Sunday, 8 February 2009


Note to the dozens of climbers viewing this article: My live online interviews with legendary climbers Johnny Dawes, John Redhead and John Dunne, and my published articles for climbing magazines On The Edge and High can be found here.

© Bill Helm

A year ago I decided to write a novel to cater for the number of people arriving on this blog having googled the key words "mother in law son in law sex". I spent the spring writing the novel, handed it over to my editor, then pored through hundreds of photographs on deviantArt, waiting for that one photograph to jump out at me as the cover.

As soon as I set eyes on Tree Shadows, David's beautiful shot of model Nora Saenz, I knew I'd found the one.

© David Winge
Above: Tree Shadows

After my own input in Photoshop and Illlustrator, the end result was below. You can buy the novel on Amazon here in the UK or here in the USA.

So many people have commented on the stunning David Winge cover that I thought I would interview David for the blog. Here's what he had to say.

Jude: Hi David. What do you think of the final book cover result?

David: It's wonderful, and honestly it is a shot that almost didn't get posted, Nora picked it out. It was a result of Nora wanting to do some images in a more figure study style, as you know I tend to work more in landscapes where my model is part of the overall scene and not necessarily
the main subject in the photo. After the shoot we were reviewing the results and she saw this image and immediately asked me to edit and post it.

© David Winge

Jude: I understand you got into photography by restoring old family photographs. Can you tell us a little about that?

© David Winge

David: From the time I was very young I had a keen interest in old photographs, historical photos, old family photos and I would come across old family photographs but because of the age, original materials, storage and quality of these images they were often scratched, faded or damaged. I was learning to work in a darkroom and found I could actually photograph these images using my 35mm SLR camera and then using darkroom techniques, touch them up and enlarge them. I began a little restoration program and many of these redone photographs hang in the homes of my relatives today.

© David Winge

Jude: Was the first nude portrait you ever did in the desert? Or were you photographing desert landscapes first?

David: I have not been photographing nudes for very long, only about 3 years now, I was starting to photograph more and more in recent years and my candid shots of people were receiving wonderful reviews. Someone suggested I find a model to work with and try to expand on my ideas and concepts. Using landscapes for me goes back all of my life, then I discovered the desert in the early 80s and travelled out there often when I played the drums for a band whose
founding members lived in the Mojave just north of Los Angeles, CA.

© David Winge

Nudes in the desert was a natural collaboration of these two, the first several models that I met were wonderful and very creative people, I feel very fortunate to have found them and those first photographs we shot were amazing. After a couple of trips out there working with nudes in the desert I was hooked, I remember one specific instance while editing our work, I had to pause, I could hardly believe that I had helped create such beautiful images.

© David Winge

Jude: You have been quoted as saying "Putting clothes on a model is akin to putting a parking lot over a field of flowers." I love this quote, because it sums up for me one of the beauties of your work, your appreciation of the natural beauty of women's bodies. I had an article published in the final ever issue of prestigious climbing and mountaineering magazine, HIGH, entitled Tits vs. homo-Eroticism at the Crag, arguing that if men were allowed to take their tops off whilst rock climbing, so should women be. The article caused storms of controversy on the British climbing forums. Do you think women should be permitted the freedom to take their tops off in public just as men are? Why do you think that society still demands that women cover their breasts? After all they are beautiful, men love them and they nourish babies.

© David Winge

David: Thank you, that quote was born partly from frustration at attitudes and in my opinion nudity should certainly be a choice, I find it quite twisted that society equates nudity to something wrong or bad and especially something illegal except in very private locations. That said, this does not mean I would enjoy a ride in a crowded bus full of naked strangers, what I mean is I find it so ironic that we place a high value on classical paintings and statues depicting
nudes done by historical masters but deprive ourselves of this expression. Who and what are these laws and morals protecting? I don´t see that laws against nudity have done
more good than harm.

© David Winge

Another favorite quote of mine is from Peter McWilliams, "The laws against public nudity make no sense. The idea that Jerry Falwell can go topless while Cindy Crawford cannot is an absolute affront to logic, common sense and the 5000 year human struggle for aesthetic taste."

© David Winge

Jude: Another thing I love about your work is the fact that you so obviously have a lot of respect for women. By photographing naked women in stunning landscapes, are you trying to emphasise the fact that nature is beautiful, and just as no one would be ashamed of a mountain, no one should be ashamed of the bodies nature gave us? Or am I reading too much into it! At any rate, what inspires you to photograph nudes in desert landscapes?

David: This is it exactly Jude, my intention is to share the natural beauty I see, and I wouldn't mind at all if it changed a few attitudes along the way. My hope is that when people view my work they are able to see past the model and see the harmony of beauty in a natural setting, I would hope they see how we are part of it all.

© David Winge

Another factor is the desert itself because I feel we sometimes equate nudity with vulnerability, it is part of my goal to show the glory and strength of the human spirit. And I do have a great deal of respect for my models not only are they out there in remote areas of desert, in all kinds of weather and temperatures, at odd times of the day but they do all this nude and for the purpose of creating art.

© David Winge

Jude: One of the reasons I love Tree Shadows so much, which I used as the basis for the cover of my novel Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law, is the interplay between light and shade. So how important is chiaroscuro in your work?

© David Winge

David: I try to remain aware of shadows, especially my own! Seriously, shadow plays an important role as does the lack of shadows, in photography I use shadows to add dimension and sometimes to add a level of drama. Nora has such a beautiful shape, in Tree Shadows it was Nora who chose that location, I found that using more shadow than light helped to soften the overall image and to further enhance the depth of field, to make her smooth skin appear in the image more as it does in real life.

© David Winge

Jude: How important is texture in your photographs? How important is the difference between the texture of the model's skin and the texture landscape's skin in your work?

David: This is where I just love the desert for my work, there is an abundance of textures, and shapes in the desert, I try to use both in a sort of interplay along with contrasts and light and appearance of the model.

© David Winge

Jude: I have heard top rock climbers say that they become physically aroused by their interaction with the rock, and climbers use many sexual innuendos when describing climbing, often referring to rocks as women and lovers. Do any of your models become aroused by the feel of the rock?

David: I hadn't heard this before, but honestly I would be so busy setting up to shoot I probably wouldn't even notice, though I have had a couple of models want to start a naked rock climbing club, so there may be something to this!

© David Winge

Jude:How important is the relationship between photographer and model?

David: I believe this is important, however also dependent somewhat on the type and genre of the work, the more creative and edgy the goal of the image the more important this relationship becomes I feel. I look at other photographer´s work regularly and I feel I can see a certain dynamic between certain pairs, now others may not believe this to be true and I myself didn´t believe it at first. I was under the impression that as two professionals getting remarkable images was something quite consistent regardless. But over time now I have come to realise there is something intangible going on as you move closer to the artistic side of photography, for myself it came in the way of improved images the more I work with someone and better images depending on our level of enthusiasm about the project.

© David Winge

Jude: I know from my own experience that being photographed naked is a form of making love to the camera, and that an electrical spark must happen between the photographer and model for the shoot to work at its best. Does this spark always exist between you and your models?

David: I'm afraid my answer may be disappointing to your readers, if by spark you mean a creative spark then yes, if you mean something more intimate than I have to say no. My time on location at a photo shoot is most often somewhat exhausting, I am constantly watching for the location of the sun and the type and style of terrain I want to use, the distant background as well as the models placement in setting up a shot. I'm conveying the emotional feel and at times the pose to the model and I am concentrating on my composition as well as the shadows, light and field of view.

The extremely naughty Fleur De Lys Publishing PA, "Honey Higginbotham"

Jude: Have your photo sessions ever led to further intimacy with a model?

David: Not yet unfortunately, should I have the opportunity to work with Fleur De Lys PA, the enchanting Ms. Higginbotham....however!

© David Winge

Jude: Have you ever fallen in love with any of your models?

David: No, I haven't, but this is an interesting question that I've been asked before, it seems there is a misconception about relationships when nudity is involved, people in general equate nudity with sex and this is far from the case. At least for me it is, there must be a good degree of trust in the relationship and mutual respect as artists, though I haven't fallen in love, I do love and have become good friends with several of the models I've worked with.

© David Winge

Jude: Have any of your models ever fallen in love with you?

David: Well, there was one early on and we dated briefly, I spend most of my time scheduling, planning and shooting then editing images so it fizzled out in short order, I just couldn't devote the time needed to sustain a relationship.

© David Winge

Jude: Have any of your models met one another? If so under what circumstances and how did they get on?

David: They meet all the time, many are good friends of each other, in fact one of our local photo studios has been doing a meet & greet style open house one day a month for some time, several of the local art photographers and models meet up there. At times there may be 8 to 10 of the models I've worked with all there at the same time. It's really a wonderful fellowship of artists and like-minded people.

Jude: Does your partner get jealous of your work?

David: I'm single, for me it's not that easy to date anyway, not only do I have a very busy schedule and limited time, very few women my age understand my desire to go with young women out to remote locations and photograph them nude.

© David Winge

Jude: When I asked for your permission to use your shot Tree Shadows as the basis of my book cover, how did you feel?

David: Oh I was thrilled, I doubt 5 seconds elapsed in between the time I read your message and sent a message to Nora, I knew she would be thrilled as well.

© David Winge
Above: This shot of Nora inspired Chapter 6 of Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law, "Cleaning The Window" where Alex lays on the bed fantasising about his topless mother-in-law being outside his bedroom window, cleaning it.

Jude: Have you read Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law yet?

David: Yes, yes I have.

Jude: What did you think of it?!

David: It's a wonderful read, I couldn't put it down! Well, a couple of times I had to. I especially love how you developed the characters and I followed right along with them and it was so easy to see the scene play out in my mind. I love how the plot developed over a period of time, everything didn't just happen at once but more methodically with a sense of things growing between the characters, no pun intended ;) What I also found very interesting was that you included some of your inspirations and influences at the back of the book, I saw that we have more than a few things in common.

Jude: I personally feel that your model Nora Saenz is one of the most stunning nude models I've ever seen. She has a vibrancy which sings with electricity. Can you tell me what it's like, working with Nora?

David: Nora is wonderful, I met Nora through another model I was with at the time, Nora had seen our work and wanted to work with me, she hadn't modeled nude prior to our first shoot. Though you wouldn't know it, we did a few shots in a field of desert wildflowers near dawn then drove further out into a low portion of the Colorado desert known as Pinto Basin, by the time we left that second stop she was a natural. She genuinely enjoyed our shoot and that must be some of the vibrancy you see in her images, photo shoots are such wonderful creative outlets and she is also a painter, so I think this was a natural extension of her creativity, almost from the beginning she was sharing ideas which made our shoots more like true collaborations.

Jude: And finally, when is your long awaited book Desert Nudes coming out?

David: I so wish I had an answer to this question, it spent 2 months with a graphic designer who has given up on the project, so now I have to start all over and find someone to help me put it together.

Most of my work can be seen on the following websites:

David Winge interviewed by Chris St James on the highly regarded Univers d'Artistes

And finally: me climbing topless in protest at women not being permitted the same freedom as men to remove their tops. When it was published in the climbing press, this photograph caused nothing short of hysteria on the British climbing forums, with little boy climbers who probably hadn't shagged anything other than their hands for a very long time, publicly slagging off both me and my breasts in dozens and dozens of separate threads.

My Adventures In Cyberspace II, the second of a trilogy of novels inspired by my experiences on the net, is due for publication in September 2009...

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