â€œIâ€™ll do anything â€“ I mean, with the exception of hard drugs. I wonâ€™t touch hard drugs. Hard drugs and like murder, and prostitution or something,â€ jokes photographer Lynnette Astaire (no relation to Fred Astaire). Astaire, originally from Chicago, now sets up shop in New York (South Bronx to be exact). â€œIn a way, weâ€™re all prostitutes. Artists are prostitutes, weâ€™re constantly whoring ourselves out. Buy me, buy me, hire me, hire me, look at me, look at what Iâ€™m doing. Iâ€™m a ho. Weâ€™re all hos, doesnâ€™t matter. Weâ€™re selling a part of our self â€“ weâ€™re selling our vision,â€ says Astaire of fellow artists limiting themselves.
Astaire credits this claim to the state of artistry today â€“ mediocrity. But for Astaire, having to distinguish herself from the pack is nothing new. She does her own styling, only uses film, doesnâ€™t just shoot rappers up against brick walls, and finds time to kick it with the family. Even so, for Astaire, in an industry that prides itself on artistic expression, the game just ainâ€™t the same for gangstas anymore.
“Iâ€™m a photographer, but Iâ€™m more so an artist. I didnâ€™t pay $100, 000 for a degree in photography to shoot a motherfucker up against a car or to shoot a motherfucker up against a backdrop with nothing going on.”
Format: In your bio you wrote, â€œI love every opportunity to release ideas and shoot subjects like theyâ€™ve never been shot before.â€ Is it difficult trying to be constantly innovative?
Astaire: No it’s not. The thing about it is, yes, Iâ€™m a photographer, but Iâ€™m more so an artist. I didnâ€™t pay $100, 000 for a degree in photography to shoot a motherfucker up against a car or to shoot a motherfucker up against a backdrop with nothing going on. You understand what I mean? Itâ€™s not hard at all. The hard part is getting people to understand where youâ€™re coming from and getting clients to trust you; to hire you and do exactly what you want to do. Getting clients to push their thoughts and push their ideas a little farther, because photography is a lot like music, and a lot like other types of art, where people are just okay with mediocrity. Right now, it seems like its okay to be a mediocre photographer, or mediocre artists, in general. Itâ€™s okay to be half ass about everything and I just think thatâ€™s wack. Iâ€™m trying to create something that youâ€™re not just going to flip past; youâ€™re going to be like thatâ€™s really really cool.
Format: Do you feel any kind of moral responsibility for the images you produce, especially in regard to women?
Astaire: No, not really. I donâ€™t feel as if I’m selling sex per say â€“ I know Iâ€™m not selling sex. I’m not selling anything. Iâ€™m just creating a good image. Honestly, the images that I have are just things that come out of my head and I’m inspired by whatâ€™s around me and, unfortunately, American society and American media, right now, is like we want to put our women out â€“ we got Britney Spears you even got Beyonce, you got all these chicks who are half naked. And, then two seconds later you have someone saying oh itâ€™s wrong. Then you put them out one minute, you take them away, you put `em out, you talk about them, itâ€™s like whatever. And, then you go to France and people are fucking on TV. Itâ€™s true. You go to France, you to Italy; Iâ€™ve seen it, Iâ€™ve been there. Theyâ€™re more open-minded, and the whole idea of sex or sexuality or the human body is celebrated. You know, I donâ€™t think that anyone that I shoot is not exploited at all. I donâ€™t feel like anyone is being exploited. Itâ€™s just like, hey youâ€™re hot, letâ€™s do this.
Format: What type of client wonâ€™t you shoot? Is there anybody that youâ€™ve come across in your career that you didnâ€™t want to shoot?
Astaire: I would prefer not to work with clients who just want to ‘get it done.’ Some people like to do things just to say they did it regardless what it looks like. Its like this mentality of fill the pages and move on. But I guess that’s our culture right now? Everyone is afraid of losing their jobs so people want the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way. Or the exact opposite, they know that everyone is overpaid so it turns into a 15 hour production to justify the day rates and, also, because the paranoia of losing your job because you got Coke instead of Diet Coke always looms overhead. I’m a Libra I like balance! This is way more than a check to me, I want it to be awesome too, but fuck money, if you stand behind what you do and do it 100 per cent, you’ll be paid as well as artistically content. Not to say that everything has to be a production, but at the end of the day I want a client who cares about their projects and is willing to jump out the box a little. A client that doesn’t know what they want but dismisses all of your ideas is absolutely the worst. In terms of shooting someone that I didn’t want to shoot in my career…I don’t plan on it actually. No one is putting a gun to your head to take a job, it’s OK to say no, because if you’re hearts not in it then it’ll end up being a real shitshow and then you’ll have to wait until the whole art department leaves to be able to send your book over again.
Format: Is there anyone you havenâ€™t shot, or worked with, that you would love to work with?
Astaire: Yeah, tons of people. Iâ€™m at the beginning of my career. There are tons of people, fellow artists, musicians, actors, actresses. I think of different ideas and different things I could see them in all the time, itâ€™s just about access and shooting people that Iâ€™ve never met, that I donâ€™t even know yet. There are tons of people that I havenâ€™t really worked with yet. Some are famous and some are not. The whole fame game to me is just pretty relative. I donâ€™t feel like someone has to be famous in order for me to shoot them or someone has to be such in such for me to shoot them. Iâ€™ve shot a waitress that waited on me at a fucking restaurant, before. Itâ€™s not about celebrity per say; itâ€™s just about the energy. You know, if youâ€™re willing to bring something to the table. My work is very particular and Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s for everyone, I know itâ€™s not for everyone. I’m not a generalist at all, Iâ€™m quite specific and the more I get into what Iâ€™m trying to do the more specific itâ€™s going to get. If you look and think about some of the more extraordinary artists across the board, in music, fashion, art, photography, even architecture, it takes a lot for someone that has a different voice to get out there. Like Timbaland, I think Timbaland is amazing. I would love to shoot Timbaland. I would make up some crazy shit. I really, really really would. And, sometimes, I feel like I harbor ideas for people in hopes of shooting them.
Format: Leah McSweeney, from Married to the MOB, in one of our previous interviews, said men in the street wear community are â€œfeminine.â€ Whatâ€™s your take on that?
Astaire: Definitely. I went to MAGIC this past February. I think I might have thrown up in my mouth just a little bit. Itâ€™s really weird. I really think itâ€™s cool that guys are taking a more active roll in what theyâ€™re wearing. For a while it was like, they would wear whatever. Itâ€™s really cool for men to have a bigger choice with what they wear. But, once again, the majority of men donâ€™t give a shit. But thereâ€™s this little pocket, this little niche that give a shit. Iâ€™m not going to knock it. Not to be superficial, but weâ€™re judged all the time and we want to act like weâ€™re not judging people but we cant help but do it. You just make assumptions and you judge and you say things. Thereâ€™re totally other things that you could be putting energy into and, for whatever reason, people feel like putting energy into how they look and pushing outward appearances is really a big thing right now.
Format: As a photographer, do you think youâ€™re adding to the problem that we have with superficiality?
Astaire: Sure, I donâ€™t see why not. But I think that with that I try to put some type of meaning into it. And if you donâ€™t, you donâ€™t; its art. And the art that Iâ€™ve chosen to make does have a piece of superficiality to it. I try to get into religion; I try to get into politics. With the type of industry that Iâ€™m getting into where itâ€™s more commercial itâ€™s hard to do that and Iâ€™m dealing with that right now. Iâ€™ve been trying to figure out how I successfully get my rocks off. But going back to men are the new women, I just think people need to chill out for a second. Thereâ€™s a big scene right now. And the same people that claim theyâ€™re o-so-different, sometimes youâ€™re really not. Itâ€™s a bunch of pomp and circumstance.
Format: With male streetwear being so popular, do you think female streetwear will ever be as popular as male streetwear?
Astaire: No, because we have better clothes to deal with. We have shirts, we have nice shoes, we have Chanel. I donâ€™t have time for that, itâ€™s weird. Iâ€™m not going to spend $400 on sneakers, I spend $400 on Chanel shoes, on good quality shoes, or good quality bags. Not to say that I donâ€™t wear sneakers anymore, I wear Vans and Chucks, but thatâ€™s just my own personal preference. I really donâ€™t think womenâ€™s streetwear will explode in the sense that mens street wear did. We have more options. Weâ€™re more geared toward things that appeal to the body. I donâ€™t want to dress like a boy, I donâ€™t want to dress like a slut, but I donâ€™t want to dress like a boy. Itâ€™s like a gang mentality, streetwear in a lot of ways. To me, itâ€™s another version of Crips and Bloods. People want to belong; itâ€™s human nature. People have that fear of being alone.
Format: You recently did Married to the MOBâ€™s look book and have shot for Franco Shade. Is there anything in particular that draws you into streetwear?
Astaire: Nothing at all, actually. Leah has been a friend of mine before Married to the MOB even existed, before she even thought of it. We met, she was a stylist for one of my first editorial shoots when I was still in school, and we just kind of linked on that and just like kept in touch. Sheâ€™s a friend of mine, but she is a client at the end of the day and sheâ€™s a great client! She understands where Iâ€™m coming from; we have a lot of very similar visions. We want to make provocative work, we donâ€™t want to be tacky or tasteless, but we want something provocative, we want something fun, we want something memorable. She really wants that and I really want that, too. I have a little personal stake in it, you know. So, in a way itâ€™s my baby too, I really want it to win, and sometimes when youâ€™re hired by companies, you know, if you get hired by Polo or something its not your baby, itâ€™s only your baby for that one second â€“ you donâ€™t know Ralph Lauren. You barely know the art director thatâ€™s hired you, but I know her and I want her to win, and thatâ€™s the same way I feel about Joe with Franco Shade. I knew him before he started Franco Shade. His heartâ€™s in it, I know what heâ€™s trying to do. Itâ€™s the same case with Leah; itâ€™s very personal. And when the shoot is over and the film is in, itâ€™s not over with me. Itâ€™s a constant follow up, because thatâ€™s family. And I love them to death, so itâ€™s like I want to do the best I can for them. I did a little collaboration T-shirt with Leah this past season. One of our shoots came out exceptionally well and she wanted to use one of the photos for a T-shirt. It came together â€“ itâ€™s really cool to see my work in a different medium. I donâ€™t really see myself working for anymore streetwear companies. Not to say to everyone out there in streetwear land, oh OK we canâ€™t fuck with Lynette, or we canâ€™t call Lynette, because sheâ€™s not going to do it â€“ itâ€™s not that, itâ€™s just like bring something to the table. Be ready for me to want to be able to push the envelope, because there is so much mediocrity in streetwear.
More Info: http://www.lynnetteastaire.com/