Jay Rusovich Goes InsideOut To Get His Photos

Categories: Art
Exorcism R WEB.jpg
Hair Balls recently spoke with photographer Jay Rusovich by phone. The New Orleans native now lives in Houston and he's released a new book, InsideOut. There's an art exhibit of the same name currently at the Deborah Colton Gallery. Rusovich talked us through a few of the photographs viewers will see in the book and at the exhibit.

Hair Balls: I'm looking at Exorcism and ...

Jay Rusovich: Tell me which one that is again. Is that the gun and the girl?

HB: Yes, the woman is at what looks like a ballet barre in a pair of ripped tights.

JR: Sometimes I have to remember; I have like 300 pictures and they all have a name.

HB: What were you going after when you were creating that photograph?

JR: That was about a failed relationship, actually. That's where it came from. I was more in love with the object than I was with the person. Some people have actual relationships. Sometimes we get into relationships with people and there's actual love, but sometimes not. I became fixated with someone because they were physically beautiful which is something that is typical for a lot of men. When it got down to it, I had to come to the realization that there's also a person inside there. Sometimes the person is good, sometimes the person is bad.

HB: Looking at the model in the photograph, the first thing that strikes you is that she's in perfect shape. But then at second look, you see that her tights are torn, so maybe she's not so perfect after all.

JR: That's the point. The torn tights are about the savagery of the relationship. This woman would do what she wanted to do no matter what. If it meant ripping things to shreds, that was fine. She was gonna get there. It was a very ragged journey, but she didn't care because she was just hungry. And when you're hungry, all you want is to feed. That's how I saw it and that's why I ripped the panty hose.

I had to come to terms with a lot of this narcissistic stuff. Men really have a problem with it. It involves intimacy and perfection and sex and death and fantasy, all these things that are very resonate themes these days.

You think of Tiger Woods with his perfect wife and perfect children; he was the greatest athlete in the world but it wasn't enough. He had to have more. His wife is gorgeous and any guy would go, "I'd be happy to have her. I'd love to lead the life Tiger has," but for him, it's not enough. It's as if life is not enough. Life is plenty, but it's not enough if you're empty. Nothing is enough if you're empty. What it all gets down to is that nobody feels like life is worth anything other the next greater piece of ass, basically. It's kinda sickening, actually.

[Note: Some shots after the jump may be NSFW.]

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Boys Will Be Boys

HB: In Boys Will be Boys, it seems to be a woman kissing a soldier, but then you realize it's actually two women.

JR: The genders are difficult to decipher. And that's what I wanted. The truth is that you never really know what you're dealing with.

HB: Again, we see perfect bodies, beautiful people.

JR: The bodies are unquestionably the kinds of bodies that people are going to take note of. These are not normal bodies, because nobody really looks like this. Usually [these models] just shoot for health or body-building magazines.

HB: Which you shot for for years, right?

JR: I did. In these [photographs] we did something different. There isn't another photographer in the country who's done what I've done with these people. Not only because they don't have the access to these models but also, I forced them to act.

I'm kinda like a cinematographer but with a still camera in my hand. I didn't pose any of these people. We just talked a lot about what we were trying to get at and then they tried to find some meaning in it for themselves, for their own lives. The way that Method [acting] work is is that you have to find emotional moments in your past to bring life to an idea, a character, whatever it might be. That's basically what I was asking these people to do, to find someway to connect with the themes that I gave them.

It was a lit set. They had four spots on the floor and they just went after it. I shot all in film, with the old clunker cameras. A lot of these shoots didn't work because they couldn't get there emotionally. I did lose a few shoots, because I'm asking so much from them.

It's a lot of risk. It's not like digital where you shoot 30,000 frames and stitch them all together in Photoshop. I only shot two rolls of film, sometimes as many as three. Ten shots per roll. So it's a lot of intense interaction with the actor/models.

HB: You got these images from sessions where you shot fewer than 30 shots?

JR: Maximum. And absolutely no Photoshop. That's what I'm most proud of, that every image is exactly what happened in that moment. I shot the way photographers traditionally shot things. Except that I didn't pose the models, I found the moments through the emotion, basically. People either found the moment, or they didn't.

I'm asking these people who are completely self-absorbed, because they have to be in order to look like that, to completely step outside of themselves and emote. It was hard.
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Invisible

HB: Tell us a little bit about Invisible; we see a woman sitting in bed holding a gun to her own head.

JR: I think a lot times women pick the perfect man. It doesn't even matter than they don't know his first of last name. They want to live this perfect house, join the country club and whatever. They wind up living alone. Because they're not choosing people for the right reason. You have to connect with people, but we end up objectifying each other.

HB: While some of your other photos are very serious, there's almost a comic aspect to Locker Room.

JR: You go into locker rooms and you see all sorts of crazy things. Which is the great thing about them, because all of the veneer comes down. In locker rooms, everything comes off and you get to see life from the inside out. You see a tough guy in a thong instead of boxers.

HP: Now there's a newspaper on the bench in that photo, I'm hoping it's the Houston Press.

JR: It is a Houston Press and it's open to the page where you have all the porn in the back. The guy on the left, the one with the baseball cap? That's a girl. Because, once again, you never know what you're getting.

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Do You Still Love Me

HP: There's lots hidden in Do You Still Love Me, isn't there? The man's face is under his hat, his high heels are almost in shadow.

JR: That was a really tough sell on that one. [The model] wasn't too keen on doing this. So I explained what we were going after and he just wanted to make sure his face wasn't visible in the shots, so I made sure that it wasn't. It was very difficult for him to get into that position, physically, which I thought was very interesting.

It's tough for some people to be who they are, especially for gay people. When they have to come out to their parents, and say, "Listen, sorry, but I'm attracted to people of the same sex." Which, by the way, is fine. It's FINE. Hello? But it's difficult to tell people about these things sometimes. So, can you actually tell your mother that you're a cross-dresser in spite of the fact that you're a giant bodybuilder guy? If this is who he genuinely is, and he's out about it, do you still love him?

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Divine Symmetry

HB: Tell us about Divine Symmetry.

JR: The idea basically is, "If Jesus Christ were alive today, he'd have to look like this in order to get on the evening news." Everything is media, and the irony is that if this guy was walking around and was indeed the son of God, nobody would notice him if he wasn't beautiful.

See more images from InsideOut after the jump ...

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