Here is an interview of we conducted. When asked & sent the questions, UniqueNudes promptly began filling them out only to have his computer crash (or something like that). A few weeks passed & he finally had the time to recomplete the interview. The irony being that a couple days after he completed his new answers, he found his old ones & sent those as well.
It was an interesting exercise. The tones were different. There was a hint of sarcasm or light-heartedness in many of the questions but the important ones (which you'll find out below) carried the same tone. In the interest of disclosure, we here at Nude-Form have incorporated both answers where possible to give a fuller answer. Hope everyone enjoys. W/o further ado...
Nude-Form question 1: Let's start off by telling something that you'd like us to know about yourself?
UniqueNudes answer: I'm a 34 year old Libra, I like long walks on the beach... just kidding. Well, my name is Richard Rasner and I am a fine art nude artist. It's my only job; I make my living shooting art and I have for nearly 7 years now (having started 12 years ago total.)
Q2: What attracted you to the photographic medium?
A: I had a friend that I met when I was a police officer (the late Michael Nakayama, who shot for Playboy and other magazines) and he asked if I was willing to help out around his photo studio on my days off. I had always loved photography (and being 21 years old I was really excited to see boobs) so I started helping out and moved up to apprentice, etc. When Mike passed away in 2001 I inherited Nakayama Studios and I quit the department to pursue art full time.
Q3: What do you like to do in the rare moments you have free time?
A: What's "free time"? LOL. Just kidding. The truth is that when you are a self-employed artist you work constantly or you starve. But I am lucky enough to have residuals from my book and print sales so on my rare times off I like to go to historical re-creation events, most often with the pirate reenactment group Clan Darksail.
Q4: Pirate reenactment group?! That sounds quite interesting. Could you please tell us a little more about it?
A: Clan Darksail is an acting troupe and group of friends that does pirate festivals, Renaissance faires, mall openings, T.V shows and movies and many more events within the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA.org). I'd love to show you a website, but we're currently in the process of rebuilding it. You can find pictures of me dressed as a pirate in my dA gallery, though uniquenudes.deviantart.com/art… uniquenudes.deviantart.com/art…
Q5: Do you partake in any other creative endeavors?
A: I am the editor in chief of Nakayama Studios Magazine (which allows me to play in graphics design and writing) and I also dabble in our film department, Nakayama Studios Films. Having grown up in and near Los Angeles, CA (and coming from a family of actors and musicians) I also do stunt work in movies and TV on the side; time permitting.
Q6: Work long enough in this business, you're bound to experience some comedic episodes even if it's only funny in hindsight. Would you be willing to share us one of yours that happened during a shoot?
A: As I've been at this over a decade I can tell you that yes, funny stuff happens nearly every shoot! But an easy one to tell that I remember was back in 2005. There was an incident with some native American evil voodoo bubbles that threatened to take over my entire shoot and devour both me and my models! A photo and explanation can be found in my dA gallery here uniquenudes.deviantart.com/art… .
Q7: For the sake of this question, we'll take for granted that "respecting the model as a human being" is the unspoken first piece of advice. What other advice would you give another photographer, perhaps working w/ their first nude model?
A: Be honest about your abilities as a photographer. Explain in great detail exactly what you plan to shoot, how much nudity will be involved, etc, beforehand. Don't act afraid or ashamed! Be proud of what you do! Study some other artists beforehand, and don't copy them but do try to emulate their strengths.
Q8: Speaking of strengths, what are yours?
A: Sometimes when answering questions like this an interviewee can come off arrogant, so I apologize in advance if that happens. I truly feel my biggest strength lies in my ability to transcend the ordinary nude. "Unique Nudes" isn't just a name, it's a motto. I want my work to inspire rather than titillate, and through the use of unusual locations, lighting and posing I feel that I pull it off pretty well!
Q9: Anyone willing to take a critical look at themselves will admit they have areas where they can improve. Please tell us a couple of yours?
A: Well, I know there are some days when I don't feel like working and I'll shoot anyways, and the results are always less than spectacular. I have a hard time saying no to models who want to shoot with me, and many times I push forward (especially when I'm on tour) when I should be resting instead. I also sometimes fall in to a rut and I don't want to admit it, and my art suffers. I produce what I consider to be sub-standard work (even if my fans love it, *I* know I could have done better) and I owe it to the models to not shoot when I'm not "feeling it" artistically.
Q10: We each have a defining moment in our life; sometimes we have more than one. It changes us from who we were to who we became afterwards. Please tell us yours & how it changed you.
A: When Michael Nakayama passed away in 2001and at the same time the police department offered me an early retirement (I was only 25) I had the chance to go back in to law enforcement (as a private investigator or bail enforcement agent, both of which I had done previous) or throw myself entirely in to art and try to make it as an artist before my pension ran out. I did the latter, and never looked back.
Q11: You speak quite highly of Michael Nakayama. Could you please tell us about him & his work?
A: Mike was an accomplished photographer who shot mostly for men's magazines such as Playboy, Hustler, Club International and so on. It wasn't his first love but it did pay the bills. I felt his strength actually lay in his artistic nudes, and when I took over the studio after his death I tried to steer the art in that direction. He was both a mentor and good friend, and I really do miss him every day.
Q12: If given a choice between listening to Beatles music OR Elvis, which would you choose?
A: Tough call. I'm a fan of later Beatles work (White Album; Revolver) but I think I'm gonna go with Elvis on this one.
Q13: Any nuggets of wisdom you'd like to share w/ models working w/ you?
A: Treat modeling like your day job (assuming it isn't) and give everything you have in to the shoot. If you show up late and treat it like a hobby you are robbing yourself and the photographer of a valuable experience to create art. & also be yourself. You don't need to be a supermodel to work with me (I've shot models from 82 lbs to 400 lbs) but you need to be confident. Own who you are and be proud of that face. There is no shame in nude art.
Q14: What are the most common set of difficulties you've experienced as a photographer? How are you working to overcome them or how DID you overcome those trials?
A: The most difficult part for me of being a full time artist came with the economy crash of 2007. Signed and framed images that were selling for THOUSANDS of dollars now sell for low hundreds. I went from a six-figure income to… well, less. By branching out Nakayama Studios (and not just focusing on the Unique Nudes brand) I was able to bring in other streams of revenue from franchised studios (we have one on the West Coast, East Coast, and in Beijing China currently), the aforementioned magazine & films, plus we now offer event and music photography. Not only was I able to expand my own income base, but I was able to hire and help other photographers as well.
Getting models (and convincing them I'm a legitimate artist, not just one who wants to see their goodies) was pretty difficult. Obviously I got past that one, as now my email inbox is full every day with hundreds of models from all over the world that want to work with me. The one thing I think I will never overcome is the stigma of just being a nude photographer. I'm proud of the fact, but a lot of people just assume I'm a pornographer, and closed-minded people are everywhere.
Q15: What sort of resources (on the web or otherwise) when recruiting your models?
A: These days, models contact me. I'm lucky enough that my reputation has grown to a point that every day I open my email there are 3-300 requests from models who want to work with me. When I first started out, though, I signed up for every model-related networking site on the internet: Musecube, OMP, Freelance Models, etc. Now I only keep one site active, and that is the ubiquitous Model Mayhem. Pretty much everyone in the industry is on there, and the application process is vetted so not just any creep can join. Truth be told, though, I now only use it to post when I'm going to be traveling for a show or as part of my World Tour, or when I am casting for special projects (like my current underwater series.)
Q16: Can you please tell us a little about your thought process in how you choose your models? A model's "look" is obviously accounted in there. Why do some make it & others do not? Are tattoos also an issue for you or no?
A: Any model (and I mean that, with the exception of morbidly obese or medical anorexia) that wants to shoot with me is welcome to. As my goal is to create art (and not masturbation fuel) an interesting look is far more important to me than a sexy one. I always tell people that I hope to one day find an amputee midget that will pose naked, as they would have an awesomely unique nude look.
Now, when I have a certain series in mind (The Golden Age of Hollywood, Re-Imagined Heroes, The Beauty of Ink, etc) then yes, looks are VERY important. Models for "The Golden Age of Hollywood" may not have any tattoos or piercings other than ears, yet models for the "Beauty of Ink" series (sponsored by Zodiac Tattoo Studio in Moreno Valley CA) must have a *minimum* of 4 to 6 tattoos, depending on size and placement. Obviously for that series, ink is not a problem.
Q17: What is the proudest moment you've experienced as a photographer?
A: The grand unveiling of my permanent installation in the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas (alongside such artists as Salvador Dali and Walt Disney) at a huge gala event was very rewarding personally and artistically. It's an honor to know my great-great grandchildren will be able to see my work hanging on the walls of museums in (as of right now) three different countries worldwide. It's a feeling of immortality.
Q18: Leaving out specifically who or any other identifying characteristics, ever have any shoot ideas pitched where you were like "uhm, no chance in hell is that going to happen"?
A: I encourage my models to pitch ideas to me, and some of my best work has come from their ideas, not mine. But yeah, I get a lot of crappy ones too. Models often approach me with *very* cliché ideas, such as caution tape bikinis, belt-around-the-nipples, dead doll, etc. I have to gently remind them I am *Unique* Nudes.
Q19: Who are some visual artists you admire, whether they be here on or elsewhere? The answer need not be limited to the photographic medium either.
A: My work was inspired by Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman (a photographer that worked with Dali) but I truly admire my friend scottchurch who not only wrote the forward to my second book, but also came out to Las Vegas recently to teach a class with me. He's living the dream of a full-time nude artist, and he is a helluva cool guy.
Q20: What books have you published & can you provide links to where people could get them?
A:I have two books of my own "Whispers of the Mind and Abandoned: The Relentless Passage of Time" but last year alone I was also published in 2 international and 2 domestic compilations, not to mention magazines, news articles and so on. There is a journal entry here on deviantART with a list of publications, ways to order and even links to where you can download some of them for free! uniquenudes.deviantart.com/jou…
Q21: What were some of the difficulties you encountered while attempting to get you photo-related books published?
A: I've mostly gone through self-publishers such as Lulu & Blurb (although I am currently in negotiations with Focal Press to write a blacklight photography book) so publishing the content hasn't really been an issue, it's been finding locations to sell them. Fortunately I have a GREAT publicist, and she gets me book-signing shows and radio show interviews to boost my sales.
Q22: Who is your favorite cartoon character?
A: Another tough call. On the internet? Strongbad. Foamy the Squirrel ranks up there too. On TV, I'm gonna go with the entire cast of the Animaniacs.
Q23: Who would win in a 3-way fight: pirates, ninjas, or robots? Most importantly, how do they win?
A: This is a fun question for me. As I mentioned in question 3, I play a pirate on a regular basis. (In fact, I am a consultant to the History Channel on piracy, and I have written many articles on the subject for No Quarter Given magazine www.noquartergiven.net/ and other publications). Another, lesser-known fact about me is that I studied Togakure-ryu ninjutsu, both here and in Japan for 20 years.
And despite being a pirate AND a ninja, my money is on the robots. Have you seen the Terminator franchise? I mean, holy crap! The T-1000 series (the liquid metal ones) is all but indestructible.
Q24: What's your favorite movie? Any reason why it's your favorite?
A: I really love the original Star Wars trilogy www.amazon.com/Star-Wars-Trilo… . It's a space opera, with good guys in white, bad guys in black and lots of fun stories and twists.
Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" www.amazon.com/Clockwork-Orang… is pretty good as well. As mentioned before, I love surrealism, and McDowell's performance in that film is one of the best ever committed to celluloid.
Q25: What's your favorite book & tell us about it?
A: I will preface this question with the fact that I read 1 or 2 books per DAY. To say I read a lot is an understatement. But last year I read "Water For Elephants" www.amazon.com/Water-Elephants… by Sara Gruen and it was awesome. Great story set in the depression era and the golden age of the circus. Amazing. Just go read it.
Q26: Anything else that you'd like to add or ask us here at Nude-Form?
A: First off, keep up the good work guys! There are a ton of nude-appreciation groups on dA, and you guys are by far one of the best, if not the best period. I love this interview series, and I'm glad it gives me a chance to reach out to fans outside of my current base. Groups like yours make :devart a better place, and I cannot thank you enough for this oppurtunity.
Be sure to check out my other interviews, books, magazines and so on over in my journals if you're so inclined, and keep an eye on my schedule for upcoming gallery shows and book signings. I love meeting fellow deviants!
We're going to close up by thanking you for your time & allowing us to pick your brain. Keep up the great work.
If anyone in Nude-Form land, wishes to be considered for a future interview, you are encourage to contact the group of your interest. We'll see what we can do
Edit: We have submitted this interview as a dA news article news.deviantart.com/article/13… . You are encouraged to "love it". In helps keep it higher in the rankings & helps get read by more people.