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Interview: James Rupapara [Photography]

In the latest edition of our interview series, we talk to photographer extraordinaire James Rupapara. With a varied portfolio of surreal yet intimate work, James is an in-demand photographer and kindly took a little time out to talk to us.

PW- Hey James! How are you doing?

Hey Rob, I’m really good thanks for asking.

PW- So, first thing’s first. For those who haven’t met you yet, how would you sum up who you are and what you do?

I’m James & I’m a self taught photographer, retoucher, digital artist, illustrator & creative director with a love for Bollywood, pizza & ancient mythology.

PW- What can you tell us about your current series, “Nectar of the Gods”? Was it a concept you’d had in mind for a while or something more spontaneous? 

“Nectar of The Gods” was inspired partly by the wastefulness of mankind & the decline of the worlds bee population. I use a honey substitute and basically pour it over my models to create a weird, melting affect. It was a theme I had had on the back burner for a long time and actually decided right at the end of the magazine shoot with one of the guys.

PW- You work with a lot of undiscovered talent to help them on their journeys and sign to agencies. What inspired you to do this, and how do you approach these shoots differently compared to working with more experienced models?  

There’s the age old saying “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and I think that a big reason behind wanting to work with new talent; it’s about instilling the idea in someone that they are unique/beautiful/capable of doing something like modelling when maybe they wouldn’t of had the confidence to try it.

I usually approach these shoots in much the same way I would normal shoot but with more time given over. It’s important for the person to relax into the shoot environment and feel comfortable.

PW- Who or what would you say are your main inspirations when it comes to your photography?

Without a doubt, Haris Nukem & Chuando & Frey. The way they compose a shot, their use of lighting & the subject matter has spoken to me for years. They are really changing the way photography is seen.

If you get a chance to see Haris’ “FAITH” exhibition, it will blow your mind.

PW- Your portfolio focuses extensively on the male body, with an often surreal or unique perspective. Have you always been inspired by the male form, or has it been informed by your work in fitness and art? 

I have always shot in the fitness genre and my hobby was art photography. So it just merged organically.

There are so many different ways the male form can be interpreted through posing, setting & lighting. Modern culture presses men into thinking they must be alpha and dominant when actually men can be vulnerable and sensitive.

PW- Using OnlyFans, you offer access to nude shots and more intimate works- how important is it to have a platform where nudity isn’t vilified and instead celebrated, and how has it changed the way you work? 

It’s great. Although for me it’s still a small platform, it’s liberating to know I don’t have to curtail a subject matter that features nudity because of where I want to post it or how it will be viewed.

I still think that shooting nudity is a bit of a taboo in the photography world, especially when the subject is men. I feel it’s still seen as pornographic as apposed to artistic.

In terms of the way I work, I can now certainly shoot a lot more freely without thinking how an image will have to be cropped or how I will make the final image social media friendly.

PW- Quick fun question- if you could photograph one person, living or dead, who would it be and what concept would you do?

I would love to have worked with a friend of mine, Mike Shanti again. He was the huge mountain of guy and his look was iconic. He would walk into a room or onto a shoot and you just couldn’t help but be in awe of him.

We featured in an exhibition around London landmarks a few year back and had some massive stuff in the pipeline before he tragically passed away last year.

PW- In this kind of industry, it can be tough to feel like you’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up, and do you have any advice to other people who might be struggling in a similar way?

This is something I face a lot. I’m very lucky that a lot of the people close to me are creatives. My mum is a painter & illustrator, my husband is a film producer and cinematographer & most of my friends are models or performers. So when I have feelings of doubt or a creative block; having people around who can give you a fresh perspective can be great.

My advice to people if you don’t necessarily have a network; don’t think about it. Create stuff because YOU love it. If you are working as an artist, create something for you. It might never see the light of day or go on social media but you made something you love.

PW- And final question! It’s more of an invitation actually. Use the next few sentences to tell us what you’re up to next, and where we can follow you online 🙂

I can be found on Instagram @jamesrupapara .

Regarding what’s coming; I have the very early stages of planning for an exhibition hopefully coming later this year/beginning of 2021.

I’m hoping to get over to the US this summer to work with Milan Christopher & a few others & I will working closely with a friend of mine Andrew @virgin_x on a series we started last year about the Virgin Mary and the men in her life.

As well as all this, I will still be shooting for clients new and old, and just teaching myself new things.

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