An interview with ROY STUART by ANA FINEL HONIGMAN as it appeared in TISSUE N°2
Roy Stuart’s erotic photographs and films represent Paris’ graceful decadence as eloquently as Henry Miller’s odes to their shared adopted city. Like his fellow native New Yorker, Stuart moved to Paris seeking a natural habitat for his sexually unflinching art. In the city that Miller described as ”giv[ing] the humblest mortal alive the feel that he lives in paradise,” Stuart shoots dirty girls in predominantly pristine settings. His models’ sincere, sly, delight in exposing themselves is enticingly evident throughout his oeuvre. Because even his most choreographed BDSM scenarios appear organic and effortless, his work has showcased in gallery exhibitions throughout Italy, Spain, Holland and France and in five beautiful monographs by the prestigious Taschen press.
Here Ana Finel Honigman chatted with Stuart over a series of emails and phone calls while she was traveling in Paris, Rome, Madrid and Barcelona. These sensual settings were the perfect platform to discuss his attitudes about eroticism, cultural repression, and distinctions between sexual expression and sleaze.
Since you’ve been living in Paris for decades, with its uniquely tolerant and nuanced sexual culture, what are your responses to how the international press belittles and vilifies Dominique Strauss-Kahn?
DSK was set up. It’s obvious. The woman accusing him had a history of lying. She lied about her previous alleged rape. She lied on her immigration forms. She lied when discussing the case with a prisoner and asked how to extract money from the situation. Have you seen the woman? She is an obvious smiling, lying, hustler. And, she is as ugly as sin. The real question is why DSK had anything to do with her. With his money he could have gotten a blowjob from any fine looking prostitute in New York. Why her?
How do you think the global treatment of the DSK case represents the different attitudes about sex in France versus elsewhere?
The laws here are about the same as in all countries. There is nothing easier than to set up a phony rape situation. All you need to do is to get the guy to perform consensual sex, take the sperm to the doctor and then go to police crying “rape!”. That is all that is necessary. Providing that the couple don’t know each other, the man gets automatically arrested and if he cant find a way out, he gets a long prison term. This is all on the woman’s word. It happens all the time. The press loves a good story involving sex. Like Burroughs says, “the press doesn’t report the news, they write it.” And the public is so stupid, that once they see the image of the perp-walk, then their mind is made up. It is like it was with Amanda Knox. She was a young, pretty, and sexy girl who loves sex, so sure she’s guilty of doing a nasty sex crime. Girls aren’t supposed to like sex that much, therefore she must be a deviant. Add the image of her in chains and it’s easy to picture her guilty as hell; It’s just like the witch-trials: an image of a distraught female in chains incites the crowd. Guilty! So burn her! Human beings for the most part are such losers. Homo sap fucks it up every time. Just look who they vote for: here in France they vote for a phony leftist — they cannot see the hypocrisy in Hollande, the new French president. It’s pathetic.
How do you source your models? Do they mostly seek you out?
That is a very typical and often asked question. The answer just as mundane: word of mouth and model agency sites like Model Mayhem.
As you’ve grown, how has your idea of what makes a woman sexy or arousing changed?
No, I’ve always appreciated female sexiness, more or less in the same ways as now. I guess that a lot of people share my tastes and desires. But, what has changed is my curiosity of the mystery of sex. In the past, I didn’t really care about the reasons why animals are designed to get together to procreate. I didn’t wonder why the gimmick on planet earth is for male and female mammals to issue forth a replica out of their union. Because nature requires male to female attraction, you enter into the exploration mode. ‘Exploration’ is therefore the key word. It helps us find out from where it all evolved and takes us back to the mystery origins of consciousness and the realm of metaphysics. Now, we are dealing with a form of philosophy around the pleasure that nature seems to have devised only for humans since humans are the only species that derives pleasure from sex. Other animals do it out of a need but there is no indication that they experience our ‘pleasure.’
It must have been very different exhibiting your work during the 80s and 90s when feminist interpretations of art heavily influenced the way sexuality explicit work was viewed versus now.
I don’t think that feminism has to do with anything. It was Taschen’s decision in the mid-nineties to publish a book on me and a book on Koons that got it started. Taschen was the first and the only to get away with it. But now, the work is practically establishment. The internet is full of explicit images and it is everywhere.
Does that kill the work’s bite?
It’s interesting that there are all these images online. It is nice that people are expressing themselves. They may be expressing themselves too much, but it doesn’t bother me. It is all right with me.
How do you relate to your status as a cult icon for erotic photographers, intellectual perverts and these people expressing themselves?
It is good to influence people but not be imitated. Richard Kern imitates. He is a jerk.
I like Richard, enormously. He has always been a real sweetheart to me. I really think that Richard is a great guy.
He is a jerk. He is an embarrassment. He is with Taschen too, and I get mentioned in the same sentence but it pisses me off. He lowers the whole thing. Watching girls play with pimples makes it all sleazy. If you don’t have a girlfriend, then Richard shows you everything you’d see if you had a girlfriend. He shows you girls masturbating and brushing their teeth. But, if you don’t have a girlfriend, then it all looks great but you feel sleazy after looking at his photographs.
It just sounds like classic porn, as Robin Byrd would say “if you don’t have a girlfriend, I will be your girlfriend tonight.”
It is just sleazy. He has this show where he photographs girls and it’s just an excuse to get girls naked. Why are there never any men in his photos? He has no balls. He takes dirty pictures but there are never any men. And his work is so boring. Have pride in what you do!
You definitely don’t take banal voyeuristic images. Why do you often shoot in opulent settings? What is the relationship that you see between sex and luxury?
It is good to have an aesthetically pleasing shot, instead of shooting a girl in a trashcan. Or shooting a girl in front of a sunset. Opulence can be original and that brings the eye in and makes people interested. I am not condoning what people do to get rich, nor am I condoning opulence. But opulence makes people pay attention.
I think an interesting aspect of your work is the contrast between opulent, inaccessible settings and beautifully natural girls. As a girl who has never shaved, I am baffled by the tyranny of many peoples’ repulsion and outrage over pubic hair. Why do you think that contemporary culture is so against it?
Personally, I think there is an ironically underlying prudishness to all this grooming “preparation”. You’re quicker to fuck without all the prepping.
It all started with Playboy and Penthouse and now everyone does it. But they don’t know why. Boys look at it and want it. They tell the girls and then the girls do it. I am not saying that girls are idiots but people are idiots. Boys don’t know why they want it. They think it looks good but they really just do it, because everyone else does it. It isn’t about them or anything. They just act like zombies. Unless you are a pedophile, why would you want a woman to look like she is 12. It makes no sense. The few girls with hair keep the world from being overrun by zombies.
"The few girls with hair keep the world from being overrun by zombies."
Interview: Ana Finel Honigman for TISSUE N°2