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Justice Howard

justice howard
Interview with world renowned Photographer Justice Howard

You photograph a lot of strong, powerful women to striking results.
What characteristics draw you to your subjects?

Well yes, I never put my women in submissive poses . Most of my girlfriends have always been strong women so it just stands to reason that it would come out in my photographs. For instance, my friend Mamie Van Doren is a very strong woman. Therefore, I would never put her in a submissive pose. My models always look like they can kick your ass. They can kick the door down and then kick the ass of the person who is behind it ... ha ha. We have continually been entranced by sexy & powerful women figures like the chick from Resident Evil, Catwoman, Elektra, Laura Croft etc. etc. so Im just carrying on the tradition I guess.


You did some modeling before getting seriously into photography. What aspects of that help you now behind
the camera?

Well since Ive spent some time in front of the camera I can be empathetic with the girls who are now in front of my camera. I know exactly what they are feeling when they walk in front of my lens. Their body language tells me exactly whats going on with them. So I do what needs to be done to make them feel comfortable and so they aren't nervous or edgy. I might give them a prop so they have something
to do with their hands or in another case I might just give them a few minutes until they relax enough where I can get a more casual shot. Whatever that model needs, I'll take care of it.

When did you turn your camera towards the erotic? Or did you envision eroticism long before you picked up the camera?

When I first started shooting in Los Angeles 8 years ago, fetish imagery was the first thing I was documenting. Back then there were only 5 known fetish photographers and this was way before fetish had even taken hold in the scene. I remember during my very first gallery show no one even really knew what fetish was. They would all come up and ask "Why are those shoes so high?" and "Why are those things so tight at the waists ?" They were asking about the corsets of course, and theyd also ask "Why are those women wearing shiny pants?" You know, very basic questions, but back then no one really knew much about it at all.
Not long after this, I had been published in virtually every fetish mag in the world, 3 or 4 times over. Id photographed THE biggest names and THE most beautiful people. Id been the first woman that the Tom of Finland Foundation ever let in to their Erotic Art show. There was huge backlash about that. (What...a woman with the leatherboys?) I'd had 9 or 10 successful art gallery shows. At one of them, the fire department closed down the building due to "over capacity" because it was a total mob scene with 1000's of people there. All kinds of people too. There were judges and lawyers and accountants and directors and actors and screamqueens and leatherboys and dominatrixes. People virtually across the board. I'd been on HBO, British Television, German television, the Playboy Channel and TV in Japan. Id been in hardcover fine art books and group anthology books all over the U.S. & Europe So you see there came a time where I had really just "topped out" and there was no further up to go with fetish. Since I always need a challenge I chose to branch out in a few other areas.

How do you think your photography has evolved since you began?

When I first started I would grab a model, maybe some props and just go and shoot very impulsively with not much planning into it, you know. These days I storyboard everything and will have pre-production meetings with the model or the client in which the shoot is styled & planned very cohesively, way before I even pick up my camera. Ive learned that if you have "ALL THE ELEMENTS" planned tightly and together then you will get a great shot with no bad suprises. My work was also more raw and angry back when I first started. Now its much more stylized, tighter, clearer and more focused than before.

You've had great success in a field dominated by men. How do you think being a women has helped or hurt you in erotic photography?

Being a woman (and an attractive one at that) was a gargantuan detriment. I'd come to a meeting with an editor and he'd be staring at my tits and wouldnt even look at my portfolio. Then I made some major changes in my haircolor and the way I was dressing. Went from a blonde to a brunette, from tight clothes to baggy ones. I went back for another meeting, and lo and behold, their attention was now directed at THE WORK. And once that happened, the work slapped them in the face and they could not discount the fact that the work was great and worth of publication. At that time, location shooting was not as prevalent as it is now and fotogs would ONLY shoot in studio. However, I would go to these wild locations and shoot some really raw edgy stuff. One night we shot in a tire shop in South Central L.A. and the same night we went a few blocks and shot on the railroad tracks. I loved the raw edgy & gritty locations and the 'look' they gave to a Black & White photograph.
I was always scouting for raw and edgy locations. I'd shoot in South Central L.A. very often and always at night which was dangerous to do. One night the cops thought my camera flash was gunshot flare and they chased us down in helicopters. It was a wild night!

You're more of a "concept artist" than just a photographer. I hear you choreographed a number for X at the Aladdin. How did you get into that and what was the experience like?

Yes I shot all the promotional photos for the "X" show at the Aladdin and all of those images run on monitors parallel to the show when its playing as well as running in all of the ads. I was asked to choreograph one of the dance numbers by the producer of the show. So I thought about it for a few hours (I get creative ideas very quickly ) and came up with the idea that it should be done as moving black and white photographs only as if a dance. During the number, the lights would go on and the girls would hold a very dramatic pose, then the lights would go off. When the lights came back on the girls were in a different pose, a sexier pose, and all of the poses when put together told a very erotic story, only as if it were dont in moving photographs. My dance number got the best reviews of the entire show in all of the written reviews after opening night.

You've shot a lot of famous people (Marilyn Manson, Dave Navarro, Blue Man Group) in addition to sexy unknown vixens. How do these experiences differ?

Well Dave Navarro bought a bunch of images from me to decorate his new house with, so that was kinda cool. And that was how we met, when he came over to my studio to pick out some prints for his house. I had no clue who he was. He just came over in jeans with a really low slung baseball cap and said "Hi, my names Dave" without much ado. He was very quiet and unassuming which is what I liked about him. So, at first, I never knew who he was cause I dont think he even mentioned his last name. Then after the transactions for the photographs were completed, and I had finally figured out who he was, I asked him if he'd like to model for me. I remember his exact words which were, "Id be honored". I thought up some ideas directly for him, and thats how that came about. I am the only art photographer he has ever modelled for privately and people are so ga-ga over the photos they are still on my site in their own folder in the Public Gallery due to popular demand..

What's next for you?

Well im finishing up my first hardcover book. Ive just scanned and cleaned up over 700 photos so its alot more work than I imagined. The intros have been written by Mamie Van Doren, John Gilmore, and one is by one of my models from Australia. Ive jsut styled another CD cover for a well known European band and done all the promo shots for the Krave nightclub in Las Vegas and now have 4 billboards with my imagery on the Las Vegas strip. On another note, a fine art collector bought some of my images a while back, and we have since become good friends. I went to his house last week for dinner and he had 8 ORIGINAL Sorayama paintings in his foyer. Then I went inside of his living room, and there, in very beautiful mahoghany frames, were the images that he had purchased from me. Let me tell you, when you see your art framed and displayed in someones house it just doesnt get any better than that! And yah, sure its fun to be published in magazines and have posters and billboards and be in hardcover books and have art gallery exhibits but when someone has gone out of their way to purchase one of your pieces, then takes the time to get it framed in the frame design of their choice and hang it in a very personal place to them (their home) and have it displayed where its appreciated and viewed everyday ......well that truly is as good as it gets!

Who are your favorite photographers from the past, and WHY, and what have you learned from them?

Well first it would be Helmut Newton. He was a groundbreaker in many ways as he brought eroticism into fashion. I will miss him greatly since he died suddenly last year and what disappoints me most is that Ill never get to pick his brain. The second would be George Hurrell. In the 40's and 50's he made the stars look so flawlessly stunning and his lighting was the best. Hurrell taught me the importance of great lighting and how it is inherant in a timeless portrait. My pal Mamie Van Doren told me stories about Hurrell and how he had photographed her. I spoke to him on the phone about 6 months before he passed away. He was listed in the Los Angeles phone book (imagine that) so I just called him up to chat.

What are you shooting right now?

Well this week Im doing a recreation (my way of course) of the Black Dahlia murder scene photos. This was something that Helmut Newton wanted to shoot before he died but never got to do it so Im kind of finishing it up for him you might say. I am recreating the murder scene and photographed it half a block from where she was found, so its geographically accurate. Theres a house built atop the field where she was found so thats really not physically do-able at this point in time. But we did shoot some in the Biltmore hotel in downtown LA and this is the last place she was ever seen. Heidi Van Horne was the model I used for that shoot as she looks alot like Elizabeth Short.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Originality. Creativity. And how I light my subjects. Doing something that everyone has done 10 times over is not what excites me. But doing imagery that has never been done like my images of the girls tied together by the hair, or the girl in angel wings, or Julie Strain in saran wrap, or the Blue Man Group with bulging eyes. All of those came directly out of my brainpan and onto emulsion. It would be nice to be remembered for that. However, even to be remembered at all for what you love to do, is really quite exceptional!

(interview provided by JusticeHoward)





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