JEREMY SAFFER’s Daughters Of Darkness Book – “Fine Art Nude Book Publishers Wouldn’t Touch It...”
October 24, 2020, 4 months ago
Chances are – whether you know it or not – you have come across quite a few images by photographer Jeremy Saffer. After all, his work as appeared over the years in such publications as Kerrang!, Revolver, Metal Hammer, Alternative Press, Guitar World, Outburn, and other publications. And now, he has teamed with both Season Of Mist and Rare Bird Books for the book, Daughters Of Darkness, and an accompanying soundtrack. Released on October 30, the coffee table book features photos of nude models in corpse paint in both indoor and outdoor locations, while the soundtrack is comprised of headbangers from the SOM label. To check out the various configurations of the book/soundtrack, click here. Saffer recently discussed the release with BraveWords correspondent, Greg Prato, as well as advice concerning photography.
BraveWords: How did the idea come up to do the Daughters Of Darkness book?
Jeremy Saffer: “It didn’t start as a book idea really, it sort of started as something much smaller but grew over 12 years to what it is now and has a bit of a long winded explanation of its evolution. I grew up on metal, black metal being my favorite genre, beginning with bands like Cradle Of Filth, Immortal, Darkthrone, but discovering so many others through blindly buying albums based on the album art or merch. I would go to my local metal-friendly record store (Music Outlet in Enfield, CT) almost weekly. I would flip through the new and used metal section for records and CDs and often buy an album based entirely on the album art or merch I had seen. So this is how I got into bands like Tristina, Satyricon, Theater of Tragedy, Dissection, Gorgoroth, Marduk, Dimmu Borgir, Setherial, etc. I always gravitated toward dark imagery. Covers that featured an artistic nude of a woman in the woods or in an occult setting, corpse paint, bloody, anything like that, I would buy the album, and usually really like it. Cradle of Filth and Immortal were my favorites, and I was a pretty die hard type of fan who wanted every piece of merch I could get.
“Most of the COF merch featured beautiful shoots of nude women, often times pushing the envelope with their imagery, I loved it and the feeling of buying an album, blindly, due to the album art always stuck with me, and I still do that from time to time. Fast forward about 10 years. I am a music photographer, doing photo shoots with bands for magazines, album art, merch, etc. and I am also a fine art nude photographer doing photo shoots with models for books, galleries, and art-based magazines. These worlds never really crossed each other in any way, always shooting both somewhat equally but separate. I get asked by my friend Karim, who is starting a black metal clothing line, to do a photo shoot for a shirt. The idea is to take Pulp’s This Is Hardcore album art and make it black metal by replacing the nude blonde model with a nude model in corpse paint. So I lined up the shoot with a model, we did that shot, but we loved the aesthetic of a nude woman in corpse paint (she is an avid black metal fan as well), so we shot with every type of lighting on every background and even in the creepy basement of my studio. We must have shot for something like 6 hours or more. I loved the shots so I decided to do a few more shoots and make a project of it, maybe do about 10 shoots for it. So about a year later, I was at least 50 shoots deep into this, and decided I wanted to keep going, shoot as many models as possible in as many different ways as possible… fashion, glam, fine art, traditional, non-traditional, emotionless, black metal poses, everything in between, in studio, on location, outdoors… and that’s what I did for the next 12 years. I would say by about year five is when I started trying to get this published… there were A LOT of ‘no’ responses.
“Fine art nude book publishers wouldn’t touch it because it was too specific and niche to them, record labels/music book publishers wouldn’t touch it because it had nudity, so I just kept shooting. About 2 years ago I hit a wall and decided to stop shooting and try to get it published while not shooting more content for it. I had done a shoot with Nekrogoblikon for their book (John Goblikon put out a life advice book and it’s hilarious). The book was published by Rarebird and as I was speaking to the owner, I reached out to see if they would have any interest in the corpse paint project, they didn’t respond with a ‘maybe, let’s see, we will get back to you,’ it was a resounding YES! Let’s do it! So I went in and met with the owner Tyson, who was wearing a Satyricon hoodie when we first met, which immediately gave me the feeling that I found the right publisher for the book… in our first meeting we talked about black metal for an hour or two before even talking about the book, and in that conversation, Daughters of Darkness was solidified and the ball started rolling that day for the book, 12 years of work, to finally come to fruition.”
BraveWords: How did you find the models who were photographed?
Jeremy Saffer: “The models are from all walks of life and from all over the world, I did casting calls on social media and of course on a few model sites, and they came out to shoot in droves. When I announced the project and some photos were posted, I got a huge influx of black metal fans who wanted to shoot for it… so the models are musicians, celebrities, professional models, friends, people who had never modeled before and people who only modeled once for this project. People would shoot for it solely because they are a fan of my work, solely because they are a fan of black metal, it was unreal the response I still get with people interested in shooting in corpse paint (and I have also begun shooting this project again).”
BraveWords: Was it a prerequisite that all the models be fans of metal?
Jeremy Saffer: “It certainly wasn’t a prerequisite that they were necessarily fans of metal, but it just happened to work out that way. One would have to have a knowledge of black metal to understand what corpse paint is, as those not well versed with the genre would think it’s like… corpse bride or a skull or something like that? Or they would see it and think it’s some rendition of KISS. Thankfully every model involved was at least knowledgeable of what the corpse paint aesthetic is, and while almost all are fans of black metal, there were certainly a few that prefer thrash, death, prog, etc. in there too, but I don’t think anyone shot for the book who wasn’t a fan of metal… and thinking about it, I don’t think I really work with any models who aren’t fans of metal. Metal is so universal, I think one would be hard pressed to find someone awesome who doesn’t like metal.”
BraveWords: It says that some of the models are celebrities, actresses, and musicians… can you say the names of a few?
Jeremy Saffer: “Of course, Ash Costello (New Year’s Day), Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Sarah French (horror actress), Joanna Angel (adult actress/owner of Burning Angel), Jessie Lee (adult actress), Jessa Rhodes (adult actress), Alexandra Fische (well-known tattoo artist and model), Darian Caine (horror and adult actress), Laney Chantel (make-up artist to rock stars/model), Angel Dies (ex-Dawn of Ashes), Franccessca DeStruct (Fate Destroyed), and plenty more. Some others are anonymous, as they shot for it because they love black metal or my work and they wanted to remain anonymous under the corpse paint or under a pseudonym.”
BraveWords: How were the artists selected for the soundtrack?
Jeremy Saffer: “I had reached out to Season Of Mist asking if they would be interested in doing a comp for the book (it would be given away free with the book, the publisher will run it, etc.) and thankfully I have a great working relationship with the label, having photographed many of their bands, and they said yes. I was expecting them to hand us 10-15 songs that were their current releases/singles, but instead they gave me the keys to the SOM archive and I was able to choose my favorite bands on the label and not only my favorite bands, but my favorite songs by those bands, which is awesome. I never expected to get to curate a perfect compilation of black metal of my favorite bands/songs. So Abbath of course leads it off, Mayhem, I am a big fan of Manic-era Mayhem… I know that’s sort of an unpopular opinion as De Mysteriis and post-Maniac stuff is usually the favorite, but I loved ‘Grand Declaration Of War,’ so I used that track. ‘Watain,’ my favorite anthemic black metal song, also a title track (go figure) with Sworn To The Dark, and I just kept going picking my favorites from 1349, Carach Angren, and picking some new songs from Gahhls Wyrd, …And Oceans, Rotting Christ, and even choosing some newer bands like Helfro who are one of the best new black metal bands out there. Season of Mist is just SUCH an incredible label with so many amazing bands, you can usually find something new and incredible you haven’t heard before, if you look into any release they put out you haven’t heard, or going back and listening to it again as I did with bands like the Great Old Ones, Carpathian Forest, etc. So it’s kind of a dream come true, which is perfect because this book is sort of a dream come true as well.”
BraveWords: Do you recommend listening to the soundtrack while viewing the photos?
Jeremy Saffer: “Absolutely. All the photo shoots I did for this book had black metal playing as our atmosphere, which absolutely made it perfect and got both the models and I into the black metal mood and mind set when we shot. This soundtrack has every type of black metal on it… thrashy, raw and grim, symphonic, blackened, etc., and I think the book has every type of model in it… so it really complements the book perfectly. Why not hear black metal while you see black metal right?”
BraveWords: Which tunes/artists are your favorite from the soundtrack and why?
Jeremy Saffer: “That’s tough because I was able to pick my personal favorite songs by some of my personal favorite bands… Abbath is by far my favorite as he’s just such an incredible dude, amazing musician, and all around legend. I mentioned previously how much I like ‘Grand Declaration of War’… Hellhammer’s marching drums, Maniac’s vocals, the riffs… such an amazing album, and being a huge fan of concept albums, Carach Angren is one of the best out there as they paint a picture, a story with their music, it’s great. I am so pumped …And Oceans is back, I followed them from black metal to industrial black metal to the new band, and now they are back to their black metal roots on their new album and it’s incredible. As mentioned ‘Sworn to the Dark’ by Watain is one of my favorites by them, it’s just so anthemic and makes me think of photographing them live, looking behind me and seeing the entire crowd chanting along, throwing their horns to every beat of that chorus… The Great Old Ones… HP Lovecraft inspired black metal? What’s not to like about that? I could go on about every song on that album… and I actually do in the liner notes… if you get the vinyl, I wrote curation notes for each song on why I chose it.”
BraveWords: Who are some of your favorite photographers?
Jeremy Saffer: “Herb Ritts for sure, his natural light black and white photography is incredible, so simple yet so dynamic… and a complete opposite, David LaChapelle, who has the most insane, grandeur photo shoots with tons of props, full sets built… kind of the exact opposite of Ritts. I am really into duality, it’s a common theme in the book and in black metal, so the duality of Ritts and LaChapelle certainly goes along with that. Those are my two favorites, I also love the work of Mark Seliger, who is more in line with LaChapelle. Those who paved the way like Ross Halfin, Neil Zlozower, Mark Weiss, who are ever inspiring. There are plenty of photographers who are more or less contemporaries are absolutely incredible, Paul Harries is an absolute legend, Ester Segarra is incredible, Rob Fenn, Peter Beste, there’s so many incredible photographers out there, I could go on forever.”
BraveWords: What models/brands of cameras are your favorites and why?
Jeremy Saffer: “For my entire career (until recently) I had been a Canon guy. Canon 1DX was the most recently used, but I recently switched to Leica, and it is a game changer. I am now shooting on the Leica SL-2 and I would easily say that is my favorite as its worlds apart from the Canon in terms of image quality, it’s unreal.”
BraveWords: What contributes to your best photographs - lightning, indoors, outdoors, etc.?
Jeremy Saffer: “Everything really, the subject, the lighting, the location, and having the correct technical settings are sort of what matter most. All of those things really have to come together and work together to make for a great image. If any of those three things is off, it sort of kills the photo. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting indoors or outdoors as long as it’s a great location and you’re able to light it the way you want that will be cohesive with what you want to achieve, having all those things work in unison is absolutely vital to getting some of those ‘cream of the crop’ photos in one’s portfolio.”
BraveWords: Any advice you can give metal fans if they are interested in becoming photographers?
Jeremy Saffer: “Shoot as much as you can, anytime you can, and never give up. I got into photography because I love metal, and it’s so fun and so awesome to just move your finger 1/16th of an inch (don’t quote me on that, maybe its 1/8th?) and capture a moment forever, and it’s YOURS, you created it. Learn anything you can, as much as you can, anywhere you can. I do seminars, workshops, and have a Patreon where I post lessons/behind the scenes of my shoots with technical data, I love teaching. A lot of photographers love teaching. So learn all you can and go out and shoot!”
BraveWords: Does eroticism belong in extreme metal?
Jeremy Saffer: “It’s sort of always been in extreme metal hasn’t it? You have bands like Cannibal Corpse who are thematically and lyrically brutal and sometimes sexual of course, but you also have the bands paying tribute to the art of the female figure, and I don’t think that’s eroticism, music videos like ‘Mother North’ by Satyricon where they are worshipping this nude goddess… and I think the nudity that is in metal is usually more in line with worshipping women than exploiting them though of course there are porno-grind bands, and bands who do it for shock value, there as so many who really see the art in it… Dimmu, Theater Of Tragedy, The Sins Of Thy Beloved, Cradle of Filth, Tristania, Candlemass, the list goes on and on and on. Metal will always have those who are using sexuality as an exploitation, and those who use it as a beautiful thing. I prefer the latter, but to be fair, I am not into grind, I am into black metal… and black metal is such a beautiful genre. You have that duality of beauty and beast not just in imagery but in the music… of course obvious with those romantic vampiric black metal bands, the symphonic black metal bands, but also with the raw black metal bands with those droning riffs and raw atmosphere, you get lost in it and it’s just so dark and evil and beautiful, and I would say doom metal is a pretty adjacent genre in that way as well, where as other genres don’t really try to be beautiful, they want to be evil, and brutal, and heavy, which is also awesome, of course.”
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