TSJ: Where did you grow up?
Chantel Beam: I grew up in Orange County, but I’m based now in San Francisco. I still frequent southern California, though.
TSJ: Who takes all these pics?
CB: I take all these photos by myself.
TSJ: Wow! How do you swing that?
CB: If they are self portraits, I use a timer and a tripod.
TSJ: When did you start taking pictures of yourself?
CB: I started when I was around 15. My dad came home with a new DSLR he got from frequent flyer miles or something (he travels a lot) and so I just played around with it all that day. I originally did a lot of ballet and dance growing up. This was a huge turning point for me. I started enjoying photography more than dancing. In high school I would sneak the camera away from my dad and bring it places. Friends and I would drive around until we got lost in an area we had never been and have little photo shoots there. Orange County is not a visually inspiring place, so I had to go elsewhere. My style and process has changed greatly then, but I still love it just as much.
TSJ: Why sexy pics? What’s sexy to you?
CB: I honestly don’t mean to make any of my photos “sexy.” I kind of laugh at the thought of it. I consider it more sassy, sometimes with a touch of sexuality. I have never really thought out what I think is “sexy.” It is probably different than what a lot of people consider it to be. A list of things that come into mind when I think of sexy is: Retro porn (especially photographs from the ’20s, and vintage illustrations), men in lingerie, androgyny, curvy women (big butts <3!), confidence, people in the nude outdoors, my boyfriend’s butt, and body modifications. I’m not sure even half of those show up in my photos that could be considered sexy though. I think I just have sassy models that are willing to show that side of their sexuality.
TSJ: Your photos have definite vintage feel to them – some of them even feel like those early photos of ghosts. Intentional? What inspires you?
CB: I am happy you’ve noticed that! I love old things. I adore the Victorian era and I try and bring that sort of feeling to my work. I am very interested in fashion myself and shop primarily at vintage and thrift stores. Almost all of my shoots are styled by myself with my own wardrobe, so that also brings that vintage feel to it. My photos should feel timeless with a touch of vintage. In 100 years, I want people to look at my photos and not know what time period they came from. I’m inspired primarily by fashion (and time periods) and locations. I often just search my surrounding areas for places I find to be inspiring. Abandoned places and decaying houses are beautiful. I am also very inspired by the south in the early part of the 20th century. I’ve never been to the south, but I really love films and photographs that take place there in that time. Inspiration also comes from underground scenes. I’m into so many different types of music and fashion and they all have specific scenes along with them. I try to draw from as many as I can.
TSJ: You’ve also got some edgy models going on. Where do you find the models? Are they your buddies? If so, how does it feel to shoot your friends?
CB: Luckily, I am blessed with a lot of beautiful friends. I photograph my best friends a lot of the time. Other times I find my models on various places on the inter web (being creepy on Facebook, craigslist, instagram, and model mayhem). I love shooting my friends, and those who I am photographing when I first meet them, we usually become friends afterwards. I’ve met so many really awesome people just from working with them!
TSJ: Your Tumblr says you like filth. What’s filth? What do you like about it?
CB: I do! I even have it tattooed on the inside of my lip. People who know me really understand this. First and foremost, I am a HUGE John Waters junkie. He is also one of my biggest inspirations for life. He is the Pope of Trash and the King of Filth. I think filth is beautiful and equally hilarious. It can be a hard thing to pinpoint exactly though of exactly what type of filth I enjoy. I enjoy being around dirty people (physically and metaphorically). I love filthy jokes and images. I frequent the blog spaceghetto.st which is pretty filthy. I think its a matter of (good) bad taste.
TSJ: What are you trying out? How’s that going?
CB: I have been experimenting with new lighting techniques recently. I am also looking for an agent to represent me! Those have been going okay! Also I’d like to mention that I am a also a filmmaker and that is my main thing! Sometimes I get a bit frustrated when people only think I’m a photographer when it is more of a side thing.
Check Chantel Beam’s work online: