By Albert Smith
Originally published on Advocate.com November 13 2010 5:00 AM ET
Raised on a fifth-generation horse and cattle ranch in Montana, Traver Rains had aspirations for city life. Upon receiving his degree in economics from Southern Methodist University, he moved to the Big Apple for inspiration from a city thriving with style and fashion. In 2000, Traver met his design partner, Richie Rich, in the clubs of New York, and the duo immediately began collaborating on a women’s ready-to-wear collection called Heatherette.
The Advocate: Why are you a photographer?
Traver Rains: Well, I spent 10 years in New York City basically on the set of a photo shoot or behind the scenes of a fashion show (which at the end of the runway is basically a photo shoot). I dealt with every aspect of what it takes to get to that point where the model is ready to shoot — everything from hair and makeup to designing the gowns, getting accessories together, casting the models, creating a story to tell, working on sets and lighting, etc. Really, the only thing I didn't do much of was snapping the lens. So after Heatherette wrapped up, I took some time off in Montana on the ranch where I grew up. It was there I started to feel the need to capture some images of our family history/story — and do it in a way that was unique to myself. All around our property were horses I grew up with passing away, cattle having babies, old barns collapsing ... one changing story after the next. So I flew in a model and hair/makeup team, designed some looks, and started taking pictures.
What catches your eye?
Back at home, every once in a while we'll have a pack rat take residence in a barn or something. They love to collect abandoned silver spoons, shiny strings, buttons ... so I'm kind of like that. There is an old homestead in one of our fields that my grandparents have tried to burn down several times. Basically the only thing left was a gigantic old potbellied stove. When I saw it the first thing that came to mind was a girl wearing it. So I pulled it apart and turned it into a "dress" for one of my images.
How do you choose your subjects?
Everyone in L.A. hassles me because NYC fashion taught me to only see stick-thin, tall girls. I still love a "clothes hanger" type girl — but I've had fun shooting girls with wild personality as well. And I always enjoyed designing scandalously for the guys. So any man out there brave enough to flaunt it is good for me.
How do you describe your work?
I like telling a story and creating an atmosphere. I love designing clothes, hair, makeup, and sets for a shoot. Putting models into a situation or environment that inspires them to move or act a certain way is what I go for.
What makes a good photograph to you?
It's a huge compliment to me when people want to see an image over and over. Like when people choose to hang a photo on their wall or use it as a screen saver. If it's interesting enough to keep you visually stimulated, then I guess you can call it good. The cool thing is that everyone has different taste and turn-ons.