Morgan Le Shade's photography covers the full range, from sleek and sexy to trashy and glamorous. Below, the artist was kind enough to let us in a bit about the whys and hows of his work.
The Advocate: How does being an artist in Tampa affect your work, and is there a rich source of models and subjects to your liking there?
Despite Tampa being a great city and area to live in it doesn't provide a whole lot in terms of models to really work with at least from what I have experienced. For things like landscape and architecture photography though I've had plenty to use.
What was your first exposure to drag and cross dressing? Did you explode into flame? You seem to have a great feel for the drama of it.
My first exposure to drag was back in my college days at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. I went to the neighboring FSU campus and went to the 1st of the year drag show. But it wasn't until I came back to Tampa and working in the local scene, getting my start at Liquid Tampa in 2014 (which unfortunately closed), and working with local and non local queens like the ones from RuPaul's Drag Race did I really start to love it.
You representation is great. Does you being a POC influence that?
Well thank you, and yes it does. Being a black male I often want to see more people of color in my work. Sadly when I do have a chance to work with people of color they often don't get as well received as their white counterparts even though they are just as beautiful. Due to that I often have my portfolio looking a little more one sided but its definitely not on purpose.
Beyond just a fascination for drag, you seem to be ignited by costume in general. How did that first start? When did you notice that? And was that there before you became a photographer?
I've always liked flashy looks and costumes. I never quite understood it but I just like a well-designed and well-thought-out costumes. Definitely started before I was a photographer, though.
You seem to be able to communicate with your subjects well, especially in creating an atmosphere. Is that a collaboration? Or are you just really demanding?
I definitely wouldn't say demanding, I'm more of a go-with-the-flow, and relaxed photographer. While others may be comfortable with that approach I like a more organic process and let things unfold.
Your male couple shoots are very intense. They do not feel posed. How does that kind of a shoot go for you, do you just let them do what they do? Or are you in there directing the action?
I am a go-with-the-flow person. I tend to find the more you pressure to direct and pose things, the more nervous people get. Things that are obviously not looking right I will correct, but for the most part I let things play out the way they go out. Those shoots are really fun though and despite what people think they aren't crude and "tasteless." It's art.
Do you work with costumers and make-up people? Do your subjects bring their own wardrobe and beat their own faces? A lot of the photos we work with are very limited with their budget, yet they seem to produce extravagant images like yours. How does that usually go for you?
I have a limited budget as well, and often I have to make do with what I have and what I don't hav.e I'll use money from my own pocket to get what I need unless it's provided by an outside source. Makeup is usually not an issue as most of my subjects either don't need it or are queens/performers who can do it themselves.
How do you end up settling on locations? Are you working in a studio?
I do not have a studio of my own at least not now. I have had studio spaces in the past but due to circumstances beyond my control they weren't long lasting. I pick locations and settings that work best without being too extravagant or over the top; simplicity works best for me.
I love your range of very masculine to very feminine images. Can you tell us what inspires you about the duality of those two aspects?
I appreciate both masculine and feminine traits as that's how I am personally, so it ends up transferring into my images.
People who don’t work like you always want to know: How do you connect with your subjects? Do you approach people? How does that play out?
Some people I approach but often people come to me. I can't tell you how many Facebook messages, tweets, emails, etc., I get on a weekly basis — inquiries from people wanting to be models. I can't say yes to everyone, or even respond to it all, but I try my best
How is it that these people trust you so much to get really funky, erotic, and just downright messy with you?
I've built a good reputation, Im very easy to approach. Often when shooting erotic photos I tend to diffuse tension or the nervousness in a model with humor. The more they laugh the more comfortable they end up being. Sometimes I wish I filmed the behind the scenes so people could see how much comedy happens on set.