Interview with:
Ray Rapkerg

Cover of Volume 8

Where are you born and when?

I was born in New Zealand in the 1960s. My parents moved out there, and I was born there. It was a good place to have a childhood in. I moved to London when I was twenty, so I have spent most of my life in England. I have various European relatives — I guess I feel more a citizen of the world than a citizen of one particular spot.

Where do you live?

London, England.

When and how do you start your path in photography?

My father gave me an ancient Kodak Box Brownie camera when I was six. I took it on a school trip. The photos turned out a bit blurred — I did not understand that I should hold the camera still. But I was hooked. To me, the ability to freeze a moment of time into a little print that could be viewed later seemed absolutely wonderful and magical.

Who were the three photographers that inspired you at the beginning and who are the three ones that inspire you now?
Please add links to the pages where the images are shown.

I was always inspired by classic photographers of the twentieth century. Some of my photos were inspired by Bill Brandt, who took abstract, distorted nudes under the white cliffs that run between Dover and Brighton on the south coast of England. Those cliffs are called the Seven Sisters, and I did a project where I took seven women there to photograph over seven years. Another photographer I love is Francesca Woodman. I did a project where I took photographs in her style. Perhaps the results did not really look like her photographs, but they were inspired by her. Who else? Saul Leiter. William Klein. Diane Arbus. Deborah Turbeville. Lillian Bassman. Sarah Moon. Often I find I prefer women’s photographs of women. I see a nude or a fashion photo of a woman that I like, and it is amazing how often it turns out to have been taken by a woman. I realise I have given you more than three names! Such is life!

Do you went to a school or are you a self-taught?

I did a course on photography at university. We were taught black and white film development. At the end of the course, we put on an exhibition. Just to be perverse, I secretly taught myself colour development. I made big Cibachrome prints. Cibachrome was a technology that made incredibly vivid colour prints. My part of the exhibition stood out like a sore thumb. I was proud of it, but my teacher hated it. He was resentful that I had broken the unspoken rule that the prints should be black and white.

Do you create as a professional or for yourselves?

I do it strictly for myself. I did some professional photography and hated it! Being forced to photograph boring stuff for someone else ... for me, it spoiled the joy of photography. So now I make sure I do what I want and only what I want. For me it needs to be a creative joy, and I strictly avoid being burdened by any professional photography.

What do you like in photography, what is your motivation?

It is both hard and easy to say what my motivation is. If I try to say something sensible about my motivation, I find it hard to think of anything. But the less sensible answer is easy: it is about the joy of creation, the joy of life. The simple joy of art. The joy of capturing images of people. Nudes are life-affirming and wholesome. It is wonderful to capture images, to try to capture the simple miracle of existence.

What do you want to express or arouse in those who watch your images?

I don’t like the way nudes seem to be becoming more and more sexual. Look on Flickr, the nudes are becoming more explicit, more sexual poses. Surely there is more to nudes than that. I want to show something positive, life affirming, wholesome. I guess there is nothing wrong with sexual poses, because that is part of life, but if almost all nudes are in sexual poses, it becomes too limiting. The nude is more than that. The nude reflects life, wonder, joy, the miracle of being a living thing. That is the feeling I hope to inspire in my viewers. Of course, often viewers simply say things like “nice boobs"! Sigh...

What are your preferred moment(s) in the creation process?

I love working with a woman as a duo to create the images. Working together to create something is an honourable and positive experience. I also love finalising the images afterwards. What I hate is having to promote them or talk about them, ha ha!

What are your three most representative images, and why?
Please add links to the pages where the images are shown.

It changes all the time. I don’t have three most representative images, that would be too limiting. It should change and evolve. My favourites change by the day, depending on my mood. On Flickr, I like the fact that everyone likes different images. Peoples’ favourites are really diverse. Isn’t that great?

What equipment and/or techniques do you use?

It is not a matter of brands/lenses, it is mostly about analog/digital, preferred light (natural/flash), how much post-production, etc.

I use all sorts of techniques. Part of the fun is experimenting with all sorts of different methods. I shoot film and digital. I have used 120 film, large format film, instant film, plus digital. I have lots of ideas for experimental techniques. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, which is fine. I think I do less post-production than some photographers. I find Photoshop a bit boring.

How and why your work as changed since you started?

Things keep changing, natural evolution is inevitable. Sometimes not always for the better! Lately I think I need to get back to the purity and positivity of my earlier images. For a while I got into a darker place. Several models I worked with told me all about the horrible hassles they had with men, and I become a bit anti-men, and did a whole series of rather dark images reflecting these women’s troubles. They are rather feminist images, avoiding the male gaze. I am proud of them, but actually not many people like them! Now I want to get back to something more positive — art in the life-affirming sense — rather than the “tortured artist” style!

What do you think about the fact that nowadays photography is mostly enjoyed on the Internet?

It itself, enjoying art on the internet is fine. However, I’m not seeing a lot of great art. Is photography getting worse? A lot of my favourite photographers remain those of the twentieth century. Which is strange. Why are greats not appearing in the twenty first century? Each year, I go to a major photography exhibition called Photo London, and I have to be honest, I don’t really like a lot of the modern photography I see there. It seems the photographers are trying too hard. There are a lot of visually uninteresting photos. And of course the nude is a particularly troubled field. How do we represent the nude in the modern world? For me, the answer is to get back to the basic truth. The positivity, the joy ... the fundamental life-affirming nature of being human.

Why you decided to join the nudeartzine project?

I was delighted that someone cared enough to make the effort! I am not precious about my images. I throw them out there onto the internet, and people can react to them how they wish, and use them how they wish. It is a nice bonus that nudeartzine really understands my images. I have noticed that Italians “feel” my images better than, say, British or Germans. Italians feel it in their bones. I love that. Italians write so well about art, too. Better than I ever could.

Would you have a tip or advice to give to whom ever is watching your work and wants to learn photography?

Have a go! These days, it is so easy to sit on your sofa, surfing the internet, consuming rather than creating. We can all fall into that trap. You will achieve more fulfilment as a person if you create something. I know some people are very nervous about photographing nudes, but don’t worry about it, it’s easy. Just relax and enjoy yourself. If you are a woman, I particularly encourage you to have a go. Don’t be put off by all those men! I bet your view of the nude will be fresher and better than those “know it all” guys!

What are your plans in the future?

I feel a little uncertain about my future direction at the moment. The coronavirus lockdowns seem to have made me lose some sense of purpose. But I know it will come back, it always does. I think this enforced pause of coronavirus might actually help me come back with a fresh approach. I think I want to keep progressing the idea of something very positive and collaborative, avoiding male stereotypes and being more about the female view of the world. I haven’t quite worked out what it is yet, but I know I will get there.

On what page our readers can find more of your work?

Instagram and Flickr. On both I am @rayrapkerg. To be honest, I am feeling over social media at the moment. It’s such a torrent, isn’t it? Mostly a torrent of inconsequential blandness. I want to look at social media less, and create more!

Would you like to add something else?

I think the older I get, the more I want my photography to be about the non-technical aspects. I want it to be about people, and life, and art ... about being human. I want to listen. I want to grow beyond the gender divide. I don’t want to have a male view of the world, I want to have a human view of the world. It’s hard to explain — and I am sure I sound a bit nutty! — but I know the feeling I mean. It’s that feeling I want to pursue in photography.

Last updated 01/05/2021 02:05:00

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