Artist Spotlight: Rick Castro

Castro has been a hub in the undergound art world of Los Angeles for decades. His Antebellum Gallery brought fetish photography into the mainstream.

BY Advocate.com Editors

March 17 2011 4:00 AM ET

RICK CASTRO NICK X560 | ADVOCATE.COM

Rick Castro has been in the forefront of counterculture art, fetish photography, and independent film for over 25 years, working and creating in his hometown of Los Angeles. He will be at the One Culture Series March 20, offering a trip down memory lane, 1986 through 2010. You can indulge in his images, vision, and ideas about fetish, subculture, and how they are defining 21st-century culture. It’s a perfect way to kick off Los Angeles Leather Week, 2011.

Castro will also have an artist booth at the 15th Annual Tom of Finland Art Fair in West Hollywood March 26 and 27, and he will be part of the world premiere exhibition "Ward of the State: Tony Ward Artists’ Muse" April 14 through June 11 at Stephen Cohen Gallery, Los Angeles. For more info about Castro’s artwork, please visit RickCastro.com.

Castro is an independent filmmaker, photographer, curator, and blogger. His work has been featured in artist editions, exhibitions, and institutions worldwide. His works are also in the permanent collections of the Alfred Kinsey Institute and the Tom of Finland Foundation. His photography has been featured in Art in America, Flaunt, Attitude UK, DNA, and Têtu magazines. He was the West Coast editor for Studio Magazines (Blue, Black & White), Australia, from 2001 till 2007. Back in the day, he was a freelance photographer for The Advocate, between 1988 and 1993, under groundbreaking editor Richard Rouillard. Castro cowrote and codirected the iconic film Hustler White (staring Tony Ward) with Bruce La Bruce in 1996. Rick also directed the infamous documentary Plushies & Furries for MTV in 2001. He's published two books of his photography: Castro (1991) and 13 Years of Bondage (2004). Castro has lectured about his work at New York University; University of California, Los Angeles; UC Santa Barbara; and Track 16 Gallery at Bergamot Station and 18th Street Arts Center, both in Santa Monica, Calif.

On November 11, 2005, Rick founded Antebellum Gallery in Hollywood. Rick considers Antebellum the only fetish art gallery in America, and perhaps the world. The gallery features art as fetish on exhibition and hosts unique salons on a regular basis. For more information on the Antebellum Gallery: Antebellum.us.ms and AntebellumGallery.blogspot.com.

 

The Advocate:Why are you a photographer?
Rick Castro: I've always been a visual person. Since I was a kid I was drawn to imagery — both stills and film. I view the world with a cinematic outlook. I understand fetish and believe I'm the person to bring it to the forefront of culture. We are living in the fetish era — the 21st century is all about fetish in imagery, ideas, art, and fashion.

What catches your eye?
Well, I'm drawn to subversion. I like lust and obsession. I like to delve into the nooks and crannies of things.

Tell us about your process or techniques.
I'm pretty much straightforward. From my beginnings in 1987 through 1999, I used a Nikon FG (chosen for me by Joel-Peter Witkin) with black-and-white Ilford film, usually 400 asa. These days I use a Nikon digital camera and capture images with what I consider to be a "docudrama" style. Very no-frills, hard light or ambient light.

I generally don't believe in retouching or enhancements of any kind, I like flaws. For me imperfect is perfect. The one exception is lighting. My technique is old-school and basic. I learned from the masters. I used to work as a wardrobe stylist for George Hurrell, Herb Ritts, and Joel-Peter Witkin, so I observed the best lighting is always the most basic.

How do you choose your subjects?
There has to be an attraction/lust component. Obsession is always good. Maybe they choose me?!

How do you describe your work?
I consider myself a fetish photographer. I capture the moment of fantasies and dreams.

What makes a good photograph to you?
Something presented that is original and true. The image should tell a story. I'm drawn to art that makes me look in a way I hadn't thought about. I also think artwork should confront people. I'm all for making a statement. I'm not interested in art that blends in and is merely a backdrop.

What artists do you take inspiration from and why?
I admire many artists. Most are RIP.
Photographers: Pierre Molinier, Brassaï, F. Holland Day, Julia Margaret Cameron
Painters: Paul Cadmus, Gustave Moreau, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Attila Richard Lukacs
Writers: Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde, Charles Bukowski
Directors: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski. Lars von Trier

For me, each of these artists has an original idea of how they see the world.

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