I have a fetish. Ok, I have lots of fetishes, but one in particular that I can’t shake is an infatuation with female glamour photographers. Babes who shoot babes. There is a long tradition of women photographing naked models for our enjoyment, from Bunny Yeager to Suze Randall to Lisa Boyle to Suze’s daughter Holly Randall. The newest and hippest babe shooting babes might be Ellen Stagg, a Brooklyn-based photographer who runs the website staggstreet.com. She shoots Playboy models, Penthouse Pets, porn stars—you name it.
What is so interesting about a woman photographing a naked model? Well, perhaps this interview with Ellen will explain. This some sexy shit right here. Enjoy.
As a photographer, when you’re looking for a model to shoot, what attributes do you look at first?
Is she willing to get naked for free for me. Most of the shoots I do for my own site are trade for content. I’m a very lucky girl because I get naked ladies for free. After that, I’m pretty open to physical looks from a woman, I think all girls are beautiful. And as long as we have fun shooting and the model is expressive with her face and body I will totally shoot with her again.
What is your favorite physical feature of a woman’s body?
If I had to pick I’m really into boobs. But I like all boobs, small, big, real & fake. I have great boobs; it seems like all my models like them too. A lot of them will grab my boobs while shooting. Boobs are always fun.
What are the advantages of shooting a nude woman? Is there something you can say with nudity that you can’t if she’s covering up?
Erotic art work will always get a reaction out of someone. It affects everyone, whether positive or negative. And women who like getting naked are so comfortable in their skin, they’re exhibitionists, and exhibitionists makes for great pictures. Suggestive shots are sexy when a girl isn’t all the way nude, but why not celebrate them in their birthday suits?
On the other hand, is there something to be said for covering up, the art of the tease?
Of course, that’s why I start all my shoots with their clothes on, then the model removes them. Even playing with clothes can be fun, but naked is always best. Of course I stay clothed, but that’s cause I’m a voyeur and not an exhibitionist.
How would you describe what you’re looking for from behind the camera—are you shooting what a woman would find beautiful, or a what a man would find sexy?
When I’m shooting I’m really thinking more about composition, f-stops, lighting, all that work-related stuff. It’s not until I get home and edit the photos do a realize how sexy they are. I’m always like “wow, I was there and I just saw that? That’s hot!” I don’t really think about what others might think of my work, I just try to stay true to what makes me happy. I do have a woman’s point of view though, and will make sure that all the models parts look good—not just the pink parts.
Do women innately find images of other women sexy? Or have they been conditioned to view them that way?
I think a lot of woman see my images as sexy when they find out another woman shot them. Some people have hangups about nudity. But when I remind them I’m a feminist artist who is celebrating women in a beautiful and positive way, they back me up.
Do you have any advantages as a woman over a male photographer—in terms of making a model comfortable, knowing how she is feeling or what she might be self-conscious about?
Totally. Almost all my models tell me how much more comfortable they are with me than male photographers. I do think all photographers get into the business—myself included—because they want to see naked women, the only difference is I don’t want to have sex with them after. I want to be their friend and collaborator, and support them in their love of being naked. Plus, to make a woman feel sexy you don’t just tell her how hot she is but tell her to think about positive things that make her feel confident. It might be shopping, or brownies—every girl has something that makes her smile.
What’s the sexiest shoot or shot you’ve ever done?
There are way to many to even go through, but I will always remember my first shoot with Justine Joli, as she was the very first model who got in to piledriver pose nude for me. And I was like “wow, she is so flexible”. I found out months later from Justine that she was trying to scare me, to see if I was cool. Those are still some of my favorite pictures as Justine opened me up to this part of my photography I never had before.
What’s the difference between a photo of a sexy girl and a sexy photo of a girl?
Many girls can be sexy, including when they are nude. But when you’re putting all that sexiness into a two-dimensional image with no movement or sound you really have to catch that one moment that makes the viewer just keep looking at it. Some sexy girls aren’t even photogenic—so taking that sexy picture is much harder. It can be hard to speak those “thousand words” to the viewer.
Do you have a favorite model or models?
Since Justine Joli was my first and is now such a good friend, she will always be at the top of my list. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. She introduced me to so many people. But there are so many second place winners, and every day they are changing.
Who that you’ve shot has your favorite boobs, and what is so damn great about them?
One of my all time faves is Jelena Jensen. Her boobs are huge, real, and as close to perfect as possible. The woman attached to them is also an amazing model and friend of mine. But every time we shoot together I can’t stop staring at her boobs because I just can’t believe they are real. She just laughs at me every time she catches me staring then grabs my boobs back.
My favorite butt goes to Charlotte Stokely. She is a tiny white girl with freckles and long blonde hair and a perfect round bubble butt. It also looks unreal. It’s so cute you want to bite it.
Any other models you shoot have particular features or perhaps a look that is just unparalleled in your experience?
The first time I shot Madison Young I had one of those kind of moments. She took off her underwear and I saw red pubic hair. I had never seen that, ever, and I was so excited. It was like I’d seen a unicorn, something I heard of but didn’t think was real. I think I even asked her if she dyed her pubes, but no, they were totally real.
Your pictures are very naturalistic—in some cases, plain, by today’s Photoshop-happy standards. Does your use of natural light and minimal retouching say anything about what you find sexy?
I actually do a ton of retouching, but I do it in a way that looks like nothing was done. I take away anything that is distracting, and naked ladies need retouching. I take out pimples, stretch marks, bruises, cuts, scars, bags under the eyes, muffining, and—my very favorite—the “vagina armpit.” That’s when an armpit looks like a vagina. It’s so gross. But I try to keep everything else true to the girl, so that she doesn’t look over-retouched. Plus my lighting is very soft. Hard lighting that other photographers sometimes use tends to give the girls a fake look.
What photographers inspire you?
My all time favorite will always be Helmut Newton. But I also love Bettina Rheims, and Guy Bourdin too. All are fashion photographers who shot nudes too. I don’t think my work should get pigeonholed as just glamour and erotic; I can see me self shooting anything with sexy ladies in it. I’m also very inspired by movies, my favorite director being Adrian Lyne who did Flashdance, 9 1/2 Weeks and Jacob’s Ladder.
What’s the allure of a tattooed woman?
I love all my models, tattoos or no tattoos. My site is 50/50 tattooed women to non tattooed women. I’m not drawn to girls because they have tattoos. I actually forget about the tattoos when I’m shooting, editing and retouching. I’m just excited To have these beautiful women getting naked for me.
You’ve done some light fetish with girls like Darenzia and Mosh; why do you think fetish photos are appealing?
Fetish modeling is really about the little details that the fetishists get off on. It’s very cerebral. I love shooting with fetish models but it’s the same as tattooed girls—I’m not really thinking about their labels in the industry, just that I get to shoot with these amazing naked ladies. Everyone has their differences, and that helps my photos look interesting.
Have you ever had any mishaps on set?
I hired a rigger for a suspension bondage shoot for Frank 151′s Erotica issue and one of my models almost passed out! This guy tied her way too tight around her chest and cut off her air; I started yelling at him to untie her and he was being a pompous jerk and told me to calm down. She was turning purple! When he finally untied her I stared crying like a big baby. I never ever want anything to happen to my models. It was so scary. I’ll never work with that guy again.
Do you have any favorite props, poses or settings that you feel will make a nude woman extra-sexy?
I do think women look great lying down on their backs. I think it’s gravity pulling everything back—but I don’t mention that because it doesn’t sound very sexy. I just tell the girls they look good naked and on their backs. Otherwise I’m down for anything the model wants to bring to the shoot. I have shot with latex hoods, sex toys, lesbian sex, heels, sneakers, big yellow flower dresses and more. It’s all about whether the model feels comfortable and can work it to make it sexy and interesting.
Who are you dying to shoot that you’ve never shot before?
In the adult industry I want to shoot Faye Reagan, Sasha Grey, Belladonna and April Flores. In the world, there are so many celebs I want to see naked. Bring them all on.
Would you ever want to shoot a Playboy Playmate pictorial and centerfold?
Of course I would love to. I have shot for Playboy TV’s Badass, and those pictures are on playboy.com. But of course the magazine is the highest level for a Playboy photographer. I know I could bring a woman’s point a view that would just make the models feel more confident and sexy. A woman knows how women’s bodies work, so I would rock it. And I would want to shoot all my pictorials outside, because nature has the best colors, lighting & locations.
Have you taken any self-portraits? Have you shot nudes of yourself?
I did shoot tons of nude self portraits before I shot other naked girls. I was always available. I actually did self portraits I sent to Playboy when I was 24 to pitch myself as the only professional photographer to do self portraits for the mag. I mean, I have long blonde hair with real 32 DD boobs and I’m 5’8″. I thought they would love that, but at the time they only wanted to put them online. Maybe the mag will still be down before I get too old. But otherwise, since meeting all the amazing girls on my site I haven’t shot myself in years.
Have you shot male nudes? If so, do you find you take a different approach to the male body?
I shot a couple times for Playgirl. It was fun, but most of the models stressed out about being “hard” during the shoot. With girls, you never have to worry about that. Plus, I like dating guys. It would get weird and jealous if I were still shooting naked men. So I’m sticking to ladies for now, but you never know.
What recent work have you done?
I have six more episodes coming out with Playboy TV’s Badass, which are behind the scenes footage of me shooting hot girls while interviewing them; those should be coming out this fall.
Plus I have been shooting a lot of private boudoir photos for ladies who want to give gifts to their men.
Plus I have art shows with Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park, NJ and Mighty Tanaka in Dumbo, Brooklyn coming up. I’m getting my own channel on Karmaloop TV soon which they are filming all the behind the scenes of my shoots on my site, which will be SFW. And if you want to see any of the NSFW it will be all on my site staggstreet.com, both photos and behind the scenes videos. And I’m heading to LA in early October to shoot lots if lovely ladies. I’m always working on stuff.