SEX, SPUNK, AND SASS IN THE CITY!
He’s got a portfolio as colorful as his azure-colored Mohawk, and an artistic vision as unique as his mysterious accent. To put it another way, Rob Ordonez is a truly self-styled artista. He has told me that he gets most of his artistic inspiration from walking around New York City, where the legions of urban trendsters with tattoos, piercings, wild hair, and renegade fashion sense give him as much food for thought as the vendors in Union Square's Greenmarket. A true Renaissance man for 2011, Ordonez is a model and actor as well as an acclaimed photographer. He enjoys being both in front of and behind the camera equally. In fact, the day before our interview, during Fashion Week, Robert was photographed in “Time Out New York” Magazine’s Style section-- with four different looks. “When I pose for other photographers, I learn a lot from them.” the artist tells me. Ethnically, Ordonez describes himself as a “mutt“: His father is from Spain, his mother is from Mexico, with a grandfather who’s Italian, and a grandmother from the United States. However, New York City is truly where he belongs now… and his sexy, fun, fresh, playful, and youthful photography perfectly captures the spirit of the Naked City‘s creative underground. As a photographer, his work was recently seen in New York City’s Munch Gallery as part of the group art show "Enter", and there are more gallery showing on the way. Interestingly, Ordonez does not retouch his photos, preferring a more organic, natural vibe. Through the years, he has self-published seven books, which featured his photography as well as such personal musings as, “The City gives you the opportunity to express yourself, if you can capture the everyday event and combine it with your creativity.” Another quote is, “The human body is so beautiful. I’m not afraid to show it in erotic, gay, or provocative ways. PS: If you don’t like what you see, move on. It’s my life!” Now there’s a guy after my own heart!
JR: Thanks for meeting me, Rob! Now, many artists have their own take on the nude body, whether it be male or female. When you do male nudes, what makes your vision unique and different? Are you going for a specific feeling when you shoot?
RO: Actually, I like it a little dirty, but I don’t like showing hard-ons. I like it more erotic-- “showing“ but “not showing”! Like, maybe even covering a little bit-- or the guys just grabbing their dicks. I’d rather that they are not hard. I think it’s sexier that it’s just hanging out in their natural habit!
JR: I know what you mean. It’s like old school burlesque: Sometimes NOT showing everything can be more sexy than giving it all away. Even when you are watching a woman dancing… and she has pasties on her nipples. That can be more erotic than showing everything. So, you’d rather show a guy in his “natural” state, huh?!
RO: Yeah! I like to put them in the shower, all wet… or in front of the special wallpaper I have, or in leather. I love leather… so, I’ll have them laying on leather sofa with a vest on, or just boots! That works!
JR: Oh yes, it works! I love all the photos of the Leather guys. Bring it on! So, what’s with the Mickey Mouse ears in a lot of your photos?
RO: I have my “kink” side. But my inspiration is David LaChapelle, and he does all these crazy wild things that are out of the ordinary and really colorful. So, I guess that’s what’s inspired me to do all these crazy things like girls with big lollipops, and Mickey Mouse ears, and stuffed animals, and puppies… I think it’s kind of cute to have some inspiration in the photos, like a little baby dog or a little rabbit. It‘s just fun to have some crazy props.
JR: Yeah! When I saw the Mickey Mouse ears, all I could think of was “What would Walt Disney think?!“ So, you said that New York City inspires you as a photographer. What else inspires you?
RO: I walk in the streets all day long, all the time. I’m very visual. I love color. Lately, I like bad boys; just people that are different, and “bad”, and have that “dark side“. I think that’s the inspiration… punks, and rockers, and skinheads, and crazy characters. I love fashion. Really stylish people turn me on big time. And party boys: people that go to the clubs and they’re really dressed up like crazy. That’s hot!
JR: Well, I‘ve always found bad boys and girls to be more fun than the good ones!
JR: So, as a bona fide New Yorker, where are your favorite places to hang out?
RO: I like going to art openings. I like to go at least twice a week to art galleries and openings. There are always people that I know there, and we have wine at the gallery openings, and I get inspired by the art. I like to go to those parties. I don’t like to go to clubs anymore. In my 20’s I did, but now I am almost 40. So, it’s art shows, movies, walking around all over the city… Bars are OK. I like G Bar a lot because the drinks are really good. If I go out, I go there or to therapy. Dancing too. The only party I don’t miss is the Black Party. I was going there for 12 years, and that’s the only one I DON'T miss! So those are my hangouts: G Bar, therapy, art galleries,… and Starbucks! I like The Eagle too. The Lure was THE bar! That was my favorite.
JR: Yeah, I was upset when they closed too. I feel bad about missing their closing night party. I heard it was really wild: guys just f***ing and s***ing and all that stuff. I mean, they were gonna close anyway, so why not just do everything?!
RO: But I heard that they were going to re-open it, at another location…
JR: I hope! I have been hearing that rumor for a long time! So, When looking at your photos, I recognize a lot of the models. A lot of them are these New York City underground movers and shakers who are always out and about. Was there one particular personality who you particular enjoyed shooting?
RO: I think that most of my models are new in the industry. I find most of my models at parties that I go to, or on the Internet on Facebook, or they are just friends, or they’re friends of friends. When I go to events, I shoot Amanda Lepore like crazy, because I think she’s fabulous. I asked her to pose for me. She’s one of David LaChapelle’s muses, and she won’t pose for anyone else. She’ll pose at events, but not at my studio!
JR: David seems very protective of her. Are they lovers?
RO: (Shocked) No! She always has these cute go-go boys around her who are her boyfriends!
JR: (Laughs) Good for her. Is there anyone else who you photograph a lot?
RO : I have my female muse: my girl Monica. I photographed her the most so far. She has this red hair. I have to say that my male muse is my ex-lover Gary. I have hundreds of photos of him. Those are the people who have inspired me the most so far, who I want to photograph over and over. I’m looking for new muses, because Gary is moving on. We are going in different directions!
JR: Gotcha! So, a lot of my friends are photographers, and I have noticed that a lot of photographers are among the “unsung heroes” of nightlife. Nightlife would not exist without them. We need them. The event may end, but photos last forever.
RO: I find that funny because wherever you go, if you have a camera, everyone kisses your ass! If you say that your work will be published, everyone wants you to take their photo so bad. Some people are camera whores. They see a paparazzi, and they want you so bad! I just went to a party last week and this girl was tapping on my shoulder and was like, “Can you take my photo with this guy? Can you take my photo with that guy?!“ They chase you when you are the photographer of the party. When you‘re a photographer, you‘re like a god. It opens door for you, especially when they know you’re good. People are after you, kissing your ass, wanting you to take their photo!
JR: Do photographers get the respect that they deserve?
RO: On the nightlife scene, yes. Most of the time. But as a business, I think that unfortunately it’s going down. Everybody now is a photographer. Everyone is taking photos like crazy. Nobody wants to pay for photo shoots. There are websites like Model Mayhem where there are hundreds of people: models and people who will shoot you for free. You really have to stand out and be amazing for people to want to pay… because everyone‘s taking photos now. And that kind of sucks, because you don‘t make money from photography anymore.
JR: That’s too bad. I think that’s true of all; artists, whether you’re a photographer, writer, actor, musician… You gotta do it at least in part because you love doing it, not because you want to get rich! Now, Robert, as someone who has taken so many photos of sexy men and women, what do you personally find sexy?
RO: I like bad boys. Bad models, bad manners: Somebody who won’t ask your permission, and just do things to you! I like Leather guys… and punks. I keep repeating that, but it’s what I like the most. That’s my inspiration: people gone wild!
JR: What famous person would you love to shoot?
RO: Madonna has been my role model, always… especially when she was “bad“. Now she’s old (Laughs) but I still think that she’s hot. She was always the rebel. She has been my inspiration for many, many years. I have so much artwork of her that nobody ever sees, because it’s just very private. But I love her. I would love to meet her and shoot her. My male role model is Tom of Finland. I love the Tom of Finland look.
JR: Oh, me too. And who knew that his work would still be all over the place in 2011? Lastly, what else do you want people to know about yourself?
RO: As a model, I am not afraid of doing crazy things, like being all tied up or being body painted from head to toe. I think’s that the only way that you are gonna make an impression. As a photographer, it’s always a challenge to expand your limits and your mission. I look at my work from three years ago, and I don’t really like it anymore. I’m like, “It’s OK…” but I think that as an artist you keep evolving and evolving and getting better and better. It’s interesting to see compare your photos from three years ago and compare them with to the ones now, and you’re like, ”This is much better!” It’s kind of cool that we evolve like that. Old experiences in life take us to that place. Eventually it may be perfect, but you have to go through both good and bad experiences to get that image!
JR: Amen, brother!
Sometime during our conversation, I tell Rob about how as a fledgling reporter, I used to use cheap, disposable cameras when I fist started covering new York City nightlife. I was always worried about losing or breaking a good camera. Mr. Ordonez responds, “It doesn’t matter what camera you have. It’s how you use it. If you have a good eye, even if you use a disposable camera, it will be good!” Rob Ordonez has a good eye all right! For proof, visit his sites: