Photographer and filmmaker Charles Lightfoot is new to MetArt, but not to the world of erotica. Based in California – where he finds the most beautiful and inspiring models – he has over twenty years of experience and an impressive pedigree as a colleague of the late, great J. Stephen Hicks, among other notable collaborators. Lightfoot’s use of natural light and shade, and his refusal to go down the well-trodden, clichéd ‘glamor’ path, polarises opinion among members; but he’s okay with that. Despite his accomplished body of work, he is refreshingly humble and eager to listen to feedback. I was delighted to get the opportunity to find out more…
Charles, where are you from?
CL: I was born in Rabat, Morocco and traveled extensively with my parents. Not military but my dad had a business of the month and got restless very quickly.
What is your background in photography and film?
CL: My parents owned a motel and a motel guest unable to pay his rent left his camera as payment and never returned. I started photography around 12 years old and eventually attended Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA. I started working with Stephen Hicks in 1994 and continue to this day producing content for his site. After Brooks Institute I interned at Playboy in Santa Monica, CA and then worked with Suze Randall a while, and ended up clicking with Stephen. He was such a laid back dude and created a wonderful work environment. We all geeked out photographically and all had the same outlook on treating the models with respect. I still miss the dude for sure...
What inspired you to start creating erotica?
CL: I started shooting nudes because I was shy and I think it was a way for me to hide behind a camera to meet girls… The camera allowed me to go places and meet people I normally would never do. I fell in love with the mechanical device itself – the camera – and then with the technical aspect and science of it all, and now it’s purely a search of finding a moment in an expression…
Are you influenced by mainstream art, film and photography?
CL: I used to look at fashion magazines and then went through a museum phase and now that I’m answering this question it’s been a while since I’ve been inspired by something… I definitely think a trip to the Getty Museum is in order.
You make a lot of use of natural light and real locations – please tell us about that.
CL: It feels more natural to look through a viewfinder and see what you’re getting than using strobes. Nothing wrong with strobes, I have them but have not used them in years. With the low light sensitivity of digital cameras it has opened up a whole new world that was never possible before. I used to love the look of Tri-X film back in the day, the grain gave the image a quality that was raw; unfortunately a lot of people look at it as a mistake as opposed to an effect. I’ve not abandoned the technical aspect but it’s definitely on the back burner, and I just focus on creating a feeling in the subject. I don’t always succeed, but I always try...
Is there a photoset or video you are particularly proud of?
CL: Not really… I love the process of shooting, then I love to edit, but unfortunately I could probably edit all my work down to one image and still find something wrong with it. But the process is what I love…
Do you prefer shooting movies or photographs?
CL: Hmm. I think in the last few years I’ve enjoyed shooting movies more, I just wish I was better at it… I get blown away by some of the videos out there…
Is there a model who inspires you the most?
CL: When I was in school I would inevitably find a girl, a model who had the same passion as me, and we would shoot assignment after assignment for a time. Then I would move on to another… It was a real creative adventure with no thoughts of making money or if anyone would like it. Those models were the most inspiring… these days I’m inspired if the model shows up on time and has a good attitude!
Do you plan your shoots in great detail, or see how it evolves on the day?
CL: It depends on the client, but most cases it’s on the fly and letting the creativity happen, never forcing something… I definitely have music playing, sometimes the model’s choice and sometimes mine. It’s really important to make the model feel relaxed, comfortable, safe and happy to be there. A lot of these girls get treated like objects, especially in this industry, and that’s fucked up… I never want to be part of that.
What are your ambitions for your work with the MetArt Network?
CL: I’m not sure? I’m just happy I have a place that will buy my images and allow me to survive in this society doing what I love doing. I’m not an ambitious person… I don’t need much to be content.
What do you hope the viewers get from your movies and photos?
CL: Reading the comments, it’s clear that some viewers get me and others don’t, and that’s totally cool… I just hope most can see these beautiful girls in the prime of their lives, and appreciate their bodies with respect – and masturbating to the imagery is a form of appreciation… why not?
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
CL: Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.