Gothic Image came into existence in 2003 as the photography byline of a chartered electrical engineer whose personal interests included gothic architecture, Pre-Raphaelite painters and women in latex and corsets.
Andy, the man behind the Gothic Image brand, launched its first website that same year. I was editing Skin Two magazine at the time and his work was brought to my attention by a friend on the London modelling scene.
Based in Portsmouth, Andy turned out to be not just a talented photographer, but also smart, professional, reliable and easy-going — a valuable combination of qualities in any potential editorial contributor.
Two of our earliest Skin Two collaborations — both in 2004 — involved coverage of the shortlived BondCon Las Vegas convention (which inspired the launch in Germany of BoundCon), and the very first German Fetish Ball in Berlin.
As well as photographing at these events, Andy wrote a report on the GFB for Skin Two that proved rather controversial at the time.
“It raised a bit of a storm when I said that Germans didn’t know that latex came in colours other than black,” he recalls. “And I still stand by that, although it’s obviously changed massively since then.”
So I could now add ‘not being afraid to tell it like it is’ to his other estimable qualities. I think this probably helped to cement our friendship, which, along with our working relationship, has now endured for some 18 years.
After I left Skin Two, Andy was on hand at the Barbican in 2007 to document the debut of my new online magazine, The Fetishistas, as both media partner and fashion show sponsor of The Xpo. (Its organisers had parted company with Skin Two at more or less the same time as I had.)
In 2014 I relaunched The Fetishistas as a state-of-the art WordPress site, just one month after Torture Garden and Wasted Chic debuted their co-hosted fetish/alternative shopping event Le Boutique Bazaar at McQueen in Shoreditch.
At the LBB launch, I encountered Andy in person for the first time in a few years. He was shooting portraits of exhibitors, models and visitors in a little portable studio set-up in a corner downstairs.
It worked so well that he became the event’s regular on-site studio photographer.
I happily published his pictures from Le Boutique Bazaar on my flashy new website. But in doing so, I couldn’t help noticing that his own Gothic Image site was now looking rather neglected — something Andy did not deny.
Although his site had been updated a few times over the years, I felt it was now seriously underselling his talents.
So I was delighted when he told me last year that he’d decided to commit to a new website, to be built by a web design professional, based on one of the countless WordPress themes now available for online photography portfolios.
That new site is now sufficiently finished to go public, and I’m delighted to dedicate our October 2020 Cover Story to this Gothic Image relaunch.
I hope you enjoy the Q&A below with Andy, and our four galleries of 130-plus pictures. The latter were selected from every year of GI imagery between 2003 and 2020, with a bonus selection from GI’s current featured gallery — a vintage-inspired shoot with Sweet Severine from 2019. Tony Mitchell
Tony: You had a Gothic Image photography website from mid-2003, but when the early social networks arrived, you didn’t much like them as vehicles for promoting your work — with the exception of the pioneering online blogging site Live Journal. Why was that?
Andy: Live Journal (which still exists by the way) gave exactly the right platform for sharing media with others, and in a far more organised fashion than its successors. How easily can you find a post from 2017 in Facebook, for example?
All was going well, then MySpace came along, followed by Facebook. I got fed up with following the next flavour of the month and in any case Facebook seemed aimed more at ‘friends’ than anything else. I wasn’t really interested in knowing what someone had for dinner last night.
The number of social media platforms has mushroomed since and I really can’t be bothered to maintain them all — I’d rather be out shooting!
Tony: You did a few early trips to overseas events, but then stopped those and focused on doing shoots based around UK studios and locations plus a few UK events. What brought about the change in your modus operandi?
Andy: I rapidly got tired of event shoots that used flash at short range because they all ended up looking like something from a photo booth, and the same as everyone else’s. I wanted to do something different.
If you look at my shots from the 2004 Rubber Ball, for example, they were shot from the front of the circle with a long lens using only stage lighting. Everyone else was sat at the front of the stage using flash.
In the end I decided I preferred a more organised and controlled approach and that was just easier to organise in the UK. I won’t deny that work pressures were a factor too.
The only way I could get a studio level of quality and control for events was to bring the studio to the events. I grabbed models walking around or as soon as they came off the runway and shot them in my portable studio. That approach worked very successfully for assorted Xpos, Passion, and now, of course, Le Boutique Bazaar.
Tony: In 2007 you covered The Fetishistas-sponsored fashion shows for the first Barbican Xpo, with live show photography and a studio where you produced some amazing-quality images that set the bar very high. Even then, you were shooting with a top-of-the-range Canon — kit beyond the budgets of most fetish ’togs — which offered a technical advantage but also came with a weight penalty.
Andy: I shot the Xpo with a Canon EOS 1Ds MkII — I’ve just checked the EXIFs [camera data]! My ‘proper job’ is a two-edged sword, providing a useful income but taking up far too much of my time and brainpower in return.
I distinctly remember buying that 1Ds body at Jessops in Leicester. My company had a discount arrangement with Jessops which resulted in a substantial reduction in price. They weren’t very happy but agreed in the end. I’ve never really worried about the weight and it’s easier to hand-hold something with a bit of inertia behind it.
Tony: How did your equipment set-up evolve? You were one of the first people I worked with who shot with the camera connected to a laptop. Later, you added medium format to your capabilities. And you carted your portable studio around in a Mini rather than a 4×4.
Andy: The Mini did have a trailer for larger jobs such as the Xpo, though!
In my teens I’d shot film with an Olympus OM-1/OM-2 but also strayed into medium format with a Pentacon 6TL. Once DSLRs reached a sensible price I looked around to see what was available. Olympus seemed stuck in a point-and-shoot mindset and the only firm offering full frame DSLRs was Canon, so that’s where I went and have stayed ever since.
I’ve been through a couple of versions of the 1Ds and 5D and I’m currently using a 5DsR as my main camera.
I came into an inheritance several years back and decided to try medium format again, so bought a reconditioned Phase One P30 digital back which I twinned with a Hasselblad 553ELX body and lenses from eBay. In those days you could buy the body and three or four lenses for less than £1,000 total, as nobody wanted them.
As for tethering (the camera, not the model!), it’s the only way to go if you really want to see what you’ve shot. Sometimes it can be a bit of a faff to carry around and set up, but if it gets rid of the ‘if only I’d noticed that at the time’ moment just once, it’s worth it.
Tony: Your Gothic Image relaunch site has a gallery for every year between 2003 and 2020, except for 2013. What happened that year?
Andy: As I said earlier, my ‘proper job’ can be a bit of a two-edged sword. Between 2012 and 2014 things got very silly and I just didn’t have time to plan and execute shoots the way I wanted to, so I slowed down and eventually stopped. Nowadays I’m semi-retired and only working three days a week, so things have picked up again with a vengeance.READ MORE – GO TO PAGE 2 OF 2
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