Here’s a little interview I had with Filament magazine a few years ago. Working with this mag, was such a fun experience and was a great challenge focusing on such a subject! (interview was edited etc. by Suraya Sidhu Singh)
Zuleika Fray lives in Plymouth and London, United Kingdom
Zuleika Fray does loads of photography of gorgeous men in watery settings. Timing conspired such that we couldn’t get any of these into the Wet issue, so we decided to show you these great pics on our site and invite Zu to tell us more about her work.
How did you get started in photography?
I was studying art and, not being the best realist painter, I fell in love with the ability photography gave me to create instant and accurate pictures of the ideas I had in my head.
One of my first memories of photography was discovering a dark room in an old science lab cupboard at school and begging the teacher to show me how to use it. I guess I’ve always been drawn to things on the unusual and hidden side of life.
What do you photograph most?
I create images from my surroundings and the people around me. My inspiration is heavily rooted in alternative and tattoo culture. Shooting erotic and fetish photography was a natural progression that grew out of the people who inspired me and my curiosity for being drawn to all things a bit out of the ordinary, finding beauty in the unexpected and capturing the edges of life with a raw energy – often with a hint of humour.
Did you know that it’s unusual for women to photograph men as erotic subjects? Have you ever felt uncomfortable doing this kind of work?
I had no idea! To me it seems a perfectly normal and natural thing for a woman to do. A man is not necessarily going to look at the male form the same way that a woman would. I felt inspired to create images that I found sexy, real and a little more artistic after seeing how much erotic imagery is crude, vulgar and ugly.
Shooting both male and female models I have found that men seem to be so much more fragile about the whole thing – women often don’t think twice about stripping off. This makes photographing men all that more challenging, so there’s a great sense of achievement when it works.
What’s the weirdest, most unusual or surprising shoot you’ve done?
I am often in weird and unusual situations that have become the norm for me. Occasionally I’ll be shooting away and completely absorbed in the mood and something mundane will happen, like the phone rings and it’s the bank – then thud – back to reality. I then realise I’m in a derelict bathroom, with two of my friends, one modelling naked in a bath and asking the other to rearrange the rose petals in the water whilst talking dirty to encourage him!
I can think of plenty of surprisingly funny shoots, though. One of the best was when we were supposed to be shooting a guy in a friend’s new bathroom, when the model backed out at the last minute so we ended up shooting another guy who happened to be partying at a barbecue downstairs. While I was taking photos I had someone drinking beer in the bathtub and several others all trying to sit on the toilet at once, and the toilet broke off the wall! Amongst all the chaos, it turned out to be one of my favourite set of photos.
What advice would you give to women who want to try photographing men as erotic subjects?
First, have fun and shoot what inspires you – it really does show in the photos if you and your models are enjoying themselves. Second, don’t be afraid to ask: the old saying ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’ is very true. You will be amazed that if you have the audacity to ask, you will often get the answer you wanted.
What’s your favourite water-dwelling creature and why?
As cliché as it seems, mermaids. I love their bittersweet character: sirens of the sea, beautiful yet mischievous and dangerous.