by Paulina Borsook
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"I was given a digital camera when I was 18. The year was 1996, and I was in law school in Paris. At the time, nobody in France has seen a camera like that, so I'd just take pictures of people in the street, and I'd get the most amazing feedback from total strangers. I also started taking pictures of my love life, which was completely natural because I was in a good relationship: It was the most beautiful thing happening to me. But I wasn't looking at it as art. I never wanted to be an artist, and I didn't see the digital photography as anything more than a hobby.
"After I dropped out of law school, though, I started thinking about putting my pictures on a website. I moved back to San Francisco, where I'd grown up, and began posting the pictures I was taking of myself and others. At first I used a boy's name online, Max Cameron, because I didn't want people calling up and saying things like, "Wanna do that to me?" But people weren't responding to the pictures that way, so I started using my real name and pretty soon Taschen came around and asked if I wanted to do a book.
"Digital Diaries came out of that. It sold hundreds of thousands of copies. I thought there would be more controversy. My favorite response came from a lot of girls who said to me, "I've never seen that part of my body." Also I liked how some guys told me that I was making dirty pictures they could share with their girlfriends. The book sold out in some of the middle states I'd barely ever heard of before. The only place it didn't do as well as I'd expected was in San Francisco. When I did my book signing there, I was shocked: People said, "You're not really into S&M", or, "That's not really hardcore", and I was like, "Who are you to judge?"
relationship is so different from the last. When I feel comfortable, though,
the person I'm with tends to feel comfortable, and then it's possible
to start taking pictures. But first there's a model release to sign, and
sometimes that turns into a big fight. It's an interesting dynamic. People
get shy about doing something intimate in front of a camera, like they
want to forget, and I have to find out why. I have to ask: "Are we
really enjoying ourselves right now? What about it don't you want to remember?"
Other guys want to hide their identity, and then I have to question why
they're even trying to get intimate.
"I recently got married in Las Vegas. I was working there all summer for Cirque du Soleil, making multimedia projections for a new show called Zumanity. It's an erotic show, and I got to shoot a bunch of acrobats any way I wanted for six months. At first I was a bit nervous about letting them see my Digital Diaries, but it was good that I did. It really helped on the trust level: No matter what I asked them to do, they could see that I'd already shot myself doing something more humiliating. There were no barriers.
"Now I'm in New York, taking a lot of pictures in my neighborhood. I go to the fish market. A couple nights ago, I took a picture of an eel. I try to get the same feeling as when I'm photographing myself doing something intimate. I like a photo of a fish to look similar to a picture of my lips."