UNB Photographer Profile featuring Scott Barnes Photography
Chicago based photographer Scott Barnes sat down with us to showcase his exciting portfolio. With collaboration and raw and natural talent behind each photo, he has made a name for himself in the photography world. He shares his unique style with us pertaining to the erotic, spontaneous, and creative talent he has.
UNB Kyle: Thanks for taking the time to show your portfolio with us. What was your first photo shoot and how did you come to get it?
Scott: I have been interested in photography since I was a kid, when I received my first camera for Christmas at age 12. From then on, I picked up photography in spurts here and there, on and off. When I decided that I wanted to start photographing people, I was looking for practice. I had a neighbor who was a former Marine and a former professional soccer player who was always walking around the neighborhood with his dog and without many clothes on. One day I asked him if I could bring my camera over to his place and shoot him. He said yes and a week or two later a friend’s mother, who was a well-known artist, saw the photos and told me that even unedited, a few of them belonged in an art gallery. That’s all it took to make me want to study and keep getting better.
Kyle: Great story! It’s nice that you took advantage of what was around you and clearly have a natural talent. What made you want to pursue photography?
Scott: I was in one of those periods where I hadn’t been shooting many photos for a few years, but I was bored one Sunday afternoon and I decided to kill time by playing around with my old camera. From that, it became a hobby again, and then a few months later someone gave me a copy of Male Nude Now as a birthday present. I started studying the work of photographers who were known for working with men . . . everyone from David Vance to Christopher Makos to Clive Barker to Steven Underhill and Reed Massengill and Mark Beard. I wanted to be one of them, too.
Kyle: I like hearing that the desire turned into a hobby and blossomed into a passion and career. Which shoot do you consider your breakthrough in your career?
Scott: I had one shoot with a model named Aron, who I had been noticing (stalking?) around town for a whole summer. When I finally got up the guts to ask him to pose for me, he just shrugged and said, “Sure.” When I looked at his photos after the shoot, it was one of the first times I realized that my work didn’t need much post-production editing, which made me feel great. (I’m a photographer, not a graphic artist, and I think the line is blurry these days. I mean, when a person shoots a photo that’s not technically good and then fixes it in Photoshop, they’re a graphic artist. Sorry.)
One of Aron’s photos also got me into my first art auction in New York, and I felt like that changed everything. I attended the auction and I got to meet some gay photographers and artists that are SO inspiring. It was an awesome night.
Kyle: I see your distinction between photographer and graphic artist and it makes sense. You seem very natural and raw with that. Do you have a favorite shoot?
Scott: I loved my shoot with Jordan, who rode a Greyhound bus for more than 48 hours from Los Angeles to work with me. I picked him up at the bus station at 8pm and got him some food, and then we went to my place with a plan of having a few drinks and a quiet night so we could shoot from 10am to 5pm the next day. But about midnight, we started talking about photography and I was showing Jordan some photos that I like. He fell in love with some images that were captured after dark on a dirt road. I said, “But you won’t be here tomorrow night when it’s dark.” Jordan looked at me and smiled and said, “But I’m here now.” And that’s how Jordan and I had an impromptu shoot at 1am on a Thursday night — with Jordan pretty much running around my neighborhood and the nearest country roads naked.
Kyle: Haha great spur of the moment shoot. Probably some of your best work and with his excitement for the atmosphere, it probably enhanced the shoots that much more. Which shoot has been your most challenging?
Scott: Well, the first time I photographed Austin Armacost was kind of scary. The A-List season two had just ended and one morning out of the blue Austin called me and said he was in Indiana and needed a photographer THAT DAY for a promotion. I had a 103 degree fever but couldn’t say no, and since it was a high-profile promotion I wanted the photos to be great. And I was a little afraid because of Austin’s reputation on The A-List. (It turns out that yes, he’s as outspoken and energetic as he was on TV, but he’s also very sweet and authentic and fun and charming and sincere and VERY grateful). I really like Austin and we’re still friends, to this day.
Another shoot that was intimidating was when a 61-year-old army veteran called me, asking for photos of him presenting as a woman with the goal of showing them to his family as he came out as transgender, just before starting his male-to-female transition. He wanted his family to see that he was serious about his decision. My makeup artist and I were both out of our elements and pretty nervous — but the shoot turned out to be a really loving and moving experience for us all, and the client was very grateful. I won’t forget this one.
Kyle: So unique and powerful situations. Very relevant for today. I’m always curious about these moments that people don’t want to talk about. So how about it? Any embarrassing or funny photo shoot moments to share?
Scott: I can’t think of any embarrassing moments, but I’m kind of a nerd so I feel like I’m embarrassing myself all the time. As far as funny, once I had a quick shoot scheduled with three of my models. When the doorbell rang and I opened the door, there they were, standing on my front porch totally naked at 6 in the evening. “We’re ready,” one of them said. Sometimes, I can’t imagine what my neighbors must think.
Kyle: That hasn’t happened when I opened my door! Yes, your neighbors probably wonder what type of business you are running out of your house! Since you shoot a good amount of naked models, 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?
Scott: I guess for me, the only advice I give to new models or any guy who’s posing for erotica is to relax and make sure to have fun — and I always tell them to remember that THEY are in charge. If I suggest a pose or location or anything that makes the model uncomfortable, he should say so and we will stop/change/etc. I like to see people push their boundaries but I don’t ever want anyone to do something they’re not comfortable with, or worse — have regrets later for having a shoot with me.
I’ve been told that my personality sets people at ease pretty quickly. I hear that I’m good at getting new models to trust me. I like that.
Kyle: I am sure you make everyone very comfortable. Great attitude with that! Are there any brands or models you would like to work with that you have not worked with yet?
Scott: I’d love to work with Andrew Christian. And I’d LOVE to have a shoot for Mr. Turk. It would be fun to shoot for 2xist or Ginch Gonch.
As for models I’d like to work with, that list is SO long!! And it changes all the time.
Right now, I’m a huge fan of Levi Jackman Foster, Franky Cammarata, Kyle Krieger, and Matthieu Charneau, I’d love to have a shoot with Michael Hoffman, the fitness model who’s started doing solo porn videos. I’d love to work with Stephen James, because his tattoos are amazing. And Freddy Krave, even though he’s more of an artist than a model; I really like his style!
And Quinn Jaxon, Edward Wilding, Colton Haynes, Gregory Nalbone, Chad White, Aaron O’Connell, Josh Owens, Cory Bond, And Michael Hamm, the cosplayer. And Anton Hysen, the gay soccer player. And Steve Grand, the gay country singer. I also want to photograph Ryan Ferguson, the bodybuilder and fitness expert who was falsely accused of murder and spent 10 years in prison, who was just released a few months ago because the witnesses came forward and confessed that they lied.
Kyle: Quite a list! I hope you get to check some names off of there. How do you prepare creatively and determine your environment for the shoot? Is it determined by you, the brand, or a collaboration?
Scott: It’s always a collaboration. Of course, if I’m shooting for a brand, they get the final say but usually I start with a concept that includes a location and I’ll see what the brand thinks and let them add to the theme as they see fit. I even include the models in the collaboration, if possible. I figure the more we all know going into a shoot, the more on-target the outcome will be.
Kyle: Collaboration is very important and I love that you combine everyone to get that. What are your interests away from the camera?
Scott: I like coffee and red wine, and hanging out in coffeehouses and my favorite bars. I love to cook (I’m into French food right now). I love movies and music. I like design, architecture, and Americana. I like science (astronomy, National Geographic, etc.), dogs, and NPR. I’m currently transitioning my life to Chicago, and I love wandering around the city when I’m there. I try to support the arts however I can. I don’t watch a huge amount of TV, but I like The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory, The Voice, Arrow, and the occasional paranormal show.
Kyle: I see that probably cooking, architecture and the rest compliment your creative mind. Any tips for people wanting to get into photography?
Scott: Just study! Look at the work of other photographers and decide what you like and don’t like — and more importantly, explain to yourself why for each. It’s not enough to say you like someone’s work, what do you like about it? The mood? The tone? The lighting? The model? The pose?
And learn as much as you can about your camera. When I first started this, my mentor picked up my camera and turned the setting to total Manual. Then he looked at me and said, “I better never see this camera on ANY setting besides M, again.” If you can’t use the camera, any good photos you take will just be accidents.
Kyle: I love that! What a great mentor. Thank you for sharing all of this with us. Finally, what are some of the things that you feel set you apart from other photographers in the market?
Scott: I think I have a slightly unique lighting style. I think my photography has a way of looking like it’s 40 years old and new, at the same time.
Check out more of Scott Barnes Photography below: