Our first interview for 2013 comes from from one of the most infamous photographers who has taken some of the hottest images known to mankind. Joe Oppedisano started off in fashion but is perhaps best known for his images of gay stars from Erik Rhodes and Buck Angel to shooting Channing Tatum before he was People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.
What made you want to get into photography?
I had no interest in it. I was a fashion editor/stylist, I was working with Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue, Ricky Martin, whatever, lol. I was so consumed doing that, I didn’t realize I was working with legends, being taught what a real master is like to work with, what supermodels are really like out of make-up and how to deal with people who the world considered fabulous.
But it was really a shoot with Arthur Elgort for L’Uomo Vogue, a denim/fall story, and I suggested we recreate Tom of Finland drawings with Abercrombie & Fitch boys. He said ‘No’, well, I think he laughed and told me I was crazy. It made me want to shoot it even more, so I bought a camera and taught myself how to shoot. Then a year later, I shot that very story…
Have you got a favourite shoot?
A million, but the Black Party/Buck Angel shoot that catapulted me into the world is one of the fondest, sickest, life-changing seconds of my existence. It was upstate in the freezing cold, when it started to snow, and Buck walked out into the woods completely naked, in thigh high lumberjack boots and an axe. It was such a powerful image that I received death threats for shooting ‘that thing’ and even had my friends camp out at my apartment to watch over me and Buddy, my dog, who was specifically mentioned in one threat. It changed my life that picture. It put me in the ranks of Robert Mappelthorpe and Andy Warhol, who had both done invites for the Black Party years before.
Tom of Finland said that if he had a erection when he was drawing he knew it was a good picture. Do you feel the same?
No. It is not at all sexual for me. I am too worried that the guy’s hair isn’t right, the light isn’t exactly doing what I want, the joint I just sucked down is making my ADD kick into overdrive and Judge Judy is on in 45 minutes. I wanna shoot fast so we don’t miss a second.
What are you memories of working with Erik Rhodes?
My very first encounter with him was arranged because Falcon saw my book, Testosterone, and they thought Erik and I would compliment each other. So instead of shooting him for a porno, cock out kinda thing, I shot him for the cover of Gay Times Magazine. I was anxious because I figured this queen was gonna be a diva cunt and show up hours late hungover or something.
I was filming at the Eagle Bar, NYC and figured I’d be waiting for him forever. Then the bell rang, 20 minutes early, and there he stood, towering in the doorway, light beams shooting out from around him and I swear to God I heard a choir of angels singing. When the smoke cleared, he smiled, shook my hand and introduced himself, shyly. I realized that very second that I had just met someone who would become a very important figure in my growth as a artist and my understanding that I had wrongly judged someone. Instead of him being the diva I expected, he was actually more than a muse, but the single face of everything I stood for. He was an Abercrombie boy, on ‘roids, 6”3 or something insane, and built in perfection, because it was proportionate, perfectly defined and symmetrical. And though not big, the boy could move, twist, bend, and be everything, every man, every fantasy, all in one.
I shot him for Carmen Marc Valvo, a women’s lingerie campaign where he played the boy toy, completely naked, to a very fabulously wealthy gorgeous dominant woman. Erik is naked on all fours in front of her, while she relaxes on a fancy Victorian chair, legs kicked up on his back like a stool and her stilettos glisten on his back. It’s fabulous.
He is missed, very badly these days. He is/was one of a kind, and to me, he is the face of his generation. To me, it’s really the things people DIDN’T know about him, the real him, that made him so extraordinary, and very sad. Heartbreaking.
One day, a great tragic/epic film will be made about him. trust me. He is a lesson to the world. Don’t judge people before you know anything about them.
What are you memories of working with Channing Tatum?
Smiles. All smiles. His agent wanted me to shoot this new boy he had just signed. The kid walks into my apartment and I gasped because he’s unlike anyone I had seen before. Not only was the face superstar quality (and only 18 at the time) but the body was tight, lean, long, tall and structural, like, very World War I military homeboy with a fade, a big smile, a funny laugh and a great presence.
So we ran outside, jumped a fence, went to an abandoned pier and it’s magnificent. My stylist/superstar Michael Nash dressed him in pea coats, military hats, turtlenecks, khakis and he looked like a scene from some epic Hollywood film. So much so that Swiss Army hired us to recreate that exact shoot for a campaign for their watches one year.
BUT besides that, the mutherfucker would all of a sudden jump down to the floor and start break dancing…He was not just a pretty face, there was something special about him. I now understand what it’s like to know for certain that someone is going to do something incredible with his life. He was never lazy, always gave 3 million percent. He is one of my boys. I miss him, but, I am so thrilled for him, and thankful that we crossed paths when we did in our lives.
Are there any other models you have worked with who have gone on to be mainstream stars?
Nothing like Channing. I mean, how do you even try to compare? Seriously, Sexiest Man Alive? No one will ever come close…