But as the project expands, more models are being added. Jade Vixen was the first to follow in Rachael’s footsteps, and on the same weekend as this interview took place, Massimo shot Psylocke for a Fifi set.
There is also a strong possibility of Nina de Lianin and Kay Morgan being initiated into the exclusive Fifi sisterhood. But patience is required for all prospective shoots as “it takes quite a long time to build a set”.
Having a partner who creates some of the world’s most beautiful latex garments would make it tempting, I’m sure, to dress every Fifi model in Ardita outfits, thus creating lots of additional exposure for Barbara’s brand.
But it turns out that this is the last thing Barbara wants. She has been sitting quietly next to Massimo throughout our chat, but when I speculate that he might look further afield for latex now, she makes it clear that she hopes he will, as she has a full order book that requires her full attention.
“Of course I like her stuff,” says Massimo. “But whenever I get contacted by models to do shoots and I ask them what latex they have, they always say they would like to shoot something of Barbara’s.
“So Fifi is a nice way to try to get models to wear other designer’s clothes, because Barbara doesn’t have the time to make outfits for all the shoots I want to do. It’s a fulltime job, is Fifi.”
It’s not hard to imagine models climbing over each other to secure a place on the Rubber Fifi shooting schedule. After all, the photography is to die for (even if models’ faces are generally obscured). And there is talk of a book at some point further down the line.
So what will Massimo be looking for in any future Fifi collaborators?
“They have to be confident and have to know their body very well. That’s why we started with Rachael: we know her very well, communication between us goes very easily and she knows her body very well…
“There is already a lot of interest. But I only want to offer it to a select little group. I don’t want to have too many people.”
I ask Massimo if he would consider giving up the day job and doing fetish photography — and projects like Rubber Fifi — full time if there were the prospect of a decent income from it.
“I came close to giving it up last year,” he confesses. “But the nice thing about my day job is that it gives me time to do this. The nice thing about Fifi is it gets a lot of good feedback from people outside the scene — people wanting big prints to hang on their walls.”
Such a view, Massimo points out, avoids unwanted messages of high eroticism or BDSM. “A lot of people outside the scene really like this project. It’s my art.
“When Barbara started making latex, at first she was making normal clothes and she would put away the latex when we had visitors like family members. But now if somebody has a problem with it I don’t care.
“I have the pictures all over the walls of my living room and office and everywhere. I think you must do it and be proud of it. It’s not something to do then hide away. Actually I’m more comfortable with Fifi on the wall than some of the other pictures!”
However, while Rubber Fifi is clearly a step forward in most respects, there is one aspect of the project that takes Massimo back to his photographic beginnings.
“When I started I always had trouble choosing what pictures I liked most. With your first shoot you select, like, 50 pictures, but after a few years, instead of choosing 50 out of 250, you shoot 50-60 and select two of them. You get really quick at selecting.
“At the beginning I needed a few hours, but after a while I only needed 15 minutes. Starting with Fifi again, I had the same problem: making selections was really hard.
“Yet if you look at it, it seems so simple: you have mostly white background and a person with no facial expression. But when I started it was like making a cartoon telling stories, and it was impossible to tell the story in one picture only.
“So we have a list of 80 settings we want to make. We have all these little stories we want to make. So now I have this plan to make a cartoonish heavy rubber book, like a collection of Schultz cartoon strips!”
I hope Massimo will follow his plan. I think a Rubber Fifi coffee table book, at least A4-size but preferably bigger, printed on dazzling white art paper nestling between shiny hard covers, would be a very popular product.
I think it would sell not just to the fetish market but to a wider audience that likes the kind of high quality photographer-monographs you find on the shelves of serious book shops and museum bookstores.
Rubber Fifi: glamorous, witty, erotic and unquestionably rubberlicious… but also Art with a capital A. Sign me up for a Kickstarter pledge now!
May 12, 2015
MASSIMO VAN DER LEEUW: ARDIFOTO PHOTOGRAPHIC TECHNIQUE Q&A
TM: People praise your lighting but I think most people assume there’s a lot of Photoshop in there too.
MVDL: “I assure you there’s less Photoshop on these pictures than on others. It’s mostly already in the camera. Actually what takes me the most Photoshop time is getting rid of the seams and imperfections that still show in the floor and walls of the studio because I never quite finished it.
“Also, I’m very colour-orientated but I don’t like too many colours so I try to have only two colours, three max in my shoots. Even though it’s a white background I want to get one dominant colour and a certain mood so I make changes to achieve this.
“I know a lot of photographers have standard filters they use in Lightroom and it’s the same on every picture. I would love to have one filter that works on all my pictures but I can’t find one. I find a setting I like, think I’ll be able to use it on the next one, so I save it to use, and it doesn’t work.
“So the lighting doesn’t change but it’s a question of if I want the background a bit more white-white, or a bit reddish, or more yellow… The first picture of every set takes the longest time because I’m looking for the mood I want to set, and when I have it I can do it on all the others.
“But I don’t use one filter, one standard preset, so every time it’s a matter of finding out everything again — what fits best for this set. That sometimes makes it a little difficult.
TM: How did you learn your lighting technique — experimentation or training?
MVDL: “A little bit of both. I started when I was young doing newspaper photography. I studied art and you learn about different kinds of light. I had my own darkroom at home. I waited quite a long time before switching to digital but also using studio lighting — I started about four years ago.
“I’m always somebody who, perhaps because of my job, gets prepared and studies before, so before buying my first lights, I read magazines and everything for six months before choosing which lights to buy.
“I also learn by experimenting, but I keep up with magazines and a few internet sites that sometimes have tutorials, where there are a few photographers I follow that have nice workshops.
“Not to brag but you get to a certain level where you buy these magazines and realise there’s nothing new, nothing you can learn any more. Now it’s getting harder and harder to find something where I think I can use this for my photography.
“There are a few things I don’t like about the lighting in my pictures, but it’s not what I need to learn, it’s what I can do with my equipment and my studio the way it is now.
“So that’s why I want to finish the studio. I still have to paint quite a lot, and buy some new kinds of reflector to achieve what I want to achieve but cannot get with the lights I’ve got now.
“I had a nice compliment from another photographer — more of a fashion than fetish guy — who was talking about doing a workshop and saying there were a few places left. I said I’d like to come and he said ‘Sorry you’re not allowed back in because I can’t teach you anything!’.”
Pages: 1 2