Interview: Steve Diet Goedde

Mosh, Los Angeles, CA 2014

 

www.stevedietgoedde.com

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This interview was featured in the 6 Year Anniversary issue of Sinical Magazine. Print copies can be purchased here

Steve Diet Goedde was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri and learned the basics of darkroom work and photography from his father, who was an amateur photographer. By the age of 13, Steve was obsessed with taking photographs and started educating himself about photographers that inspired him, most notably Richard Avedon, Lillian Bassman, and Diane Arbus.

He moved to Chicago in 1985 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he studied filmmaking and painting. He refused to study photography stating that he had already acquired his aesthetic and visual style.

In 1998, photography publisher Edition Stemmle published a collection of Steve’s Chicago work entitled “The Beauty of Fetish” detailing his fascination with such fetishistic fashion elements as latex, leather, and PVC. Later that same year, he moved to Los Angeles where he started a series of photographs which would later become “The Beauty of Fetish: Volume II” (2001), also from Edition Stemmle.

Slish Pix in 2005 released a career retrospective of his work on DVD entitled “Living Through Steve Diet Goedde”. In addition to the numerous animated photo galleries, the DVD featured interviews, commentary, and behind the scenes footage.

In 2009, Steve has collaborated with French composer Robert Waechter on a CD entitled “GoeddeConcerto” (ReadyMade Music) in which the ConcertMaster of the Philharmonic of Nice, France interprets 21 of Steve’s photographs into 21 mini-concertos.

Steve celebrates his 25 years of photography with his new 3-volume book retrospective “ARRANGEMENTS” published by Century Guild. “Volume III” is available now, and the two remaining volumes will be released in reverse order within the next few years. Signed copies are available to purchase at: www.stevedietgoedde.bigcartel.com

Sinical Magazine: “ARRANGEMENTS: Volume III” was funded with Kickstarter. How did this idea come about and what was the process like?

Steve Diet Goedde: I had been approached by the gallery and publisher Century Guild many years ago. They mainly specialized in Art Nouveau and arts of antiquity. Its owner, Thomas Negovan, was a huge fan of my work, and he always wanted to get involved with my art in some capacity. The problem was that my art didn’t really fit his company’s aesthetic but eventually he started featuring more contemporary artists like Clive Barker and David Mack, so that helped pave the way for more contemporary art and also photography. To promote these new artists, Century Guild crowdfunded a series of high-quality artist monograms, and the campaigns were highly successful. Also, the end products were gorgeously produced and appreciated by the fans who funded them. It was around that time that I realized that this might be the ideal project to finally work with Century Guild on. Coincidently it was the year of my 50th birthday and also the 25th year of me doing photography. So in February of 2015, we launched the campaign to start this 3-volume 25-year retrospective of my work, and it ended up being super successful. Once funded, the book took a little longer to produce than what I had hoped, but the delay was certainly worth it. I’m a stickler for quality and didn’t want the book to be released unless it fully represented my vision.

Sinical Magazine: You mention in the book that you’ve been shooting a lot less. Can you elaborate on this for people who haven’t seen the book?

Steve Diet Goedde: I’m getting older. It’s harder for me to get motivated now. I don’t have the energy of my twenties and early thirties where I was seemingly shooting all the time. I’ve come to a point in an artist’s career where I’ve refined my styles and methods to the point where I have very specific ways of producing my art now. I generally like to only work with models who are friends or who I have past working relationships with - it just makes for a more comfortable, fun, and friendly working environment. My shoots usually happen very organically. I don’t like to do a lot of planning and coordination because then it seems like work. In the old days, it was just me and a bunch of friends who happened to be models, and we would just spontaneously do photo shoots, and it was always great. As an example, I’ll run into a model friend at a gallery opening, start chatting, and then decide to do a shoot the next morning - just for fun. That’s how I like to work and get the best material - real situations with real friends.

 

Yee, Paris, France, 2011

 

Sinical Magazine: What goes on in your mind now when composing a picture?

Steve Diet Goedde: My rules of composition have pretty much remained the same throughout all these years. I like to experiment from time-to-time, but I still have my signature ways of lining up shots. Photography is just basically looking through a window and arranging shapes. You put the subject in an environment that contains lines and shapes, arrange them, and then take a photographic record of this collage, if you will. This kind of control is why I don’t take seemingly infinite amounts of shots when I’m shooting. Sometimes my shoots will only consist of 12 photos, but each one of those is carefully taken, because when I’m looking through a camera, I feel like I’m actually looking at an existing photograph. So I just make sure that all the elements are right: the model is in the right place, she’s got the right expression, the background is working, the light is good - but all these elements have to come together, and sometimes I have to make a decision to shoot something within a second or so, but I feel like that’s just second nature to me. I’m rarely thinking about these things when I’m doing them. It just comes naturally and that’s pretty much my process. It’s all very controlled. However, I do leave a little room for improvisation and experimentation, which I think is important. A lot of my best shots have been the result of accidental exposures.

Sinical Magazine: In the book, you also talk about your use of 9 different cameras. Can you talk about your interest in this?

Steve Diet Goedde: When I first started out I was pretty much limited to my one medium format camera with one lens. This limitation helped to cement my visual style early on. I eventually started using other cameras just for the sake of shaking things up a bit. I didn’t want to be a photographer with one signature look - it was important to me to grow as an artist. So I dusted off my old Canon A1 which I had since 7th grade and started using that again for more spontaneous shots. And then in the mid-’90s, my friend Marne Lucas introduced me to the Yashica T4 - my first point-and-shoot. It was a great ‘idiot’ camera because it self-focused and had a wonderful Zeiss lens which produced great tonal qualities (one of my requirements). Once the digital revolution happened in the early aughts, I reluctantly started shoot *some* digital, but not much. All my black and white images would continue being shot with film cameras. I’ve never been as picky with color as I am with black and white, so digital cameras were fine for my color work. But with this advance in digital photography, some of my photographs started looking too life-like - not enough of the organic textural quality that you get with film. At this point, I started going backwards and wanted to go the opposite way of digital photography. That’s when I started using more low-fi cameras as Holgas, Polaroid cameras, and early generation cell phones. I especially fell in love with the early iPhones - they produced images that weren’t as crisp and sharp as the current ones and created a more textural and painterly look. And last year I started doing Polaroid transfers which were a lot of fun, and it resulted in a solo gallery show at the Garbousian Gallery in Beverly Hills. I still do shoot with my Mamiya 645 - that’s my baby. That’s the one that has kept my style grounded throughout the years.

 

Rose, Ventura, CA 2007

Sinical Magazine: Can you talk about lighting. You work with available light?

Steve Diet Goedde: Available light is pretty much all I shoot in. I like to see what I’m shooting in real life, and that doesn’t mean just any natural light. It has to be *good* natural light or available light. I can’t do my style just anywhere. So when I show up somewhere for a shoot, I’ll survey the area, figure out what areas are the best, and most importantly, where the light really works. Sometimes that’s a struggle. Sometimes it’s hard to get exactly what I want, but I eventually find it. I’ve never liked using strobes. I have a very minimal understanding of how they work and the few times I’ve played with them, I quickly realized it’s just not my style. I like to see what I’m shooting. I like to see the light as I’m seeing with my own eyes, and that’s always been my method.

Sinical Magazine: Which social media platforms do you like to use when promoting your images?

Steve Diet Goedde: Tumblr has always been very good for me. Flickr is still the place that I have most of my work on display - I’ve been there the longest. I know a lot of people don’t use Flickr that much anymore, especially newer audiences, but there’s a huge audience there, and it’s a really good way of showing my work. I’m also on DeviantArt.com and 500pixels.com.

Sinical Magazine: What is your plan for the other two volumes of “ARRANGEMENTS” and why are you going backwards?

Steve Diet Goedde: For those who don’t know, it’s a 3-volume 25-year retrospective. “Volume III” (2007-2015) just came out, which is the first volume to be released, and “Volume II” will consist of my middle years from 2000-2006, and “Volume I” will be the beginning from 1990-1999. The reason why we’re going backwards is because all the work that’s going to be in the first volume of Arrangements has already been released in book form in my first two books: “The Beauty of Fetish” and the “The Beauty of Fetish: Volume II”. People have been asking for a new book for decades now, so I didn’t want to do just a rehash of all the old classics. That’s why I decided to do the later years first with all the new work, and it’ll just be far more interesting for more people. With the two remaining volumes, there’s going to be a lot of unreleased material, alternate versions of iconic images, and photos I still have not uncovered from the archives yet. There’s stuff that I just didn’t notice the first time I did a photo shoot. For the last two months, I’ve started going through the process of going through material. My editor, Eric Kroll, and I have already started the editing process for the next volume.

 

 

Sinical Magazine: I love Hard Case Crime books and they recently published a collaboration between you, Dita Von Teese, and artist Robert McGinnis. Can you talk about this?

Steve Diet Goedde: Yeah, that something that just totally came out of the blue. I was contacted by Hard Case Crime about this project where veteran artist Robert McGinnis was going to do a new illustration for one of their new books, and they wanted a cover model that was more recognizable, so they decided on Dita. It all came together pretty quickly. I’ve been a big McGinnis fan forever. To me this really feels like one of the ultimate achievements of my career - having Roger McGinnis paint a photograph that I’ve taken. For those of you who don’t know, he did all the original James Bond movie posters with Sean Connery and Roger Moore. He also did the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” movie poster, but he also did those really exquisite pulp paperback covers from the ‘50s and ‘60s. So the fact that he painted one of my photographs at the age of 90 was an extreme honor. Dita and I shot the cover at her home here in Los Angeles. This was a situation where I had to shoot differently than I normally do because the light had to be more direct to match his painting style. So I ended up using floodlights because natural light doesn’t really go with his style. So I lit like it would be a painting of his. Maybe five months later, McGinnis provided the cover, and we were all blown away. Now it exists and you can order it online or at your local independent bookseller.

Sinical Magazine: Do you have any upcoming projects or events you would like to mention?

Steve Diet Goedde: Besides just working on the two remaining volumes of “ARRANGEMENTS”, I’m doing a collaborative gallery show with artist Alex Couwenberg. We’ve been mutual fans for a long time, and I actually have a few of his paintings hanging in my home. We’re just now starting this collaboration, and the results will be unveiled sometime in 2017. |

 

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