Meet Photographer Jesse Greene
Jesse Greene (@jessegreenephotography) is no stranger to the world of alternative lifestyle and fashion photography. Since a teen he's been experimenting with photography in all different genres, shooting both film and digital. However, his infatuation with the human condition, high fashion, and sexuality came later in his journey and can be seen in his street photos and conceptual works.
Interviewer Mark Gelband (@markgelband) is Ello’s Chief Marketing Officer, an expert in container home construction, a long-time writer, and a local everywhere he goes.
When I first discovered your work, two immediate ideas came at me: 1. The idea that your models are like beautiful graffiti on these otherwise drab or mundane sets, as though they're creating beauty where one might miss it; 2. That you're asking the viewer to also see beauty in the model in ways beyond social norms of beauty. Could you talk a little bit about your settings and why they're important to you personally?
Honestly, I used to be nervous about my locations so I shot at studios and at home. It wasn't until I moved from Chicago to Houston when I had more access to outdoor and year-round locations. However, I think that location definitely sets the tone for the imagery and it can play a big role in the model's responsiveness. When I shoot at a model's home it's more intimate and you can see that in the images. On the other hand, when I'm shooting outdoors or even in a closed studio setting the mood can change. I've learned a lot from the people I shoot just by putting them in a crowded or public area. You can actually capture a lot of emotion in these situations. I've always had a love of the landscape around me so I've always like shooting outdoors than in a studio if possible.
If you were to compare your sense of settings to a writer or musician or another kind of artist, who would you compare this sense to and why?
If I were to choose a musician I would say someone like Ahmad Jamal, particularly a song called "Sugar Loaf At Twilight" because it reminds me of all the beautiful things I see in people that they don't even see. The song itself always paints an intense pastille floral picture in my head every time. If I were going to compare myself to someone based on my views and aesthetic I'd probably be more contemporary and say some producer like EL-P, or Alchemist, even Kanye only because I like to stay abstract, gritty, real, and I like to edit every photo individually and build around my subjects, not just throw the same preset filters on everything. I also like to give it a classy retro feel and at times want people to question the time period like Tarantino or something.
Why is important for you to challenge stereotypical notions of beauty?
Honestly, because being black in America at some point in your life you're going to be told you're ugly either passively or aggressively. Growing up in Chicago and having a mixed family I’ve heard a lot of different things to make me feel "Less" than someone but for some reason instead of letting it put me in "That place" I said to myself, "That girl Becky is cut and she's white, I like her, I wanna kiss her." I was always dating outside my race, dressing different, doing creative shit but never lost my identity. I know I’m black and I love it. However not everyone can think like this and my problem is, thanks to Ahmad J., everyone I see has a little beauty in them but only a few have the ability to let it out in front of a lens. I think it’s extremely important to embrace nudity if you’re in your 20s and fit or in your 60s and aged. I think that some people look in the mirror and don't see themselves correctly. All I want to do is correct their vision.
You also seem to play with hard and soft––juxtaposing the feminine with cold, harsh, or derelict place. Is there something you're trying to say with this? If so, what?
For me the lighting is all stylistic, again playing off the model’s expressions. I like the contrast of either high fashion with industrial abandonment or raw sexuality at home in a somewhat voyeuristic perspective, but for the most part, it’s a visual thing for me. I’m looking for the coolest images that can float from fashion to art to sex comfortably without totally turning off the viewer. Plus to be honest, they're way better in terms of authenticity, and they’re generally free to use.
The juxtaposition has an interesting eroticism. Where for you is the line between capturing the erotic and moving into objectification?
I think the line is VERY thin, first off. People like to throw words around when we all come from different backgrounds and people will and do get offended easier than others. In reference to my work I would say it goes both ways but in two directions; for example, I would say that I have images that objectify people but not in an erotic way. However, my idea of eroticism might be a lot more liberal than others’. In my eyes, intercourse, human fluid exchange, erotic situations that look contrived like in a porn mag are definitely objectifying forms of photography. I think you could look at it as a situation where a person is being used as a tool for someone else or multiple people’s wishes, that’s when it starts to become objectification. If it was an image of a woman alone in the shower touching her body that’s just erotic.
Can you tell us a little bit about your BOOK project? How it came about? Why? When? How those of us who love your work can support the project?
The book project came about a few months ago, maybe a year now. I was trying to rebrand myself on social media and there were two French photographers – Ohlalaaaagirls and JuebilI172 – that I had stumbled across that I particularly liked. We talked here and there and then in the spring I went to Paris to cover fashion week and we linked up and got wasted. Let me go back and say that prior to this we had planned on meeting so it wasn't that random. So we booked this super cool French model by the name of "Misungi" and all three of us shot her simultaneously. The idea was to make a book of the three of us and our different perspectives shooting the same subject. So currently we’re looking for donations to get the book printed and into the hands of the people, you can help us by following the link to our Kickstarter! Anything helps and will be greatly appreciated.
Do you have problems posting your work on other mainstream networks? Do you like the artistic freedom on Ello and why?
I haven't had many problems but some networks have their restrictions and on others I don't particularly like the reblog system. I enjoy Ello mainly because the template is pretty standard, it’s easy to use, and I get a lot of positive feedback.
You can follow Jesse on Ello, Instagram, Tumblr, and Kickstarter.