My name’s Hywel Phillips, and I’m a full-time fetish photographer....
David Lawrence – Featured Interview – August 2011
Scene Magazine had the honor of interviewing David Lawrence, author, photographer and Shibari master. David keeps it real and gives us a glimpse into his personal life and his creative world of Rope and Photography.
David Lawrence has been a master of expressive portrait, fashion, social function and people photography for more than 30 years. During that time styles and fads have come and gone but David’s methods have remained true and effective. The tenets his work is based upon are not a matter of style but of substance.
David became interested in Shibari, the Art of Japanese Rope Bondage, in early 2003. With a keen artist’s eye, David recognized the inherent beauty of rope on skin. Shibari quickly became a passion, one that developed more intensely as he worked with and experienced the magic of rope. David’s talent and skill truly emerged as he delved deeper into the art of tying rope. His ties are meticulous, intricate, intense and beautiful. In fact, they are all true works of art.
David’s gift to us is his ability to expertly blend his two passions; rope and photography. As a result, his striking images communicate sensuality, eroticism, and the force of raw
emotion. His use of lighting, angles, and sheer creativity is the key to his poignant imagery.
In June of 2005, David Lawrence’s diligent efforts resulted in the publishing and release of his first book, “BOUND Shibari Style Impressions.”
In early 2005 David launched phase II of his Shibari project. He completed the shooting for this project in March 2009. The design of his new book reBOUND, Shibari Style Impressions followed. reBOUND was released May 18, 2011. This book has 368 pages and over 500 images housed in a museum quality binding on archival photographic paper. Not only did David rig and photograph the models but he also designed, and will publish and distribute the book.
Additionally, David is working on a series entitled ”City Lights”, which began in early 2006, and further delves into the fetish genre. The purpose of this series is to create beautiful images of women in fetish and/or fashion attire with exhibitionist flair, partial, full and bodyscape nudes taken at night in cities around the country. David’s unique use of long exposures allows the lights of the city to shine brightly. His longest exposure thus far is 30 seconds with tack sharp results. Before this project is complete, his intention is to successfully achieve a 60-second exposure, definitely an edgy approach. He lives by the credo “You are only as good as your last photograph,” consequently he is continuously expanding on his technique and creates in an “out of the box” fashion.
Most recently David has begun a Men’s Series. This series will capture men in rope. The purpose of the series is to depict the strength of the male energy while complimenting thestrength of the rope. This project offers a whole new dimension with a multitude of challenges.
David has been a presenter and educator most of his professional life. Since 2005 he has added workshops and presentations on rope bondage and has taught at many local, regional and national events. His passion for rope bondage is apparent to anyone who has attended his classes.
To sum up, David is an artist whose commitment is to create alternative art imagery that will record how our culture expresses itself. This is an enormous task, but David is up for the challenge.
SM: What is the most memorable shoot that you have ever done so far (bondage shoot)?(non bondage shoot)
DL: That is an easy one…although there are two that are very meaningful to me. Both images were running around in my mind for more than a year before I had the chance to shoot them. The first is the shot of Engel Schrei on the Brooklyn Bridge and the second is the images of Mara and Calypso individually with the US Capital in the background (this one was shot on the back lawn steps just about 300 yards from the Capital. It was intense shooting there
SM: David, are you a spur of the moment photographer or do you plan everything out?
DL: I am both actually. I will have an idea or conceptually think something through and then once the shoot begins I go with the flow. This allows me to be more creative and not get caught up in thinking over creating. When it comes to my rope bondage shoots I am a spontaneous rigger and shooter…both require, in my opinion, flexibility and freedom from conformity.
SM: When did you first pick up a camera and why?
DL: I was a late bloomer with a camera. My first camera was a Polaroid when I was 17. I did not get my first 35mm film camera till I was 20. By the time I was 22 I was shooting professionally.
SM: What is it about the exposure technique that you use that makes your photos so beautiful? (for us who are not photographers)
DL: Knowing how light will affect an image is key. If you do not understand light and then composition and create with purpose, then everything you do that does work is accidental. With a knowledge base of technical and artistic capabilities under your belt you are enabled to be creative. That is creativity as expression outside the realm of technical expertise. In this day and age…the digital world…it also pays to have an understanding and working knowledge of post production. Post production is when you take your camera raw files and finish them through digital manipulations. This makes then ready for print and/or Internet viewing. I never show unfinished work. I am also a realist when it comes to my imagery. I do not change the look of the image so much as I enhance the presentation of it.
SM: Can you explain how you go about your day rigging and shooting and being Master to your slave?
DL: That is an interesting and complex question. Day to day I do not rig or shoot, I wish I did. When I do have a shoot it is all about creating the relationship with my subject in order to capture the raw essence of who they are. This is accomplished through talking and throughout the application of rope to the body. As I expressed before I go with the flow when rigging without a preconceived notion. This allows for a more dynamic look and feel since I am tying according to the person, body and location where the shoot is happening.
Once the shooting begins I work rather quickly. I can complete a rope shoot in minutes and in some cases I can take longer. Usually I am done within 15 minutes or so. I preset the lighting so that I have complete fluidity during the shooting itself. There is really no time to play around with lighting particularly when doing more extreme rope bondage and/or suspension work. My lighting style and expertise allows me to have so much versatility in composition, angles, close up to full length shots all without changing a thing. That capability took many years to master.
When it comes to my relationship with slave judy we go with the flow each and every day. We do not live together but see each other almost every day. It is the most satisfying and fulfilling relationship I have had in my life. We are a Master and slave couple and she is also my best friend, confidant and biggest supporter. I cherish her and appreciate all that she is and all that she does for me.
SM: I see you like to shoot nudes in public places? Do you consider yourself a risk taker or just an exhibitionist?
DL: You are referring to a specific body of work that I have been compiling for about 5 years now. It is my City Lights Series. This series is about women around a city at night from partial to full nudity and includes bodyscapes.
The purpose of this series is to capture the female form with all its stunning and natural beauty amongst the lights of a city at night. The other aspect of this body of work is the techniques and methodology I use. It is old school with some new school technology added. My fastest exposure is 3 seconds and to date my longest one is 40 seconds. Considering that this is people photography most photographers have a very puzzled look on their faces when they hear this. The reasoning for my long exposures is simple…I want to maintain a ISO no greater than 200 and usually 100 with an f-stop (controls depth of field or area of sharpness) no smaller than f-8 and usually around f-11. This provides me with an end result that shows of the city with clarity. It is a very satisfying series and I hope to be complete with it by early 2013 and have a book ready to publish in the same year. This is the book that I believe will cross over to the mainstream world.
SM: Can you explain your city lights series? It really looks magnificent. Is this series all over the world or just US? It is kind of fetishy?
DL: See the answer above…. And I will be in Dublin, Ireland in September and plan to shoot there so yes, it will be International. Some of the images are fetish oriented and mostly they are just female nudes in public places at night. I always make sure to shoot late to minimize the chance of anyone younger than 18 being around.
SM: Tell me about the artist David Lawrence? Tell me about the Master to slave Judy? Are they different?
DL: The Artist David Lawrence, well that is rather easy…I have had a passion for people photography for more than 30 years. In that time my one credo had always been “You are only as good as your last photograph.” This credo had driven me to stay on top of my game and to avoid the complacency trap. I began shooting alternative art back in 2003, November to be specific. Women in rope bondage, Japanese Inspired Rope Bondage, was my genre of choice. The added benefit was that I was doing the rope work too. That provided me with the opportunity to create a really great relationship with each of the women I worked with for my first book BOUND, Shibari Style Impressions, Secret Magazine 2005 and now my second book reBOUND, Shibari Style Impressions, David Lawrence 2011.
When it comes to photography and my artistic expression I am edgy and a rebel of sorts. I have always been that way. I am a non conformist and march to the beat of my own drummer. I see the world through my own design and capture it that way too. I will use all the tools available to me in creating an image. The most powerful of them being the creative mind within and that mind is intense. Does this make sense to you?
The similarity between the artist and the Master is the intensity by which I approach things. I can also be a tad demanding in each realm. The approach I use with slave judy is simple, do as I say when I say it. Within that there is also a mutual respect, friendship and love for one another. By taking all the “vanilla” world games out of the relationship I find it to be more potent and powerful. Our connection is strong and tied to the trust, respect, friendship and purpose as opposed to “love.” A very powerful lifestyle for sure.
In the beginning slave judy was my first model/subject in my journey with rope. It is was also her request that I photograph her in rope. That first shoot was in November 2003. Once I began to share my imagery I realized that it made a huge impact in the rope community worldwide. It was only several months into shooting my rope work that I had the honor of my first cover to Secret Magazine, Issue 25. Then came my book BOUND, Shibari Style Impressions which was published 18 months from the time I first began this journey. Pretty quick movement I’d say. My slave judy is the cause of all of this. I think she deserves a reward….
SM: What is your D/s relationship like with your slave? Is there protocol? What can you tell us?
DL: When slave judy and I first met it was purely a vanilla relationship. That went on for about a year while I was seeing other women. At the end of that first year I gave slave judy a choice. To continue in a relationship with me the form would have to change to that of Master/slave. I let her know that she would undergo a year long training as my collared slave. At the end of that year she would have a choice, the first choice in a year. That choice would be to continue and be permanently marked as my property with a tattoo (the physical brand) and mentally by giving herself completely over to me.
That year long training was intense and did have many protocols for her to learn and live on a daily basis. For instance, when arriving at my house she had only a couple minutes to strip naked and present herself at my feet to greet me and be inspected. The inspection always involved making sure she complied with shaving her slave pussy well. Another was no pants. For an entire year she did not wear pants and to this day has not worn underwear. The only acceptable deviation to the underwear rule is when she has a work engagement where business attire would be worn. No other exceptions.
Every time she was in my presence she was to ask permission for everything from having a cigarette to peeing in a pee cup or squatting over the toilet as she is no longer allowed to sit when peeing. she had to endure punishments, both physical and emotional, for her indiscretions. I love to use a single tail, canes and my hand so the punishments at times were severe. Each time she passed with flying colors.
I have heard that many people break down a potential slave and then build them up again. That is not my perspective at all. I believe that a potential slave must have high self esteem, a good sense and commitment to service and a love of pleasing as well as communication skills. After all this is a lifestyle of choice and that choice can be reversed at any time. It is a huge acknowledgement to have someone willingly give up their power of choice to you as their Master. That is a responsibility I do not take lightly. The Master in any lifestyle relationship has the responsibility for their slave/submissive so that they are fulfilled and satisfied. When that attention is on the slave the Master does not have to be concerned with what will be done for them as it will be a natural expression of the slave to fulfill their Masters desires. My dominion over slave judy is fulfilled in this way.
SM: What are your strengths as a Bondage Rigger and photographer and what are your weaknesses? Do you have any Goals?
DL: My strengths as a rigger is that I have a commitment to the safety of the person I am rigging above everything else. I also have a solid knowledge of the human body both male and female. In addition, if there is something I do not know I will ask someone so that the security of the person I am tying is secure. I am a self taught rigger and my style is a fusion between my vision and the Japanese Inspired Rope Bondage I have enjoyed for so long. Being a presenter at local, Regional, National and soon to be International events, I have had the pleasure of meeting and befriending many respected and talented rope artists from around the world. We share ideas, methodologies and techniques on a regular basis. This allows me to continuously expand my own knowledgebase. The other strength is my creativity. Rope bondage can allow someone to be artistic with the body being the canvas and the rope being the paint…it is thrilling to see a tie develop into a functional and artistic expression. My weakness, I do not know what they are or if I have any where rope is concerned. I am not arrogant about what I do thus open to expand my capabilities. That would be the only flaw I think a rigger could have other than not caring about the safety of what they are doing.
My main goals as a rigger are to complete my Men’s Shibari Project and to have my work accepted in the mainstream world.
SM: What do you expect from your slave judy?
DL: To continue being my partner in life and serving me with an open heart and mind.
SM: What was it in 2003 that got you turned on to bondage and rope?
DL: I went to the Libertine Ball in Philadelphia where I saw a rope bondage performance. This was the first major event I took slave judy to and we both were in awe of what was done during this performance. I do not know who it was but it was so captivating. I began my journey that night in my mind and went to the store for rope the next day.
SM: Any new projects or Books planned? Can you tell me a about the men’s series?
DL: I have two projects that are currently being produced. The Men’s Shibari Project and the City Lights Series. I plan to publish books on both when they are completed in 2013. The men’s project is intense. The difference in energy between the sexes in extraordinary; men in rope have a strong male energy like a wild animal being captured and subdued. Very stimulating to the eye when you see a man in rope who has been captured and presented for the world to see. This project is particularly close to my heart as it is being produced to honor the memory of my brother Ben. Ben had a kind and gentle soul, the nicest person you would ever want to know. He was gay and sadly died in 1999 after a 16 year battle with HIV. His immune system was degenerated that he succumbed to brain tumor and within 45 days passed. This book will be dedicated to him and a portion of the proceeds of the sale of this book will go to AIDS Research in his name.
City Lights is the series that I intend to break into mainstream America with and even the world. It is a series that will have a wide appeal since the focus is on the beauty of the female form and the cities where the women are captured.
SM: Your Hughcifer images are very intense and have received a lot of love at fetlife. Some of your photos get a lot of attention on fetlife, others don’t. How do you feel about that?
DL: I share my imagery for several reasons. One is to get a sense of what the reaction is to my work. The other is to have people be aware of what I am producing so that they can either purchase a print, a book and/or book me for private or commercial shoot. People make comments when they are moved by an image in some way. If for some reason a particular image(s) goes without a lot of acknowledgement is not so much a function of it not being a good image or one that people like..as it is that there is not the intensity in reaction to it. I like that honesty. When people are moved by one of my images it tells me that I hit a chord. That does feel good and yet again…”you are only as good as your last photograph.” So I keep going.
SM: Who is Hughcifer?
DL: The shoot with Hughcifer was set up for me while I was in Portland. I met him the day of the shoot. We had a good chemistry and his willingness to get the image was as intense as the imagery itself. I enjoyed thoroughly working with him. He is a 41 year old man who is new to this lifestyle and it was his first rope experience. I think I put him through his paces. He was terrific and has a killer body.
SM: Do you ever get up really early in the morning to start photographing?
DL: Only to capture the morning light, this does not happen often. I am a night owl up till 3 or 4 in the morning and I sleep till around 10 AM.
SM: Your favorite bondage tie?
DL: I do not have a favorite tie per se. All the ties I have done are wonderful and work well with the models/subjects that collaborated with me. Each has its own expression and I love that.
SM: Do you like to do suspensions?
DL: I am known for my suspension work. It is amongst my favorite thing to do with rope bondage. It does not take away from floor work as that can be intense too. I am getting into more extreme ties over the last year or so. This provides a new dimension to my experience and that of my subject whether it be for a shoot, class or play. And then there is extreme rope for sex…that is intensely pleasurable.
SM: Any tips for good Black and white photography?
DL: The tips for good B&W photography are the same as for color in my opinion. It starts with having good lighting with purpose, then a good exposure and composition. Then there is the post production. I always produce a Master TIFF file in color first. Then I convert that color file to B&W. My process for that has roughly 25 steps to it. It is not just changing the file to gray scale.
SM: Since your new book reBOUND, what has your schedule been like? Do you have a busy summer coming up?
DL: My July is slow and starting in August it gets busier. The Fall is quite busy with events to present at including Twisted Leprechaun in Dublin, Bound in Boston, Kinky Kollege, Workshops at Kinkdom in Detroit, DomCon in Atlanta, and Winter Solstice. I am open to presenting at any local, Regional, National and International event. So feel free to contact me as I promise that my classes will be well received by all who attend.
SM: I understand that your first book BOUND is out of print and becoming a collectors item, can you tell us about this?
DL: BOUND, Shibari Style Impressions hit the market in May 2005. It sold out within 2 years and had only a couple copies left through 2008. I have seen BOUND on the after market for $179.00 and up to $1,700.00 which is amazing to me. My last copies of that book sold for $100.00 per copy.
SM: What do you like to do for fun? Any hobbies?
DL: Right now I have fun with presenting, playing, shooting, post production and anything else that will help me get my book projects moving forward. reBOUND is a priority because I am the photographer, publisher and distributor. It is a daunting task to sell 1,000 copies yourself and I need all the help I can get to have people know about it so they can purchase a copy for themselves. The success of reBOUND sales has a direct effect on how soon I can complete my other projects and get those books to print. Hobbies and vacations will have to wait…getting to the point of success as an artist/publisher comes first.
SM: Any advice words of wisdom or inspiration to our Kinky readers?
DL: First is to be clear about your desires and be open and honest about your motivations. Then go out into the world and make it happen in a safe, sane and consensual manner. Enjoy yourself as you only come around this playground once.
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