I was introduced to the “lush, campy, Sci-Fi world” of Collin Rae almost three years ago, and found his lurid work with its shocking colors and like subject matter compelling, horrifying, beautiful – and arousing.
Rae’s bio at www.collinrae.us describes his work as “Abstract dreams and artificial creations of random fetishes and Outer-World glam captured and bound forever to this second dimension,” which does it up pretty good, as far as descriptions go. Of course, with artwork, the experience is not in the description, it’s in the viewing; and that’s ultra true of Rae’s images. They evoke synesthesia, the disorder where sound “smells” and text is visually impacting: words are read like colors, colors have a sound.
“I actually first picked up a camera back in 1983,” Rae relates, “quite by mistake, really. We had my grandfather’s old Leica sitting around the house and I had just signed up for a photo class at school.” He says it was a “bad idea, putting a camera in the hands of a freak and fetishist!” Rae found he “took” to the camera, even “found myself in art school majoring in photography for the better part of these years, trying all different forms, from shooting abstracts to lifting images from porn films to sneaking my own passion for bare feet into some of my work.
“Then all of a sudden,” he says, “I dropped the camera and picked up a paint brush for the years that followed.” Rae’s photography during this time was limited to the use of his Polaroid 680, subjects: “video imagery, my female friends’ feet....
“My current works’ roots lie in my exploration of my own fetish via the Internet. Finding foot fetish sites, bondage sites, alt-porn sites, people to chat with about my fetish and passions as well as their own, people to meet with and play with – all of a sudden I was liberated and really started to explore how I could put my passion for feet, color, sci-fi and horror films of the past into a vision that would drive me creatively as well as sexually in many ways.”
This has been the basis of Rae’s work for the past four years, in which he’s been fine-tuning and pushing forward his themes and lighting schemes “with some success.
“I found my ‘creative’ life and ‘fetish’ life merging in glorious flashes of colored lights and bare soles. Shooting and playing, playing and shooting. And as more and more people found and saw my work, the more shooting opportunities there were.” Rae’s been shooting everything from content for Websites to CD covers to people who just want odd and sexy pics of themselves. “It’s been pretty amazing.”
Photographers that have had a “profound impact” upon Rae and his work include Perry Gallagher, Steve Diet Goedde, Christine Kessler, Dave Naz, Elmer Batters, Richard Kern, Michael Rubenstein, Chad Michael Ward, and Lee Higgs, among others. He also names as influences the filmmakers “Mario Bava, George Romero, Lucio Fulci, Matt Zane, David Lynch, the creators of the original Star Trek, Sergio Leone, and so so so many more... ”; the imprint of these influences being pretty clear in his photographs.
By now you may have noticed that Rae is into feet. While his art and his interest feed each other, he doesn’t feel this is an exploitative relationship. “I do what I do and I shoot what and how I shoot, and people either respond or they don’t.” He doesn’t classify himself as a “networker” or a “schmoozer.”
“Some seek me out, some I seek out, but it’s all very low-key. I’m not sure my work will ever translate to a wide, general audience, simply because it’s a bit off from what’s ‘standard fare’ in the adult world. The people/models/sites that tend to respond to my work are always those that are a bit more artistically minded in some way. Or just cool whacked-out gals with crazed visions that happen to compliment my own.”
Here he might be wrong about his potential popularity. When listing sites and communities particularly responsive to his work, he names some of the hottest and most lucrative adult Web interests around. “[They] reside in this strange world of Internet ‘alt-porn’: SuicideGirls.com, FatalBeauty.com, eroticBPM.com, ThatStrangeGirl.com.... I have full artistic control when shooting these sets, and can get as fucked up in the pix as the girls will allow.”
Rae utilized the Web early on, he says, mostly by accident, as a venue for exploring his fetish for feet and connecting with others about that and things that moved them, as well.
“The Internet for me was a strange and kinky meeting place for people who had always considered themselves misfits. All of a sudden there was a community – a huge community – of people chatting, mailing, playing, exploring. Nothing was planned... it was a very natural sort of ‘coming out’ and coming to terms with issues that drove me both sexually and creatively through surfing and chatting and meeting like-minded freaks. I can honestly say the Internet is/was – for better or worse! – responsible for what I’m photographing today. I think a lot of people would credit the Internet for having a profound effect on their own psycho-sexual liberation.”
A Collin Rae photograph stems from the artist’s “drive to create things within the visual realm,” he says. “From the time I was 5 years old, I was deeply involved in ‘seeing’ and ‘listening’ and ‘creating,’ and also running along that same current, I was looking at and thinking about feet in a very sexual way. It’s the complete merging of these early psychological developments that make me want to see, experience, and photograph the way I do. I strive to take pictures unlike anything people have seen of themselves – or anyone else for that matter – before; pictures that have a strange and perverse cinematic feel to them in some way.
“I always strive to take a ‘better’ photo than the one I took the day or week or month before.”
Rae can’t name any “bad” experiences in the realm of adult Internet – “I look at every experience, ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ as a positive learning experience in some way.” When pressed, he’ll concede that he’s been frustrated on occasion by “slow and unresponsive ‘Webmasters.’”
This should pose little difficulty as Rae seeks to “expand the number of sites that accept, post, and feature my work.” He also hopes to “build the number and the types of exhibitions I do – this is an area I’d like to see grow for all of us creatively driven photographers of ‘erotica.’ The ultimate and somewhat ‘lofty’ goal is to have one or a series of coffee table books of my works. I would actually like to see more of my work in print media; but at the moment there are very few outlets in [current] magazines for what I do photographically.”
Ultimately, Rae practices what he preaches:
“I think, like anything else, do the work because you love it and good things will happen.”