If you've a member of Sexart (or Metart or The Life Erotic) you're most likely familiar with the photographer known as DeltaGamma. As I write, the artist has published 126 erotic photo galleries across the three sites — 39 at Sexart, 67 at Metart, and 20 at The Life Erotic — and he's earned an enthusiastic and vocal fan following. The fact that he's also an active participant in the comment sections has only added to his popularity and reputation — DeltaGamma isn't content simply to create a photo set, he's also keenly interested in the way it's received by the audience.
As it happens, my first contact with DeltaGamma was in the comments section at the Metart blog. After chatting, online and off, I suggested we do an interview. He agreed, I prepared an extensive list of questions, and then things got complicated. In the interview that follows DeltaGamma discusses his background, his inspiration and evolution as an artist, and the unforeseen event that profoundly effected his career as an erotic photographer. And what's included here is only part of the DeltaGamma story, Part 2 of the interview will appear here in the near future.
First of all, why "DeltaGamma," what's the significance of the name?
D: I simply picked the initials of my real name from the Greek alphabet, as a tribute to the classic beauty concept developed in ancient Greece, the reference and inspiration for my earliest work and my art in general. The name I used when I started with nude photography was actually "DeltaVenus," which was inspired by the novel "Delta of Venus" written by Anaïs Nin, and later adapted as a movie that was directed by Zalman King and released in 1995.
What's your background?
D: I was born in a small seaside city on the eastern coast of central Italy, forty years ago. Since then I have lived in several different Italian towns, from the north to the south of the country, and now I'm living in Rome. I attended an international Art Academy after showing some unusual drawing skills when I was very young, at the primary school, where I had also started studying English. And I attended a scientific high school, studying not only scientific subjects but also philosophy, Latin, and the arts. I can't go too deep in details about my life and my "regular" job since it's outside the world of photography and very far from erotic art, but I can say that I've worked for twenty years in a very professional and challenging environment that has allowed me to travel a lot and learn many different skills, meet many people from all over the world — including my wife — and learn to adapt myself to different situations, react quickly, and plan my activities efficiently. I would describe myself as a self-made, happy and lucky man, an artist, a photographer, a traveler, a biker, a sailor in love with the beauty of this world and the beauty of women.
What first got you interested in the artistic potential of photography?
D: Back in 2000, during the longest of my travels — an unforgettable experience spending six months at sea — I had brought with me a photo camera. At the time I had been on a break from oil painting due to lack of time and therefore inspiration, and in a way approaching photography awakened my inspiration again. Photography perfectly integrated my paintings and drawings, which were already oriented towards the search for harmony and beauty in reality without too much intermediation/manipulation of forms and colors, but rather a realistic interpretation of existing subjects, which were mainly female nudes.
How long had you been working as a photographer before you began to shoot nudes?
D: The beginning of my career as a photographer could actually be identified with shooting nudes, except for the very first steps when I transitioned from drawing/painting to shooting photos. I learned the basics of photography by myself, trying to catch the subject the way it was in my mind already before taking the picture, according to my own personal vision coming from my artistic path and from observing other photographers' work.
I started using my first photo cameras in 2000 and I got my first DSLR — a Canon EOS 350D — in 2007. In my early years I shot mainly reportages of my travels and then I started shooting portraits/glamour with a Czech girl I met in my hometown during her summer holidays with her parents. That's probably when my special feeling towards Czech girls and their country started. I went there many times, first in 1992 on a school trip to Prague — soon after the country's first democratic elections after the fall of the Berlin wall — and I was fascinated by the beauty of the town and its unique atmosphere, and a few years later also by the beauty of the local girls, my favorite subjects for my nudes.
I shot my first amateur art nudes in 2003 with an Italian girl I met on a train, then I started with soft erotic shootings in a couple of workshops in Venice in 2006, and then in 2007 I finally started with my first semi-professional erotic shootings in Czech Republic and Poland — both countries I was familiar with due to my several trips riding my motorbike in the summer across central-eastern Europe.
You started contributing photo sets to Metart in early 2012, later that year you began contributing work to Sexart, and to The Life Erotic in 2013. Had you published any of your erotic photography before your work for the Metart Network?
D: Publishing my work at Metart had always been my aspiration since the beginning of my erotic shootings and I never really thought of submitting to any other website. Although my very first exposure to soft nudes was with Playboy magazine — I bought my first issue in August 1990 — my view of erotic nudes was shaped and influenced by Metart some years later. I had created my first e-mail account in 2000 and a few months later I subscribed to the Metart newsletter, soon after discovering the site. I remember I saved all the 16 preview images of the featured sets and was amazed by the beauty of models and their erotic attitude captured by the perfect photography. Metart has been my leading influence in erotic photography and one of the biggest influences on my erotic vision.
My early erotic work was closer to The Life Erotic's style in terms of lighting and models' facial expressions, then evolved towards Sexart's main features in a way, while I was still a bit distant from the average Metart style, with crystal clear images and brighter lighting and models smiling and in a happy mood.
Paradoxically I started publishing on Metart first, with "Presenting" Grace C, then Sexart with Mia Sollis, and finally on The Life Erotic, also with Mia.
I only decided to give publishing a try in 2010, when I sent my first submissions to Metart. After the first feedback (good work/style but models not interesting or already published) I let some time go by, then tried again in 2011 with a few other submissions which were not interesting enough, and then finally had my first sets published in April 2012, with Grace C.
In the summer of 2011 I actually collaborated with a Metart photographer who got in touch with me, Peter Guzman. We arranged a few combined shoots to share costs and models, and I integrated some of his sets with Edwige A, As well as Mia Sollis, and Marjana A.
By the end of the summer 2011 I decided to start shooting and submitting alone, and I started with Mia Sollis and Edwige, two of the models I knew better.
Back to the question: I have actually thought of expanding and publishing my work on other erotic websites, especially when I didn't have many sets released on the Metart Network. But recently, when I had my work released on a more frequent basis, I started thinking to be loyal to the Network for a number of reasons. One of them is that I consider Metart the top erotic website, the first and only for me, which keeps evolving in a thoughtful way, taking into account ideas and suggestions by members. The other reason has to do with a fact which happened this summer and made me reconsider several things in my life and my career, I'll explain later.
Metart, Sexart, and TLE each have a distinct, unique style, focus, and format. Your work has appeared on all three sites. How do you adjust your style and approach when you're shooting for Metart as compared to TLE, or TLE compared to Sexart?
D: When I shoot a model for Metart my main goal is to simply bring out the model's beauty and her happiness of showing her intimate beauty to the viewer, connecting with him, using a location and a lighting that match this overall feel, possibly in a simple and not too distracting setting. The focus is on the model's beauty and sensuality. One of the first sets embodying this aesthetic feel is my first with Mia Sollis, Voile, which was also reviewed by you in the Metart blog, and that's where I actually started exchanging comments with some members back in February 2013.
For my TLE work, if we speak about open legs style, the focus is not only on beauty and sensuality but also on a more intriguing side of the model's mood, or a fetish such as shaving, sometimes combined with the silver mirror insertions, like the one with Tess B, along with an overall "darker" feel given by the lighting, with lower intensity and higher contrast, making the setting look a bit more undefined and mysterious, like in my first set with Mia Manarote.
For TLE masturbation, and some fetish sets, the model also has to appear involved in the erotic action showing her sexuality in an almost dramatic way, the darker side of her erotic potential, pretending to be aware that someone is watching hidden in sort of a voyeuristic situation.
For Sexart I ask my models to "make it real." Once I show them the setting and the outfit I tell them what the story is about and to believe in it, acting in a continuous action as if I was shooting a video, so that the flow of the action looks more natural, only stopping for the single shot. I also ask them to pretend I am not there and to concentrate on their own pleasure in a natural/realistic way, without exaggerating with facial expressions, but they're allowed to glance at the camera from time to time, when they feel like or when I tell them to do it, in order to keep the contact with the viewer and remind him that the action is for him and also to give a flirty taste to some headshots which I include to let the viewer see what's in the eyes of the model while feeling the pleasure. One of the most satisfying sets is my second with Sapphira.
Have you ever shot something for, say, Metart, but then ended up submitting it to Sexart, instead?
D: When I plan a shooting with some model in a certain location of course I already have an idea of what site I'm going to submit it to. If I had to give a priority that would be Metart, Sexart, TLE for a number of reasons, and this also reflects the number of sets. But sometimes when I am actually shooting it happens that some factors make me change my mind and switch to a style suitable for a site which is different from the initial idea. But it also happened that after taking a look at the photos before editing I realize that the overall feel of a certain set is more suitable for another site, but that's possible from Metart to TLE, or from Sexart to TLE, seldom vice-versa (for lighting reasons) and never from Metart to Sexart (because of the poses/style). Once, after initially scheduling a Metart shooting with some models who had never done masturbation in photos, we ended up giving a try to a Sexart or TLE set (none of these sets has yet been published). And I've submitted sets to Metart and Sexart but then it was suggested I submit them to TLE because the photo editor found the set or the model more suitable for that site, like in the case of the first sets with Paula Shy, Sunshine, and Chloe Coco, and there are a few more.
In the studio or on location — which do you prefer?
D: I generally prefer to shoot indoor with a soft natural light from the window and a realistic setting, because I have everything in control, the ambience is relaxed with some good music, and posing is generally more comfortable for the model.
I set up a small studio in my old apartment, with a few backdrops in front of a big window, so I could use it either with natural light or with studio light, or combining the two. I have in mind my own private studio for the future, it would be halfway between a painter's and a photographer's studio, with plenty of natural white light during the day.
When the weather is nice and the temperature warm enough for the models, I have a nice location nearby that's also a great option to go shooting outdoor, but it depends also on how happy the model is, because posing is usually not as comfortable as indoor, then there may be some interruptions for various reasons — the lighting conditions may change more dramatically than indoor, then there may be some logistic issues that could distract from me from focusing on the model and the posing.
But basically it's the light of the moment that inspires me and drives me.
A typical set has about 120 images, give or take. How many total images do you shoot during a single session? And how do you approach the task of editing a set for submittal?
D: I usually shoot 160-200 images, depending on the model's skills/attitude (beginner/experienced, willing/bored) and the lighting conditions (affecting shutter speed, therefore risk of motion blur). When I have the feeling I have at least 130-140 good images I check quickly on the display the variety of poses and if I think it's enough I stop. But there are times when the model is so good that I just can't stop, when we are both in good mood and the poses keep coming different and sexy. I know that I am not going to use all of the images but I can't help, I still shoot for the fun of it. And I also like to show the model many nice pics of herself, especially portraits.
I start editing the set usually after my regular job, at night, or in the weekends, when I am not too tired. I take a look at the whole set, deleting the bad pictures, separating the repetitive shots, and selecting the good images, usually no less than 120. Then I work on the RAW files, starting to give the image the light temperature/tone that best matches the model, the setting and the feel of the set.
My wife Phi — a member suggested this nickname, the ancient Greek letter for "F," because it's the initial of her real name — is there for this phase. She both helps me find the right settings — sometimes it gets too subjective, especially when the lighting during the shooting varied — and she also does most of the editing herself, especially when the photos also need to be retouched. I prefer not to retouch unless it's necessary to comply to the standards of photography on Metart or other sites in the Network. So there are tattoos to get rid of and skin imperfections to fix, as well as details in the setting which are not nice to be seen, in order to make the image look pleasant and eliminate unnecessary small details distracting from the main subject. This phase, for the most complicated sets, can even take up to two or three days for just one set.
Lately, as you may have noticed, my sets have become larger. I've started to extract some images that inspire me for artistic black and white and desaturated color treatments. These are usually images that normally would look like repetitions or be too serious in the set, but that are good for a different image style. I also include close-ups and interesting details. I decided to add these shots as a bonus to a standard set, because I felt the need to let the viewer see the model in other ways, like I do whenever I shoot, trying to imagine the photos in different styles as if they were different techniques of painting or drawing.
It's still kind of an experiment for me, especially if you consider that I started working on black and white and desaturated images not so long before including this type of work in my sets, although B&W is very close to pencil and charcoal drawing, which are one of my favorite techniques.
Members seemed to have appreciated enthusiastically so far, so I consider it kind of a trademark and even if it takes time to do it I will keep doing it willingly. The first set where I included some extra images was my first with Michaela Isizzu, although it was mostly some plain black and white backstage images, so actually the very first attempt was with one of my sets with Sunshine, also reviewed by you in the blog.
All your work for the various sites in the Metart Network have been still galleries. Do you have any interest in shooting motion pictures?
D: I would really love to start shooting movies. I did shoot a few videos with my DSLR a couple of years ago, but I haven't edited them, and anyway I don't consider them good enough yet. I have also shot some backstage video for fun. Videos are very challenging, and I think I have the eye to shoot them, but at the moment it's a matter of time: I am working too hard to have the time to start shooting and reaching a satisfactory level, and I would need more time to edit the videos, too. I always have a very thoughtful approach when it's about starting something I really care about, but then when I start I work very hard and it's difficult to stop me. You can consider the wish of starting to shoot videos my resolution for 2015.
You had a severe misfortune last summer — all your photographic gear and the laptop with your latest work was stolen. How did you recover from this devastating blow, and has this experience changed anything in your approach to shooting?
D: The theft of all my gear last July was a real shock. Now, so many months later, I still think about the few seconds when I was distracted by a man crying out and running to me as someone grabbed my backpack with everything inside and ran away.
I had just come back from one of my most successful shootings in Prague, four days of hard work with Sapphira, Nici Dee, Vanessa Angel, Paula Shy, Dido A, Celeste A and a couple of other models, shooting about twenty-five sets, mostly for Metart and Sexart, and a few for TLE. In few seconds I lost everything: my photo/video gear, my laptop, the hard disks and memory cards with all the work, making the time and expenses for the entire trip a total waste. I saw the robbery on the CCTV the day after, and it was very hard to take. I stayed in bed for a couple of days, trying to get some sleep, staring at the ceiling, hoping to have some news from the police or from friends searching the markets, or from Internet, but nothing.
I stopped being a photographer for some days, suspended in a very uncomfortable situation, but already the day of the misfortune things started happening: my wife let my closest friends know about the robbery, she even wrote to [Metart Network Photo Editor] K to let her know what had happened, and then a post on Facebook kick-started the reaction of some of my most loyal fans, especially from the US, supporting and offering help, easing the shock and giving me back self-confidence little by little. My "Number One" fan in particular also alerted [Metart Network owners] Jon and Niko about the theft. In a very short time I was offered an incredible amount of support by Metart which allowed me to get back to shooting with new gear and with an appropriate budget.
In the end, although that was a very hard lesson for me, it turned out to be also an important occasion which showed me how much Jon and all the Metart staff believed in me and in my work, as well as an opportunity to find real friends from the community of regular commentators, especially from Metart. It felt like belonging to an extraordinary family. Now I am in touch with several members of this great community on a regular basis, we speak about a range of things besides erotic photography, and it's all so fun and interesting.
The first sets released right after this disaster were with Connie Carter, first on TLE, and then on Sexart, followed by Lauren Crist on Metart, which kept me "alive" on the Network and made me experience the unexpected, incredible support from the members through the comments. I would like to thank all of them for giving me strength during those hard days.
I have also started being in touch with other Metart Network photographers, like Catherine, Luca Helios and Flora, after already being friends with Peter Guzman, Ken Tavos and Balius. I think that the exchange of ideas and points of view between artists is very fruitful, bringing the overall level of the entire Metart Network higher and higher, while the interaction with members keeps the Network evolving and facing the new challenges of modern erotic still and motion pictures.
This experience made me rethink all of my work and reconsider everything I did so far, being more aware of the actual value of all the equipment and the work itself, therefore giving more value to the efforts I do to carry out a shooting and produce a set.