‘BEFORE’ (bottom) and ‘after Lightroom’ (top) versions of a show image of Amy Statik by MarcusT
Over the years I have watched MarcusT shoot hundreds, perhaps thousands of top quality images of pervy partying. So I ask him: what, for him, makes a good fetish clubbing image — in terms both of subject matter and technical quality?
“I’ve always tried to try to show my subjects in their best light,” he answers, “to capture the mood of the party, help create a record of the night for everyone to enjoy, and inspire others to come along and contribute something of themselves.
“Ultimately the scene thrives on new people, personalities, and creative ideas,” he believes.
He confesses, however, that in his earlier years he “struggled to strike the right balance” between quality and quantity.
“I used to feel that because I’d taken photos of someone, I had to publish at least one of them, which with a bad set sometimes meant publishing the least worst. But I came to realise that didn’t do anyone any favours.
“Over time I became more confident about discarding images, and editing and publishing only the very best.
“This, together with improving my shooting and post-processing skills, resulted in more consistent and higher quality images that did better justice both to both my subjects and my own abilities.
“Hopefully it has increased the enjoyment the viewer gets from looking at my images too.”
I tell Marcus that I imagine that like most event photographers, he has developed specific ways of working in club environments that maximise his chances of getting the kind of pictures he’s looking for.
From my own experience of shooting in clubs, I add, this generally involves some balance between actively pursuing specific people you want to photograph and being ready to exploit random opportunities that arise.
“I think it’s all about a blend of reaction and proaction,” he agrees, “and timing is everything.
“Sometimes I spot someone that I want to photograph but they’re clearly in the middle of enjoying themselves with friends or a partner and I don’t want to interrupt.
“So I’ll observe for a little bit to gauge whether they might be open to being photographed in the moment, or whether to wait and try to find them again later.”
Some other photographers are more brazen and just butt in, and perhaps sometimes that pays off, he concedes.
“But I’ve often observed negative reactions to their doing so. And I’ve personally always taken the view that it’s not about me and my photos, it’s about the party people and their night.
“More often than not I have managed to pick the right moment and mostly got the photos I hoped to get, so that’s usually good enough, though of course over the years there have been frustrations and regrets about missed opportunities.”
Lurking in a place where people are circulating rather than a static spot can certainly help, he thinks.
“But I don’t like to stay in the same place too long. I get itchy feet, and even if I do spot someone in a thoroughfare, it can be hard to attract their attention or reach them if it’s too busy.
“Plus they’re usually in the middle of going somewhere — bar, toilets, or to meet a friend — and a place where there’s lots of people jostling around isn’t usually a good place to take a photo. So again it’s bit of a juggling act.
“I generally prefer to go with the flow, circulating around the club as I feel like it, following my instincts.”
And what’s his policy on accommodating random clubbers who come up to him and ask to be photographed — something that is now common at many fetish events?
“Well I’m no more obligated to shoot someone than they are to pose for me, but I’m usually happy to take photos of someone that asks in a non-demanding way.
“However, I’m much more likely to publish photos of someone I’ve approached than I am to publish photos of someone that’s approached me.
“I’ve got pretty good at judging who might actually be photogenic. It’s not just about beauty, though that certainly helps — it’s very much about confidence, personality and state of mind at the time.
“So if I thought that they had the right qualities I probably would have asked them already.”
People trusted enough by fetish promoters to be given a photo pass for their events have a responsibility to observe certain basic rules of behaviour, especially around ensuring ‘consent to being photographed’.
Very occasionally though, some maverick with a camera will get through the vetting process, and this can create problems for the other photographers who play by the rules. Has Marcus encountered any such individuals?
“We photographers are usually all pretty friendly and respectful, so clashes have been rare,” he reckons.
“But there have been certain photographers in the past who were rude not only to other photographers but also to party people, and were shown the door by promoters as a result — and quite right too.
Does Marcus have any tips for a photographer trying to get a photo pass to an event for the first time?
“I’ve always taken the time to try to anticipate and address everything the promoter might need to know in the very first email,” he says.
“Most importantly that includes a link to my website, but I also spell out what they can expect from me and my expectations from them — to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.
“To what degree it has been my photos or my email that has won them over, I don’t know — perhaps it varies.
“But I think approaching it from their perspective is a pretty basic guiding principle to apply to all such opening emails/conversations/etc throughout your personal and business life.”
My final question for MarcusT about his club photography concerns his equipment set-up for club shoots and associated post-production work.
“In my earlier years I developed my club photography style partially as a creative response to the limitations of the equipment I had,” he reveals.
“For example, most of my photos were taken at a funny angle, which was less of an artistic affectation and more of a necessity.
“My camera had a cropped frame sensor, I didn’t have a very wide angle lens, and there usually wasn’t enough space to step back. So in order to fit my subjects into the frame, I would rotate my camera to use the diagonal!
“Of course, once I upgraded I switched to (mostly) straight shooting, though sometimes I found myself slipping back into old habits.”
The challenges presented by the party environment also influenced his style. “For example, fog in clubs is a massive problem for flash photography,” he says.
“So in order to minimise the issue I made creative use of the lights that were there, with slower shutter speeds so the fog wasn’t lit for very long compared to the total exposure time. Timing is everything when there are spotlights and lasers spinning around.
“This also helped me capture more colour, but that also led to less sharpness. Upgrading to gear with better low-light performance helped me in later years.
“And of course you don’t have people’s attention — or enough space — for long in a busy club environment.
“So I used to err on the side of taking more photos in fairly quick succession rather than taking my time to get each shot right at that moment, and relied on post-production to get the look I was after.
“Over the years I developed and continually evolved my own post-production process for giving more emphasis to the focal point, making the colours pop — I rarely touch the vibrance and saturation sliders but almost always tune the white balance.
“I also tidy up the background, removing random faces, limbs, drinks, etc which intrude into the frame.”
Marcus has taken the opportunity to remaster some of the photos selected to accompany this article.
“I can do a better job today with the same image than I could back then,” he explains. “Not just because my skills have improved but because the capabilities of Adobe Lightroom have improved so much over the years, allowing me to tease out better images from the same RAW image.”
This article is an unashamed celebration of MarcusT’s years documenting fetish clubbing. But it also aims to introduce his fans to more of his location shoots — work that has evolved in recent years from an occasional diversion into an all-consuming new direction for his fetish photography.
So let’s begin by finding out what factors Marcus considers to have propelIed him along this new path. It turns out that the first big change was his decision to give up shooting club performances.
“Pretty much every party gallery I’ve ever published has taken me between six and ten hours of editing after the event — time that used to fly by.
“But as the years passed I struggled to find the motivation and spare time to keep going, so I’ve had to refocus my efforts a couple of times, and performance photography was the first thing I decided to give up.
“Why? Well, the problems with shooting performances are many, but most fundamentally, photography is all about light, and alas most performances are so poorly lit that even the audience can’t see them very well, let alone their being suited to photography.
“Excessive use of fog and monochromatic lighting are the worst sins (adding flash usually makes them worse). In the ‘before and after’ images (top of this page), the lower ‘before’ image shows how washed out they can make everything look.
“In the ‘after’ version above it, you can also see how much colour and detail it’s possible for me to recover if I really slave over it. But that’s just one photo; doing the same for a whole fashion show is a nightmare.READ MORE HIGO TO PAGE 3 OF
BELOW: 120 images in four galleries from MarcusT’s most recent club shoots in 2015, ’16, 17 and ’18.
CLICK/TAP on any preview below to open the gallery, then click/tap any thumbnail to start slideshow