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Akt Now: Interview for art-magazin.de

art-magazin.de have just published a new interview on their website as a part of their  ‘Akt Now!’ features.
It’s all in German so I’m posting an English version below in case anyone’s interested, gut?:

What excites you about the subject of the nude?
I find it attractive. It turns me on. Actually, would be more precise to say that when it is women, I find it attractive, mostly. With men, I find it fascinating.
I am looking for physical uniqueness. Performance muscles (contemporary circus, dance) are a big interest to me. Years ago when I just started photographing circus, I was talking to my brother who’s a circus performer (acrobat & juggler) himself about how some aerial circus girls have such big shoulders you can mistake them for a man if you look at their backs. My brother explained: “The muscles are not for show-off, these girls want to be able to do a certain move or trick with their body. They need these muscles to be there for it, that’s all”. Through the years I have learned to love what seemed a bit weird to me in the beginning.

How far would you go? Are there any taboos?
I don’t think I would make a good photojournalist. I think I can’t photograph people’s suffering, it feels too private. I can’t do it. At least not directly, perhaps in a paraphrase. But to photograph someone in possibly one of their weakest moments gives me the shivers and almost makes me sick.
I don’t like to show sex too. Sometimes there’s so much going on, you can just show a crop of something – it’s much more effective. It also leaves room for others to interpret.
I’m not really sure how far I would go. It keeps changing. Every year I dig deeper and deeper, it seems like I keep pushing myself but at the same time I like to close down and show less.
Perhaps you could say that the goal sanctifies the means – so all I really need to do if find subjects I can relate to and believe in. As the years go by, I am more and more sick of consumerism and most fashion trends. A lot of cultural habbits seems silly to me as well. I guess if I need to photograph a family naked with all their members; mother, father and children – to protest against Apple’s censorship of nudity on their App Store, I will.

When is a nude picture considered a piece of art?
I think it’s not just about nude. If a picture is good enough to be timeless, it doesn’t matter if it’s nude or not.
This could be a very philosophical discussion about art, nudity and personal taste. Perhaps we can do a whole interview just about that.

Who or what inspires you? Are there any photographers or artists that inspires your work?
Everything inspires me. In specific it will be kindness, intellect, technology, powerful women; both sexually and mentally, doers, thinkers, nature, animals and good food. People who are nice to me inspire me. There’s also money that motivates me more than inspiring. It’s weird – but when I don’t have money I don’t feel like doing anything. When I have money – I am super productive.
The artists I like more nowadays are the ones who do what I do – mixing beauty and vulgar. Creating a contrast, a contradiction.
Maybe I do what they do, I’m defiantly not the first in this category.
Anyway, from the top of my head; Manuel Vason, Sara Sitkin, Lloyd Newson and lately I discovered Daniel Arsham. I like his aesthetics.
It’s mostly people who do stuff that’ll make me go “ooh why didn’t I think of that!”

Was there any mortifying moment while you were photographing?
There was one time when I photographed a female model in a shower and we wrapped her head and face with bondage rope. The water made the rope shrink and at some point she couldn’t breathe. There was a tiny moment of panic because we had to untie all the rope, FAST. It was ok at the end. I know, it’s not that bad. This is the most mortifying moment or close to it. Although some of the pictures I take may look dangerous, we take as much precaution before.
I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt while I’m taking a photo. Unless they’re into it.

How important is staging and coincidence for your pictures?
The staging is just a way to make it my own. I create a situation and let reality happen, or at least I try.
It’s like jazz, you know you have 8 bars to improvise. Within these 8 bars you can play whatever you want – but they are 8 bars in a song. Someone wrote that song. My bars are my frames. I tell the subject “This is your frame, you have from here to here, now play.”

What projects or dreams would you like to fulfil in your artistic practice?
I have a plan to spend 1 year in the USA in 2014 and work on some of my existing projects as well as new ones I haven’t started.
This will actually be a sabbatical so I could take things more easily.
“Naked Girls with Masks” and “Dancers on Rooftops” are obvious projects I can work on there. I also want to photograph some of my personal heroes. People like Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Noam Chomsky, Bob Dylan and so on. People who realistically I don’t have many years left to photograph, or meet. I really want to meet them.

Ben Hopper
Age: 31
Education: no
Next exhibition: Solo exhibition – 6 Sept – 1 Oct. Location: Stour Space, London (www.stourspace.co.uk) / Title: TBC

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