UNB Photographer Profile featuring Max Woltman
One of the models I profiled reached out to a photographer he worked with and suggested jumping on the profile bandwagon and I am so glad he did! Max Woltman shows us a unique side to photography with his out of the box thinking and vision. He also shares information on his photo book, Funderwear, which we will be featuring next week!
UNBKyle: Max, thanks for contacting us after working with Austin Tacious. How did you get started in the photography business?
Max: I don’t remember my first photo shoot, but I do recall taking my first camera with me everywhere I went, including the dentist office where I took macro shots of my mother’s teeth. I guess I’ve always had a fascination for the bizarre. Even though I mostly photograph people, I still like to take abstract images of objects, flowers, and textures. And I still like taking photos of teeth, but more often in the context of a smile.
Kyle: I’m sure your mother loved that! I see your unique and out of the box ways started very young. What made you want to pursue photography?
Max: While working as an archival assistant at the Center for Creative Photography in the late 90’s, I became serious about wanting to pursue photography. One of the benefits of the job was getting to see rare photographic negatives, personal correspondence, and limited edition books and manuscripts by artists such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. This prompted me to purchase my first camera. The rest is history.
Kyle: Sounds like a very inspiring job, especially since it helped pave the way for who you are today. Do you feel that you have had that breakthrough moment yet?
Max: I distinctly recall being contacted by a handsome man named Jonathan who was impressed with my portfolio and asked if I would take portraits of him. At the time I had no idea that my underwear photo shoot with him would motivate me to photograph hundreds of other men, young and old, skinny and plump, all beautiful and brave. Not only did this photo shoot give me the confidence to know that I have the eye to take sexy portraits. I also discovered how much I enjoy using the camera as a tool to get to know people on an intimate, personal level. I am honored that people invite and trust me to see them at their most vulnerable.
Kyle: You do have that eye for taking sexy pictures of men of all types which I love. We always talk about models stepping out of their comfort zone in these revealing shoots but it is also the photographer who has to be able to have confidence in his ability as well. Any shoots to date that have been your personal favorite?
Max: I can’t name just one favorite shoot. That being said, my most successful photo shoots are those in which the model/subject approaches the experience with spontaneity and creativity. Working with dancers is fun because they possess mental and physical discipline, know how to improvise, and are eloquent with their bodies. I recently had the pleasure of getting to photograph Seattle dancer and boylesque performer Paris Original. I’m in awe of his flexibility!
Kyle: That is true. Dancer do posses a great control and ability with their bodies that I’m sure a photographer can’t wait to utilize. How about challenging photo shoots?
Max: Any shoot that involves water tends to be challenging. Whether it is a shower or pool, water has its own fickle personality. Trying to spray water on a model without it irritating his eyes or messing up his hair can be difficult.
Kyle: Haha I am sure that can be difficult. Water has a mind of its own sometimes. I can imagine the models hate multiple takes with that, as you do as well probably. Any embarrassing or funny photo shoot moments to share?
Max: I remember photographing a nude model near Abiquiu, New Mexico last year. The area was fairly secluded, but some hikers stumbled upon us. I think they were more embarrassed than we were.
Kyle: Sounds like they received more of a scenic view than they planned on that hike! Are there any brands or models you would like to work with that you have not worked with yet?
Max: I have a long list of accomplished models I would be privileged to photograph. Some of them include Marlon Teixeira, Henrik Fallenius, Jesus Luz, and Brian Shimansky. However, I’m also drawn to the raw energy of athletes and dancers with little or no modeling experience. They often possess a fresh vitality and are open to trying new things. When it comes to underwear brands, I’ve always been a fan of Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss, but I also like the risks that companies like Andrew Christian and Rufskin take, especially when it comes to marketing to a more openly gay clientele.
Kyle: I think you have a good mix there that shows how versatile you can be in your portfolio and vision. How do you prepare creatively and determine your environment for the shoot? Is it determined by you, the brand, or a collaboration?
Max: Most of the time I choose the environments for my photo shoots. Living in New Mexico, I have access to wide open spaces that serve as ideal backdrops for my models.
Kyle: Beautiful landscapes I can only imagine! What a place to utilize. What are some tips you give models in order to be comfortable in front of the camera whether as a new model or for more intimate/revealing shoots?
Max: I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement. In addition to being a photographer, I also act as a coach, therapist, and confidant. It is important to me to make the model feel safe, encourage him to take risks, and provide him with a nonjudgmental environment in which he can experiment with posing, feel free to move, and be emotionally expressive. I like to make my subjects laugh, smile, and feel comfortable. If I can make a fool of myself, I in turn give the model permission to be himself and not feel pressured to be perfect or try too hard to impress me.
Kyle: Great mentality! There is so much vulnerability put out there by these models that it is nice to see a photographer who can take that and ease the nerves and encourage the experience. What are your interests away from the camera?
Max: In addition to photography, I enjoy singing, acting, eating, and sleeping. Dreams are often the inspiration for much of my work.
Kyle: Well, sounds like your dreams in photography and art are happening. With your experience and knowledge, do you have any tips for people wanting to get into photography?
Max: Taking photos is a great way to discover what inspires you and to have a tangible record of your observations. With any art form, it is helpful to acknowledge your history and what you already know. Never take for granted your own unique life experiences and beliefs and how they influence your self-expression. Beauty is all around us and it is our responsibility as artists to recognize this. Often, what we think is mundane or uninteresting to us because we see it everyday is exactly what appeals to someone else. We all have a story. I admire Ruven Afanador for infusing his Columbian ancestry into much of his fashion and portrait work.
Kyle: Inspiration and a personal touch sound key to what you believe. I am sure it can be difficult in an industry where you feel that you need to shoot what other’s want you to shoot and lose yourself. What are some of the things that you feel set you apart from other photographers in the market?
Max: I tend to think outside the box. What I find sexy is not always what we’re told is attractive by the media. For example, I am not afraid to feminize men, to have my models smile, and to sexualize obesity. Though not always commercially advantageous, it is imperative to glamorize different types of people. As we become more accepting of the transgender community, for instance, our representations of masculinity and femininity will continue to expand and we will see more variety in the modeling world. As a photographic artist, I have a greater responsibility not just to serve the commercial needs of our capitalistic marketplace. I hope that my work will impact society in a deeper way, broaden our sometimes limited notions of what beauty looks like, challenge us to be kinder to each other, and look at people beyond the surface.
Kyle: We definitely see this outside of the box thinking in your photos. It is nice to see a photographer who can display something we are not seeing too much of and really stand out. You have a new book out called Funderwear. Tell us about the book. What inspired you to put this together?
Max: In an effort to make people smile and laugh, I decided to create a book that makes it okay to like ourselves. I know it might sound silly, but not a single person I photograph doesn’t express some sort of insecurity. We tend to be most critical of ourselves and feel like we aren’t good enough or measure up to an unattainable ideal. And that makes me sad. Our lives are too short not to glorify how extraordinary we are. Funderwear is more than just a collection of men in their underwear. It is a celebration of freedom and sexuality. These brave men share their near nakedness. By being vulnerable, they in turn realize their own strength and confidence to proclaim their bodies. Funderwear encourages us to embrace our inner child’s sense of play and look at masculinity from a not-so-serious side.
Check out more of Max Woltman’s portfolio below.
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