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Photographer Justin Monroe talks about his play things

Photographer Justin Monroe talks about his play things - We get a look into Justin Monroe's world of little demons as we learn about his latest exhibition and why he ran away with the circus.

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Category : Professional Interviewed
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Shock, sleaze and a carnival of circus characters is just one way you can describe the work of photographer Justin Monroe. While others have been stood in the spotlight, Justin has been making a name for himself underground - creating a portfolio of work that's better, and includes names his rivals can only dream about.
Photo of a toy workshop with an evil Micky Mouse and odd male characters
Photograph by Justin Monroe.
 
His world of Alice in Wonderland villains, robotic transvestites and other characters of a delicious nature are a long way from his American mid-west lifestyle. His parents, who were an artist and musician, encouraged his creativity by enrolling him on several visual and performing art classes. It's also where he went to Catholic school only later to leave in true Monroe style... he ran away with the travelling circus.
Man with Micky Mouse ears sat against a fence, naked and smoking by Justin Monroe
Photograph by Justin Monroe.
 
It almost gave my poor mother a heart attack! But in retrospect, I was just doing research for my career path,” explained Justin.
 
Justin's career is something that picked him rather than him picking it. He grew up on a tour bus with musical parents, travelling from city to city creating friends everywhere he went. He was always very outgoing and people fascinated him, especially the ones who may be considered black sheep or outcasts by some. These people and characters have stuck in his mind and formed a data bank of ideas and images and this, combined with his over-active imagination, have led him to create what's been described as shock imagery.
 
I don’t do it for shock I do it because I'm a perv,” joked Justin. “Shock photographer, to me, sounds like someone who shoots strictly for shock value alone. I do feel like my images do shock some and yet tickle others, I guess it would just depend how uptight you are. I just believe in taking images that are thought provoking, crazy and sexy!
Dolls and a man with gold chain by Justin Monroe
Photograph by Justin Monroe.

Justin produces images which are thought provoking. They give the viewer a bit of insight into how they, themselves, view the world and whether if it's appropriate or not, Justin wants them to think about the automatic judgements and the possible  prejudice they have in their heads. The other components are there so the viewer can also look at the world or themselves and laugh. This is an important part of his work as Justin shoots to have fun. He'd rather shoot and have fun than make money so it's only natural that he wants the viewer to break a smile too.
 
I'm very fortunate to get to do what I do and never take it for granted for one minute. I see the world as a sexy, colourful, and a fun place! And yes, I agree, I live in a bubble of my own design.
 
This bubble Justin lives in is often extended over his shoots where his models often end up saying they've had the most fun they've ever had. Justin tries to make the models feel like big kids so they can let down their guard and run free! That's not to say it's not hard work. All of Justin's concepts are stylised and everything he does is art so as well as having fun, Justin has learnt to trust his instinct and in the process others have too.

Models find him now. Justin used to go to agencies but opening castings and messages on his website now mean models come looking for him.
 
model  in pink tights by Justin Monroe
Photograph by Justin Monroe.

They trust me and know my work. They know they are in for a wild ride before they get there.
 
Shoots can be long as his ideas of villains and his Alice like characters take time to create. It's a process which can be lengthened by Justin's habit of dwelling on detail,  something which can be appreciated to it's fullest in his new book and exhibition - Play Things.
 
At the thematic core my art is satirical, knowing critical look at the human propensity for addiction, voracious predation, compulsive pleasure-seeking, and other forms of extreme behaviour. "Play Things" is an exploration of these timeless themes in vividly sexual realised images that unsettle as they entertain. These Dark creatures I have created I call my children, but I must warn you, and you must heed my words - these children will attack!
 
Now picture villains and vermin of a delicious nature, a toy factory in down-town LA’s notorious Skid Row, Monroe, the toymaker, works deep into the night, oblivious to the world outside. He busily moves around his toy shop creating nasty, venomous little demons, bulging sex dolls, robotic transvestites, and a few loveable sorts along the way.”
Justin Monroe's teaparty Justin monroe's image of Janet Dickson and two models for the Down the Rabbit Hole book
Photograph by Justin Monroe. Photograph by Justin Monroe.
 
Described by world-renowned model, Janet Dickson as “Hurell on acid," Justin Monroe has brought the underground to the surface and he has no plans to go back into hiding. But if his career as a photographer does fall through, he could always join the circus.
 
man on moon Justin Monroe
Photograph by Justin Monroe.

For more information about Justin Monroe or to find more information about his book. Visit his website: Justin Monroe.

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Comments


Fishnet 10 5.0k 5 United Kingdom
15 Jul 2009 11:00AM
I think I've found my new favourite photographer!!!!!
DavidClapp 8 9 1 United Kingdom
15 Jul 2009 3:31PM
Conceptually incredible, so far from my own work and everything that I know. I can look at this and enjoy it without disecting. Such attention to detail... 10/10

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