging?

MC: Well, I’ve had to be quite obsessive about it. I’ve never missed having a new photo up every day for what will be six years in September – so that’s more than 2,000 consecutive days now.

I upload seven images every Friday, and they go live automatically each morning in the UK. I just ask, ask, ask people to pose, all the time. I’ve had a few hundred SOTMs sent in to me, which can be done through the site, and I am just always on the lookout. I went to a party the other day, and while everyone else was enjoying a drink and some banter, I never stopped the whole time – asking people, taking photos, looking for new locations in a small flat, recording their stories, talking to the subjects afterwards. By the time I finished, it was time to go home. I’ve done that on more occasions than I can remember.

I’ve taken 5 hour train journeys to visit students on freezing piers, travelled to businesses and charities to photograph their staff on my days off, hung around in the rain at tube stations to get individual shots, and asked all my friends and their friends to take part. I’ve just never stopped asking. When I split with one of my ex-girlfriends, saying I didn’t have much spare time, she said: “It’s nice to know I’m not as important as a website.”

KD: What do you find most rewarding about the Someone Once Told Me project?

MC: Getting personal stories from people when I don’t know them at all. Sometimes I get them very quickly, too. That’s a huge compliment to SOTM and I’m so thrilled that many people like my little idea so much that that they reveal something personal, sometimes painful, about themselves – to someone they don’t know at all.

I’ve had sons tell me what their father said upon their deathbed, and what ex-husbands have told their (tearful) wives. I’ve had a young woman say how much it hurts when their sister calls them fat, and a man from Tasmania talk about what happened during a threesome he was having once.

I also had a student reveal that he was once beaten up by a group of men who then told him: “Oh my God, we got the wrong guy” before giving him a lift home as an apology. He told me that story within 30 seconds of us meeting for the first time – his astonished friends had no idea this had ever happened.

KD: I’m dying to hear all about your upcoming world tour! 23 countries and 1,000 people! And I hear that people everywhere can get involved. Tell us all about it!

MC: I’ve always wanted to travel the world. Even as a boy, growing up on the tiny island of Malta, I used to spread maps on the wall and look at them, wondering what they were like in real life. Years later, when I was fully into the SOTM idea, I knew I couldn’t just end it one day, quietly. While lots of people have submitted photographs to me, I wanted to reach out to them by visiting as many countries as I could, approaching all sorts of people, getting them to tell a story from their lives. So now that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

MarioNick Astaire This OneI’m travelling through Europe, over to Cairo, then South Africa, Dubai, Japan, China and will spend a few months in South Asia, hitting countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Then I’ll go to the Philippines and Australia, before flying up to the US and doing a tour there for a couple of months. I’ll return to the UK in May 2014.

I’m looking for as many people as possible to take part in the SOTM world tour. I need people to meet and photograph, places to stay for a few days, people with media connections so I can drum up publicity, volunteers to help translate a sheet of paper that I’ll carry around, explaining just what it is I’m doing.

The initial announcement can be found here SOTM Tour I’ve since tweaked the itinerary, so the more recent updates on my blog, which runs alongside SOTM, will have the latest destinations.

And of course, if you’re not going to be near my travels but want to take part in SOTM, either as a subject or a photographer, you can easily submit a photo through the Your SOTM page on the site. It always buzzes me out for the day whenever someone sends a photo in to me, and shares a story of theirs.

KD: Can you tell us about the Sketchpad sponsorships?

MC: I have used many sketchbooks since SOTM began, turning more than 1,500 pages myself as I’ve taken photographs for the site. I’m now aiming to take 1,000 people’s images, which will mean at least that same number of sketchbook pages will feature on the site in future.

I’m offering people the opportunity to sponsor the sketchbooks that I’ll use. People can do individual months, or blocks of months. I’ve never put my sketchbooks up for sponsorship before, so it’s an exciting opportunity for all concerned.

KD: Can you tell us about the SOTM app from which, I believe all profits from the downloads go to the Operation Smile charity.

MC: I paid for the app myself and decided to give all the profits from it to Operation Smile, which operates on children with cleft palates. I think they do great work and if you point a camera at someone, you often tell them to smile. It must be terrible not to be able to smile properly.

The app, which is for the iPhone, allows the user to take a photo and place a digital scrap of paper over that image. You can then type out the subject’s SOTM message and story then email the whole thing to me, all from your phone. And you’ll do your bit for charity by downloading the app, too.

KD: What was the most shocking thing anyone ever wrote on your sketchpad?

MC: I’ve had one girl admit she was subject to an attempted rape by someone in charge of her school overseas trip, whom she then had to sit next to on the flight home.

I checked that she was ok for me to use the story and image – neither of which identify her – and the image went up.

Another, very powerful shot, tells the story of how a man broke up with a young woman, using words I’ve heard myself, as a lot of people have, I think. It’s quite a raw, emotive image and I can’t look at it for too long.

The saddest story is from a young woman who I met through Twitter and had a coffee with in Camden, London one day. We took her photo MarioEmilie Stammers This Onenext to the freezing lock and I thought nothing more of it. A few weeks later her friend emailed me to say she’d killed herself. I checked with her father about using her image, and it went up on the site, as did his email reply to me. Very, very tragic.

KD: Mario, you have a way of setting people at ease and making them feel like they’ve always known you. Have any of your impromptu conversations and photo sessions led to lasting friendships?

MC: That’s very kind of you! I was lucky enough to be raised in Malta, which is a very warm, friendly place and that’s never left me. Also, I love what I do and I love getting stories from people – that, above all, drives SOTM for me. So when I get to talk to people I want to – have to – win them over so that they will feel comfortable sharing something personal with me. I want them to feel like they can trust me with their story, and that I’ll take good care of it. People often say “oh, my story isn’t very good” but quite often it is really interesting. People just worry about coming up with something seriously profound, or hysterically funny, but so long as they’re honest, that’s what’s most important.

I have made friends, good friends and even got lucky once or twice over the years that I’ve done SOTM, so it’s been a wonderful, life-enriching experience for me. And now I’m going to take it around the world.

KD: We are all shaped by the things that someone once told us. The words we hear impact on us, whether we want them to or not, and it’s undeniable that they have a power.

Mario, this is from your website, and as a lover of words, I was very much struck by it. Words do definitely have power, so I have to ask you, what did someone once tell you that you would write on your sketch pad if I were taking a photo, and what’s the story behind it?

MC: I don’t know when SOTM will end, but if/when it does, the last ever image will be mine.

Until that time, I’m compiling a shortlist – I do have a current number one quote, but I’m keeping that a secret. Whatever I finally choose as my own SOTM, I’ll have it tattooed on me.

I can tell you that a Lebanese man I once interviewed for work – I’m a journalist – told me: “I used to sniff cocaine with Osama bin Laden in a nightclub toilet in London.”

Also, I once asked a female colleague how she was, and she replied: “I’ve left my husband and I’ve got a stalker.”

And a woman I spoke to said she once had a job cold-calling people. She asked if she could speak to a particular woman but her husband replied: “No you bloody well can’t. She’s run off with a black man.”

KD: Thanks so much for stopping by, Mario! It’s been a real pleasure chatting with you. Best of luck on your world tour! I can’t wait to see the piccies!

 

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Shifting the Balance of Power — ‘Creating’ the Erotic Man

I recently attended a talk and slide-show at the Feminist Library in London led and organized by Suraya Sidhu Singh, Editor of Filament Magazine. Anyone who knows anything about Filament Magazine knows it’s one of the few magazines that feature stunning erotic photography of men photographed by women. The event asked the question: when there are so many great women photographers, why are there so few women photographing men erotically? It featured three women photographers who regularly do erotic photography of men; Migle Backovaite, Alex Brew and Victoria Gugenheim. Each woman gave a slide presentation featuring some of her amazing photography and spoke on her experiences of photographing men erotically.Suraya, who has researched the topic extensively also gave a talk on her findings. The discussion after the presentation was lively and thought-provoking.

 If I could sum up the evening in a phrase, it would be that the event was a study of what happens to the balance of power between the sexes when women are behind the camera photographing men erotically. This was not a factor I would have considered before, and afterward, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t, since it seemed so obvious.

 Naturally whatever I take away from any experience is always filtered through my writer’s brain, and I found myself comparing the experience of a woman photographer photographing men erotically to the experience of a woman writing men erotically. The internal comparison has been helpful to me as a writer, and from the standpoint of a woman who creates erotic art, I find the personal aftermath of the event challenging and exciting.

 I took away that one of the big reasons more women photographers don’t photograph men erotically is because of the power dynamics. A man being photographed erotically is by the very fact that he is the subject of the artist, submissive to her view of what she wishes to create. While lots of men are being photographed by women photographers, the dynamic is considerably different when the photography is erotic. I felt, especially from the powerful, sometimes frightening works of Alex Brew, that when a man is being photographed erotically, a negotiation for power takes place by default, a struggle to balance that power so that both the subject and the photographer understand and participate fully in the work being created in the way the photographer envisions it. Of course I’m not a photographer, and much of my feminism is a gut-felt response to growing up in a very male-dominated family and living in a world where the struggle for a balance of power is on-going. No doubt my view would have been slightly different with the benefit of a more academic and historic view of feminism, but the landscape would still be the same.

 There are few women photographing men erotically. By contrast, the majority of quality erotica is written by women. There are some brilliant men erotica writers, it’s true, but women have, in essence, defined the modern erotica genre. I think this surley must have been, at least partially, in response to the quality that wasn’t there in porn. Perhaps also in response to the general poor quality of porn, more and more men are now reading erotica written by women. This is just my informal view of the landscape. However as erotica writers, we are the creators of that landscape, at least fictionally, and that shifts the balance of power considerably. One would think that by the very nature of fiction, there would be no negotiating for power with our characters, but that isn’t true. Many writers would agree with me that their characters tell them how they want to be written, and their characters are always right. Indeed, it is the characters themselves that are more willing to take risks artistically than their creators. How much of the real world struggle for balance of power between the sexes effects what we create fictionally, however, is the subject for another blog post.

 Many of my woman colleagues find writing erotica one of the most empowering experiences in their life. I would definitely agree with that. While there is a camera separating the photographer from her subject, for good or ill, there is no separation between the writer and the world and the characters she creates. The negotiations are all internal, and the battle, though a quiet, perhaps less obvious one, is always going on.

 I was also struck by the fact that there was a relationship, a certain dynamic, between the photographers and their subjects, and that dynamic affected the end result heavily. In addition to the negotiation of the balance of power, trust was a big issue, for both the photographer and the subject. In the erotic photo spreads I’ve seen in Filament Magazine, there is a certain vulnerability achieved by the photographers in their work which is a part of what makes these spreads so erotic. There is an unselfconsciousness that doesn’t come across on the cover of a bodice ripper or in ordinary beefcake of the male stripper sort. That vulnerability and that level of trust is, for me as a viewer and as a writer, the true erotic element in the work. Take it away, and the work becomes generic, distant, two dimensional.

 I’ve found the same to be true of my writing. The characters only come to life, only feel like someone I’d want to make love to, even fall in love with, when their guard is down and they are most vulnerable, when I catch them in an intimate moment and I’m either someone who they trust or I’m a voyeur, which is another matter altogether. I can write as a voyeur easily, and I almost always do when I write BDSM, but it’s another level of trust and skill for a photographer to capture that voyeuristic feel, and a stolen peek at an intimate moment will always make the pulse race just a little bit faster.

I found myself admiring the bravery of these photographers because they’re entering a space traditionally reserved for men, and a space not without its danger. It’s a space in which there’s often still the assumption that any woman entering in must be ‘gagging for it,’ or why else would she photograph such things? Women erotica writers hear it all the time; that we must be loose slutty women, that surely we must have tried all the things we write about. The very big difference for us is that we don’t experience that from any of our characters. They’ve come from our imagination at our conjuring, and though they may have ideas of their own, they do not exist outside the world we’ve created, even when we let that world take up way too much of our lives in order to get them on the written page. Another level of trust and vulnerability and sharing of power has to take place in order to create powerful photographic images like those shared by Migle Backovaite, Alex Brew and Victoria Gugenheim, and when it happens, the images are erotic, haunting, and stunning snapshots of male beauty at its loveliest, and quite possibly at its purest.

 

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The Female Gaze

If you’d like to learn more about what turns women on visually, then you won’t want to miss this exciting presentation by editor of Filament Magazine, Suraya Sidhu Singh

‘The female gaze’ – Photographing men erotically for women

This will be a presentation rich in photographic examples – ranging from the stunning, to the hilarious, to the baffling – as well as unravelling research findings, all of which tell us a story about the beauty of the erotic mind and the constricted, stereotyped world in which women’s erotica has often been produced.

Where?

Sh! Women’s Store

Spaces are limited, but totally free, so email Renee at renee@sh-womenstore.com to book a place.

When?

Wednesday 20 January at 7 pm.

About Suraya Sidhu Singh

New Zealand born and London-based, 31-year-old Suraya Sidhu Singh is the editor and founder of Filament magazine (http://www.filamentmagazine.com <http://www.filamentmagazine.com/> ), the first women’s magazine that seeks to present a genuine female gaze in its photography of men. She has studied research-informed public policy and worked as an advisor in various government agencies for nine years, before becoming an editor and pornographer.

 

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© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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