When I met Dave Naz more than 25 years ago, he was the drummer and principal singer for the Chemical People and I was a super fan. Since then he’s gone on to become a self-taught and highly respected and collected photographer who has assisted Richard Kern and been appropriated by Richard Prince. Me? I’m still a fan who has become a friend.
Dave’s newest works focusing on “transgender, intersex, pangender, and every shade in between” are a bold step from his more traditional Legs and Panties and even his bondage work. It prompts one’s reassessment of sex, gender, and self-identification and marks an academic and artistic turning point for the photographer.
I had some questions and he was kind enough to provide answers.
How did you get into the subject matter of transgender?
I’ve shot transgender models since my first book: Lust Circus (2002). This book features models who identity as: Genderqueer, trans, queer, gender non-conforming, gender-fluid, butch, femme….
Did you know a lot about the culture beforehand?
Not too much. I didn’t even know the term genderqueer before I started shooting this series. The project was a learning experience for me. There is a great queer community in San Francisco and I took a couple of trips there to shoot for the book. I also shot quite a bit in L.A. The book took five years to complete.
Tell me more about the research…
There is a lot of terminology and it’s good to get familiar with it. There are websites like itspronouncedmetrosexual.com that are good for reference.
I wanted to be respectful and it’s very easy to offend people if you don’t use the correct terms. Pronouns are important and they can change so it does get confusing. Still it’s important to be who you want to be and being trapped inside the wrong body is no way to live life. There are some great communities out there with lots of support. Even still, many encounter a tough time with family, friends, and surroundings–depending on their location.
What made the topic suitable for the zine format? Have you always had a knack for interviewing? It’s a great, informative read!
Thank you. I’ve always been a fan of the zine format. The zine has photos that weren’t used in the book: Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities. When I started shooting subjects for the series, I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to look. For the first couple shoots I used a curtain and it really didn’t work (color or texture-wise). Turns out those photos look great in B&W zine format, so I found a home for them. I love the expressions on Drew DeVeaux and Jiz Lee in those photos.They look so different from the ones in the book. The zine photos seem more innocent and the images in the book both have more of a confident look; I like both very much.
I started interviewing the subjects my second trip to San Francisco. Since then, I have better equipment to document them. I wish I had interviewed from the beginning, but I didn’t think of it. I’m not a very good interviewer. I got the questions from Jiz Lee and Wendy Summers. I thought it was important to go to the queer community to get help with the questions. I also ask questions that pop into my head while I’m doing the interview.
I think it’s cool how your blog demystifies the photos and shows you on the other side of the camera. Is that something you do on purpose?
I always enjoy watching how photographers work. I’ve spent many hours on YouTube and Vimeo looking at photographers I like shoot. A couple of years ago Eric Swenson asked if he could photograph and film me while I was shooting. Normally, I would say no but I liked his work. Eric has a huge collection of art films he’s made documenting artists and his own documentary film work. It’s been two years now and he’s done 50 short films of my photo shoots. All of the music is from In The Red Records. Larry Hardy, the owner, has been a friend for many years and lets me use the label’s music.
I love that the blogs have a punk rock soundtrack! Are there other ways your musical past has informed your visual art?
I think it has. I have the music blasting during all of my shoots. It helps my creativity. I am not a loud person, so a lot of the time when I’m asking the model to do something, they’re like, “What? I can’t hear you?” I just motion with my hand or get in the position I want them to get into, but I don’t turn down the music.
The Coagula show is coming up soon… What can we expect?
November 8 (opening night) will be the release of my new book
Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities (Rare Bird/ A Barnacle Book). There will be several large 30″ x 45″ color prints. I’ll have a few 16″ x 20″ B&W prints, too. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m really happy with the book and show.
Check out davenaz.org, where you can check out the photographer’s latest work (much of it is NSFW) including the Identity zine and the trans interviews. Dave’s Genderqueer book release show will be at Coagula in Chinatown on Saturday, November 8. Hope to see you there!