Before we get to what’s new...Can you tell our readers how you first got involved in design/ photography?
From the of age eighteen I worked in “the industry” as a wardrobe stylist/costume designer. I worked with photographers, directors, models and actors that became the mainstays of late 20th century culture. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how unique my placement was, being a young Latino kid from the glib suburbs of Los Angeles, now a part of Hollywood history. After working for 15 years creating other’s visions, I decided to explore mine. It became photography of fetish— my own. Around 1988 I submitted photos to two publications: Details Magazine (NYC), an art/fashion magazine at that time, and Drummer Magazine (SF), the granddaddy of leather BDSM. I was rejected by both as being too kinky for art, and too arty for kink. A couple years later I was working on a regular basis for Drummer and Flaunt.
Was S&M and sadomasochism always a subject for your work?
My focus was more on bondage and forms of immobilization, be it from ropes, restraints, self- inflicted internal or external. I’ve documented this for a very long time. My new work focuses on a chosen subject; photographic portraits and written interviews; the total picture.
Has the stigma toward these fetishes changed? Have the fetishes changed?
Yes, most def. It's become more accepted, however fetish is consistent— perfection thru obsession. Like a fine wine it ages well.
After making fetish content for so many years, how have you seen the culture evolve?
I’ve spent a lifetime exploring my fetish and others. For eleven years (2005- 2016) I ran what I believe was the only exclusively fetish art gallery in the world, ANTEBELLUM HOLLYWOOD. I would say culture has become more accepting, at the same time, unfortunately mainstream and banal.
Your style is distinct, to say the least. What are your greatest influences?
Everything from a simple cuppa tea, to a walk in Griffith Park. As far as other artists, I like the dead guys: Pierre Molinier, Brassai, Pasolini,Visconti, JK Huysmans.
What is the intersection of your identity and your art? How are they connected/ disconnected, and do the two play off each other?
I consider myself a fetish artist, so I guess this makes me a fetish person. My definition of fetish acknowledges the broad meaning of the term. I know myself.
Have you taken scenes directly from your life experiences?
Most def I’ve lived my art. The Monty Ward character in Hustler White (played by Tony Ward) is actually me. They are my experiences documenting hustlers on Santa Monica Boulevard from 1986 thru 1995. My character was changed from photographer to hustler. It just read better.
You’re a regular fixture at TOM House. Can you talk about the brotherhood, and the collaborative/inspirational aspect of the space?
We go waaaay back.... I met Durk Dehner at the One Way (the best leather bar in Los Angeles- hands down), sometime in 1984-ish. I was unsuccessful at picking him up, but we did make out! A couple years later I invited him to my first exhibition at the original Different Light Bookshop in Silverlake. Durk Dehner became my first collector and offered to publish my first book- CASTRO, (1991). I then met Tom, thru Durk, at one of his first exhibits in Los Angeles, the expansion opening of Circus of Books, Weho. I found Tom to be tall & quiet.
How has Tom of Finland inspired you?
I found a copy of KAKE somewhere on Folsom; SF circa 1978. I was familiar with Tom’s drawings as they were pirated so much, for so long. Somehow they didn’t identify as one individual, more like the leather community in general— I remember seeing since I was a pre-teen. When I made the connection of these drawings to the character of KAKE, then met Tom in the flesh, it inspired me to be even more who I am.
Your show “Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986 - 2019” took place at TOM House in April. What did you present in that show?
It was a curated collection by Ruben Esparza of my photography from the early days of 1986, thru my most prolific period, the 90s, to present day. It also included my books, DVDs, and ephemera.
And your artwork being featured and sold at ToF Store? How did you select the photos?
I chose images that don’t get as much recognition, or haven’t been seen. Many of the images are recent and current work. I’m using more color than ever before. Don’t know what that means as of yet, but I’m sure it’s a good thing.
For young collectors, do you have advise on buying art?
Yes, buy it! When something speaks to you acquire it immediately. Support art, support homoerotic art, support fetish artists. Do not deny yourself. Do not accept censorship as a way of life. If you do, you will be doomed.
Wise words!! Lastly, what is the work you are most proud of?
I’m proud that somehow I’ve been able to stay true to myself and not succumbed to the normalization of everything. I’ve refused censorship and the relentless suggesting of toning-down of my vision for more acceptance within imposed faux rules. My goal is to see my art recognized as part of history while I’m still alive. A journalist once dubbed me as “the king of fetish.” I accept the title with aplomb.