THERE IS NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. THE MAN WHO CALLS HIMSELF HOTSNAPZ IS ONE OF THE MOST TALENTED AND CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHERS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. A QUICK VISIT ON HIS WEBSITE OR JUST GOOGLING HIS NAME WILL SHOW YOU WHAT WE MEAN. BUT MORE THAN THAT, SIMON BARNES IS A MAN WITH PASSION AND MODESTY, AN INSPIRER AND A TEACHER. AND AN ARTIST IS HEART AND SOUL. WE FEEL PRIVILEGED TO BE ABLE TO TALK WITH HIM ON REGULAR BASE. TODAY HE TALKS WITH YOU.
Simon, we have come to know and appreciate you as a talented, skilled but also critical photographer. When you shoot a series and then look through the raw material, how do you know you have a good portrait in hands. What makes it stand out?
Simon: WOW! Now there’s a compliment, Thank you. I rarely have a picture I am truly happy with, but then I guess that’s the point when the creative process would stop. To choose an individual image a lot is based on instinct. I tend to speed view the images until one hits me and then edit that. Later I go back through more slowly to see if I missed anything.
Would you say there is a difference in how you select your images compared to how your models choose?
Simon: Oh yes. The major difference between a model and a photographer is that a model looks at the detail first …“OMG I have a huge spot… My eyebrow is odd. etc.” whereas a photographer looks at the whole dynamic and works on the detail later. That’s what Photoshop is designed for. The whole subject of editing has been contentious lately as creating impossibly perfect people. Obviously if you are photographing an actor or sportsperson you choose an image and edit it as naturally and as honestly as possible. But for more creative images we all want fantasy, We want the perfect vision of our dreams, So again the choice of image depends on the potential to create that fantasy. Preferably one where the model doesn’t look too bored.
Having visited your studio several times, we once we called it Aladdin’s cave. How would you describe the place where you do your magic?
Simon: Haha. I guess an expanding rummage sale best describes it. I really do have an amazing amount of clothes, props and general clutter. Strangely I know where most things are. I always feel naked without the accessories and if I throw anything away, it’s the one thing I need next.
So your studio is not the standard studio you would expect from a photographer. How do models react when they arrive for the first time?
Simon: I love to see a new model’s face when they see the studio for the first time. It’s a mix of disbelief and pleasure. As you know the actual studio is at the far end of the space so you encounter the “collection” first.
What makes for you a great male model?
Simon: Obviously the look is what it’s about, but someone who has a natural ability to relax and is not scared to act out emotions or dynamics to fit the theme. Also one who is prepared to work for themselves. There are so many models desperate to work that you cannot rely on others to push you. You have to have determination and get your presence felt. Very few guys are spotted in the street and whisked away to international stardom.
What makes for you a great photographer?
Simon: NO EGO! I have a massive hatred of the whole ego thing, It usually goes hand in hand with “My Model” syndrome. Any shoot is a partnership of ideas between model and photographer, so you have to bend your vision to suit the model and vice versa. Of course if it’s a commissioned job you both have a fairly rigid directive, as does the stylist and MUA (Make Up Artiste) but for a lot of my shoots it’s the creative process between two people. I admire technical ability in other photographers, especially with regards to lighting. Lighting makes or breaks an image. I love to see thought about composition, theme and styling. It’s very easy to have a digital camera and call yourself a photographer.
You have a background in theatre. How does this influence your photographic work and would you think that you would have been a different artist without the knowledge of and experience in theatre work?
Simon: Oh yes. I’ve already mentioned lighting, but everything I do has a slightly theatrical edge. Strangely the bulk of my photography centres around building portfolios for fitness and physique models or working on a magazine spread, but in each shoot I try to tack on a few “Hotsnapz” images, with the full range of props and make-up appearing.
With every photo you take your knowledge and expertise increases and the possibilities you can imagine become more and more rich. What is the dream of Simon Barnes that he wishes to realize?
Simon: Well a rich sponsor wouldn’t go amiss - LOL. But just to continue to grow and expand the repertoire I guess. I’d like to think you’re still publishing my work in issue 1,000.
Besides being a great photographer yourself, you are also a mentor for young talent. Various of your models have chosen to follow your footsteps and moved from in front to behind the camera. How does this make you feel?
Simon: You’re making me blush!! Proud. Both Simon Howard and Zach Burns have become very experienced and proficient photographers and their work has acquired their own individual stamp. I love to see new talent emerging.
Do you have idols? Who’s work do you admire?
Simon: I love the old black and white Cecil Beaton images… all hand retouched and shot through silk to soften the image. Totally theatrical! I can’t mention modern photographers in case I forget someone. But they know who they are!
Who tops your wish list of guys to work with?
Simon: Anyone who has a true desire to work hard in the industry, but I wouldn’t mind having a shoot with Cheyenne Jackson. –BM-
Read also The Stopping Power of Simon 'Hotsnapz' Barnes | Part 1 and Part 2.
HOTSNAPZ | BEAUTIFULMAG