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Ken Tavos: interview with a MetArt artist

Ken Tavos is one of our less-prolific but most widely admired artists, with some impressive photosets to his name, notably a couple of rare indoor sets with perennial beach bunny Mango. His signature style tends towards a light and delicate touch, allowing the girl’s natural beauty to shine through and creating an intimate relationship between the model and the viewer. Today’s new photoset of Vanessa Angel shows a wonderfully playful, sweet side to her personality, as well as showing off her lovely figure and pretty face to perfection. I invited Ken to share a little of his creative process with us…

Where are you from?

KT: I’m from London. But I’ve lived in a few different parts of the world, and feel ‘at home’ wherever. One thing I don’t like is being stuck in the same place.

What is your background in photography?

KT: Like many people, I took pictures as a kid. I was shooting film (digital didn’t exist then). Later, I did a couple of short courses in photography and eventually did a nine-month-long vocational diploma course where I was introduced to studio lighting, as well as architectural photography. I’ve also exhibited and sold a small quantity of landscape photography and would like to combine that with nude model shooting at some point. I’d like to mention that photography is not my main occupation. This is why there are rather few sets of mine published. 

How long have you been taking erotic photographs, and what inspired you to start?

KT: When I was about 18, I had this notion that being a glamour or erotic photographer must be the ‘ultimate job’ – second only to being a professional soccer player (which didn’t happen). Photography inspired me before I ever thought of shooting nudes. But then, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been in awe of female beauty, both physical and in terms of feminine expressions – a natural pose, a look, a smile... So eventually I wanted to combine these two ‘interests.’ In photography, I try to capture a blend of beauty, art and eroticism – including explicitness. This was another inspiration… to capture in photographs that side of feminine beauty which is usually out of sight and ‘off limits’ to the public eye. I’ve been taking erotic photographs since July 2009.  About this time, I decided I wanted to be published on MetArt, and set myself that goal. I did 20 shoots over two years – about half were erotic and the other half art nude. Only then did I feel confident enough to approach MetArt – sending sample photos of around five models – and happily I was accepted as one of their photographers. 

Are you influenced by mainstream art and photography?

KT: Mainstream photography – sure. And quite a lot from the days of film photography. I’m convinced that film photographers were forced to think more before pressing the shutter, because you had fewer shots per roll than on today’s digital memory cards.  Of course, there’s still plenty of good digital photography today, and in terms of genres I look at everything from celebrity portraiture to photojournalism, sports photography, fashion occasionally. One thing they all tend to have in common is that they capture a moment, an expression, something human. And composition (framing) and light are always important to the storytelling. I also look to mainstream photography for inspiration on clothes, styling and composition. Paintings and other mainstream art – less so, but when I have the opportunity. In the erotic photography area, I was inspired by ERRO and his Errotica Archives site long before he retired. I even emailed him a couple of times and he was kind enough to reply. His models were amazing too, and I’ve been lucky enough to shoot some of them – including Avia A. who told me, “YOU ARE Erro.”  It was funny and sweet of her.   

You have been shooting photosets for MetArt since 2011 – how do you think your style has evolved since then?

KT: This is perhaps not a ‘style’ development thing, but I now approach shoots in a more disciplined way and with key goals. From a technical perspective, MetArt wants the model to be well lit without too heavy shadows, and as much as possible in focus. Next, it may sound obvious, but make sure I shoot enough material to have close to 120 good pictures after editing down. From a creative perspective, I’m much more conscious now about getting a wider variety of poses and natural expressions from the model. Another thing I realized is that not all poses are for all models. And you need to keep communicating. For example, Michaela Isizzu is very flexible and almost a happy contortionist. But a seemingly straightforward pose may not suit another model’s body type or personality. Then she may start to get upset or lose confidence (in herself or the photographer) so you have to change things quickly. Where possible, I try to tell a story. This can be challenging as both model and photographer have usually just arrived at the location. But choice of clothes and maybe a prop can help. At the same time, don’t let the story overpower the main purpose – the erotic photo set. 

Do you prefer studio or location shoots?

KT: So far, all my published sets have been shot indoors – in apartments. It’s easier to control the light and more comfortable for the model to give a variety of poses. But the next step for me is to shoot outdoors… I think it’s more ‘natural’…

Is there a photoset you are particularly proud of?

KT: I can’t pick one, really. I’m pleased with different sets for different reasons – usually because of the model’s personality or the location. If I’m not happy with a set I don’t even submit it and accept the financial loss. My attitude is that if a bad piece of work gets published nobody will be more sorry than the artist.

Have you ever considered shooting videos for MetArt?

KT: Yes. Video is growing – it’s on news websites, social media, everywhere – and the point will come where photographers have to embrace it. When using video as a canvas, I think it’s important to capture some sort of mood of sensuality and eroticism – just as with stills. And where possible tell a story. For example, I’m remembering some scenes from that classic “Nine and a Half Weeks,” where the male lead is slowly moving ice cubes over the naked female’s body… and her response, very erotic. That’s one example, though with MetArt it would be a solo girl, or maybe duo… I also think it’s healthy for artists in general to widen their skillset.  

You’ve shot some of our most iconic models, including Sapphira and Michaela Isizzu – is there one who inspires you the most?

KT: Michaela Isizzu is an interesting and strong personality. I told her we’d shoot a set on a green sofa. She told me, “I don’t like it,” – then indicated the dining room table, and gave me a fantastic set there. I would like to shoot her again. Mango A. is very professional. Emma A. was so fluid and natural, with such a range of poses I didn’t need to say anything. Sadly she retired before I could shoot her again. But I’ve yet to find my muse… the kind of person I want to keep shooting over and over. I prefer only to book models who excite me. 

Your recent photosets of Mango were received very enthusiastically by MetArt members – what was it like shooting her?

KT: I’d like to share a background story. I first tried to book Mango in Budapest through an agency. Finally, they told me she cancelled her trip and that she’s ‘difficult.’ Not being one to give up, I wrote another agency, and found she had changed her destination to Prague. Since I was heading to Prague, I booked her for two sets. Come the morning of the shoot, I was expecting to meet a major pain in the ass. However, she was the complete opposite. She speaks fluent English, and took ‘Korean studies’ at university. She is cultured and thoughtful. She accepted my invitation for dinner at a sushi restaurant the following evening, and even asked, “Is it the sort of place where I should wear a dress?” I told her jeans are fine. I took a photo of her there, which I added at the end of the published set ‘Isfera.’ I think Mango’s personality is reflected in her pictures.  She is one of the best models I have worked with.  

What are your ambitions for your work with MetArt?

KT: Simply to continue to grow and try new things in my photography. There has to be evolution in style, techniques, locations and things you try.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the members?

KT: Overall, interacting with members in the comments section of MetArt has been positive and enjoyable. I’ve said in the comments that I welcome ideas and requests from members. It can be to shoot particular models, themes for sets or ideas for locations. I actually shot Michaela Isizzu in a bedroom after seeing this request from a member. It’s also been a pleasure to be in contact with other MetArt photographers. That’s a challenge in itself, since photographers tend to be lone wolves (including myself), but it’s good to talk with fellow artists. Finally, I’d like to thank the MetArt members and MetArt team for their support. 

 

Members Comment (1)

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Deltagamma 2 years ago

Congratulations Ken, my friend! welcome in the club!
Very smart and interesting interview, with a great job by both you answering and by Rose asking the right questions. Well done!