Photographer Scott Barnes was a groovy and talented guy who left us much too soon on Saturday at age 50. He was a longtime Facebook friend (since 2008), and I featured his pics of hot men three times as my week-long Dish of the Day theme (click here to see them). And below you can read a 2013 interview with Scott when I selected him as my Groovy Guy of the Month.
This month's Groovy Guy is Indianapolis photographer Scott Barnes, who enjoys shootings pics of people - especially hot men. According to his Tumblr blog, he also likes coffee, music, art, stars, clouds, cookies, red wine, Americana, adventure, microcosms, performance, alternate identities, food, science and SPECTACLE. And I am delighted to have this talented guy here on the Dish to answer a few questions about his career and, of course, pop culture.
When did you first become interested in photography?
It happened during my sophomore year of college. I was taking my first Photojournalism class, and I realized that I really enjoyed seeking out interesting people and photographing them.
Do you remember the first photo that you took?
I got my first camera on Christmas when I was 13 (or maybe 12). I took my first photos that night of random family members.
Do you remember the first photo you took of a gorgeous guy?
I lived in an apartment from 2001 to 2006, and I had a neighbor named Noah who was 28, straight and an ex-marine and ex-pro soccer player. Noah didn't like wearing clothes, and so it seemed that as soon as the temperature hit about 60 in the spring, he would be outside without a shirt. I thought he was gorgeous, and when I started taking photography more seriously, one day I asked him if I could practice on him. He didn't have a problem with it and we started hanging out often, and I usually had my camera.
What has been the most surprising thing that has happened while taking someone's picture?
It took me a minute to think of some answer for this one that's not too dirty to reveal! Seriously, I have a lot of stories - almost every photo shoot comes with some small surprise. But here is one story that has always stuck with me.
I got an email from a 61-year-old Latino Vietnam veteran. He asked me to commission my best makeup artist for a shoot. He told me that he was finally ready to come out as a trans woman and that he wanted me to take a photo that he would present to his daughter as he told her. He wanted to make sure she took him seriously, and in his words, he didn’t look like “some clown in a dress and a wig.”
He arrived at the studio looking more like Danny DeVito than a woman, and when Kat (my makeup artist) arrived, we exchanged a few glances that made it clear that we both thought this shoot was going to be a disaster. But we both committed to doing it right; Kat started working with him and made small talk as she did, which put us all at ease and made us understand his story. He put on the dress and wig he brought along, and I took my time with lighting and posing and made sure he looked as feminine as possible. And instead of a disaster, we had a fantastic photo shoot that really touched all three of us. Ana loved her photos, and neither Kat nor I have forgotten the experience. This was by far my most emotionally moving photo shoot and I really didn’t expect that.
If I asked you to show me three of your pics that best represent you as a photographer, which ones would you choose and why?
I'd choose the following:
Stefano. He was the bartender of a small bar I walked into in New York. After he gave me two or three martinis, I asked him to pose for me and he said yes. We met on the street the next day. I chose this photo because I feel like a lot of my work centers on random connections I make, and convincing the subject to trust me. This was one of the more random and impetuous meetings/shoots that I've had.
Scott Cullens: A lot of my photography has a theme of “role reversal.” I find guys who are dominant over me (be it hotter than me, stronger than me, bigger than me, guys who could kick my ass if they needed to, guys who are so straight that they ooze testosterone, etc.) and I flip the roles. I make them vulnerable, and I force them to trust me, and I put them in situations where they are submissive — and in a way, I become dominant over them, as the photographer. They have to trust me, they have to do what I want them to in order to get the shot. I don’t think many of my photos demonstrate all of that better than this one. I love it.
Jordan. This is actually from my latest shoot - I haven’t even posted this model’s photos on my websites yet. But this photo represents my work in so many ways. He’s nude, he’s in public, he’s vulnerable, he’s beautiful, he’s exposed, he’s confident. Contrast between light and dark has become a more common theme in my work. And I really like shooting late at night now.
If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self a wise piece of advice, what would it be?
This is easy: I would say, “Scott, you don't want to double major in journalism and political science; you want to double major in journalism and fine art.”
What are five of your favorite movies that you never get tired of watching?
This is a hard question for me - I LOVE MOVIES! But here are five that I watch often and will never get tired of:
1. Little Miss Sunshine: This is the only movie that I have watched and then immediately started over and watched again. I think it's so funny and the characters are beautifully written.
2. Send Me No Flowers: Rock Hudson and Doris Day just make me happy.
3. Star Trek: I'm not really a huge fan of this franchise as a whole, but I love this movie. It probably has something to do with Chris Pine being so easy on the eyes. But aside from that, the story is engaging, the cast is great, and the special effects add to the plot rather than distract from it. I watch this movie regularly.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird: The best film adaptation of a book, period. When I find this playing on TV, I'll stop what I’m doing and watch it, every time. It’s such a fantastic story, and Gregory Peck is incredible.
5. Ratatouille: I'm a bit of a foodie, and a Francophile. I think this movie is so awesome.
I'll watch ANYTHING with Katharine Hepburn, Cate Blanchett, Ryan Gosling, Kate Winslet, Morgan Freeman, Donald Sutherland, Jodie Foster or Matt Damon because they don't pick bad roles. And I'll watch anything with Channing Tatum because, well, he's Channing Tatum.
What are your five favorite TV shows of all time? And what is your favorite current TV series?
This is a hard question, too, because for as much as I love movies, I'm not much of a TV person at all. I haven’t seen one episode of a lot of TV shows that people talk about. But here are five shows from my lifetime that I do like/remember:
1. I Love Lucy: It doesn't matter that I've seen every episode 47 times - if it comes on TV, I will watch it.
2. Battlestar Galactica: I think this is one of the best written TV shows ever. It should have gotten more attention than it did.
3. Twin Peaks: I loved how it was part David Lynch weirdness, part soap opera, and part crime drama. I remember being angry that the network kept fucking with it by moving it and putting it into hiatus for weeks on end, which prevented it from being what it should have been.
4. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: I'm a political junkie and this show is so well written, taking the absurdity that's become the American government and making it equally funny and tragic. And I WOULD gay marry Jon Stewart.
5. The Wonder Years: I remember watching this show often, but now I can't remember much about it other than it was about some kids growing up with the Vietnam War in the background.
Bonus: I've been watching The Young and the Restless since 1978 because my mom would have it on when she gave me lunch in the summer. I was intrigued because Katherine Chancellor (who already seemed old to me, even back then) had some boy-toy husband, and Nikki got V.D. from Paul and ran off to join a cult, and Rose was going to sell David Hasselhoff’s wife into white slavery. Those were pretty provocative stories to my 11-year-old mind. And it kills me that Nikki and Paul are STILL on the show, played by the same actors, as was Katherine until this summer (rest her soul).
As for my favorite show today, like I said I really don't watch a lot of TV, but I tune into The Big Bang Theory often.
If you were asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, whom would you select?
Ask me in two months and I'll probably give you a different answer - my current crush/favorite model/actor I adore/etc. changes pretty often.
Right now, I'd say Will Grant, the BMX rider turned model. I think he's one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen. His jawline is perfect, he's got a killer body, and he's very All-American but at the same time his tattoos give him an edge. I'd LOVE to have a photo shoot with him.
A close runner-up would be Aaron O'Connell. He went to Purdue and he grew up in Carmel, Indiana, which is the first suburb you hit when you leave Indianapolis to the north. I kind of feel like he's the one that got away since he was so close to me when he started modeling and I didn't find him.
If you could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at your dinner party, what three people would you invite?
I would choose Michelle Obama because she's my favorite First Lady of my lifetime, Richard Avedon because he is the photographer that I respect and emulate the most, and Julia Child because she's fascinating on so many levels. She would cook the dinner and then join us to eat.
What's next for Scott Barnes?
I think I'm in a bit of a re-invention period. I took the month of May off from photography, then had a couple of shoots in June that really didn't inspire me, so I took the rest of the summer off. I've had a couple of shoots in the last two weeks, and I love doing the work again, so that's good. I think I'm in the mood to tell more stories, to explore some darker themes, to make the models even more vulnerable, and to be even more edgy with my work.
I'd like to move. Indianapolis has been good to me and I kind of do like "big fish/small pond" syndrome, but I'm ready for a bigger city. I've been applying to jobs in Chicago and New York (although I have to confess I'm not putting that much effort into a job search). I've had an LGBT gallery in New York express some interest in doing a solo show of my work. And I'd like to get either my Drifters or Gods series published as a book. These are a few of my next goals.
Thank you, Scott, for being such a groovy guy!
To see more of Scott's pics, visit his websites, Scott Barnes Photography and Vir Impudicus. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.