by Michael Love
As many professional photographers have discovered, Jason Savage is a professional photographer who has to work a day job in order to support himself. DSLR cameras are getting easier and easier to operate and produce quality results even for someone who has little or no knowledge of photography. The market has been flooded with Pro-sumer photographers, and the paid work is drying up. Successful photographers are having to find ways to reinvent themselves.
Jason has earned his stripes. He graduated with a BFA from Indiana University and has moved around the country shooting lots of different projects and different kinds of art. He lived mostly around the midwest… then one day he was talking to his Aunt on the phone and she asked him if he had ever considered moving to Portland, OR. A simple glance at a road atlas told him everything he needed to know; close proximity to the mountains and the ocean, fresh air, green trees, and beautiful rivers… He knew it would be a photographer’s paradise. So after few phone calls with a potential roommate he had found on craigslist, he loaded up his station wagon and a U-Haul trailer and headed west.
Jason’s work varies from commercial work where he photographs real estate and for contractors who are doing remodeling work, while also doing private client (family photography), weddings, bands, etc. Indeed a successful photographer nowadays either has to be a specialized “rock star” photographer with a household name, or they must diversify and scrape for every penny they can get.
Some of Jason’s more infamous work involves travelling all over Oregon shooting scenery and landscapes to create and sell postcard sets labelled “I love Oregon” and “I love Portland”… if you’ve visited a local gift shop or tourist trap, you may have seen some of his work for sale there.
But Postcard sales don’t pay the bills… and his commercial work is spotty… so he has been looking for a way to re-invent himself and get his name on the map.
Jason is a single guy, not a part of our non-monogamous scene, but something of an ally through the many connections he has with our community. He’s also actively volunteering in many of our organizations. He’s the volunteer photographer at Slutwalk, and he also helps hang flyers and get the word out about the Slutwalk event. He’s also actively helping to organize a voter registration drive at this year’s Slutwalk to recruit voters just in time for the mid-term elections. “I think what Slutwalk is doing is a real important thing” says Jason, “and it is giving voice to a group of people who have been largely dismissed by society. The whole notion of victim-blaming and shaming and perpetuating rape culture just really pisses me off. So rather than breaking it all down and just blasting it on Facebook… I decided to try and do something”
As a single guy living in Portland he enjoys hanging out at the strip clubs from a social aspect, supporting the dancers and making a lot of friends in the scene. He has formed close working friendships with some of them… while always keeping it professional. “One of the things that I find really super-important is maintaining a good reputation within the community. There are a lot of photographers out there who may have ulterior motives. I really want to distinguish myself from those types of photographers” says Jason.
While talking to one of his friends who is a performer at the Riverside Corral, they were pondering the question of just how many strippers there are in Portland, being that Portland has the most per-capita strip clubs of any city in the US. She jokingly said, “There’s got to be thousands of us… we should have our own trading cards.”
“That was when the light bulb lit up in my head” says Jason, “I immediately went home and started googling and searching to see if anyone else had already had this amazing idea.” He only found one other person who had ever done something similar but it seemed very small scale and really never got off the ground. It was at that moment the “Stripping Out Loud” concept was born.
Jason’s project “Stripping Out Loud” sponsored by She-Bop the Shop, is more than a pack of trading cards. It is a statement. He features performers and dancers from all over Portland that represent every race, gender, color. He wanted them to literally be collectable trading cards, but he didn’t want to go for stats that objectified the models. “I deliberately avoided putting the dancers’ measurements and stuff like that on the backs of the cards” says Jason, “Instead I wanted to give the dancers an opportunity to speak to the world. I asked them for an original quote that was just their own. If they had a microphone to speak to the world, and could say whatever they wanted in three sentences or less, they could say whatever they wanted.” He also gave them an opportunity to market themselves… either their personal websites, or if they had any other crafts or businesses, they could be put on the cards as well. Lastly, as another nice personal touch, he asked them their favorite song to perform to, so the reader could get a taste of the dancers musical tastes.
It took him 2 ½ years of actively recruiting dancers, shooting, and creating… 69 models in total… all while juggling his day job and his commercial photography work. “Why 69?” we asked. “Because I think that number will stand out to people who appreciate these cards… and because I may be a grown man, but I still have a juvenile sense of humor.”
He’s only recently started his sales campaign but through the help of some publicity and word of mouth, he’s already starting to make a dent in the 2600 units he has produced. “Interestingly, I have sales all over the country; I’ve sold card sets to people as far away as Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.” He still has lots of sets to sell so he isn’t in any danger of selling out soon, but he really hopes to get them all sold so he can distribute the money to the various obligations he has through the project. Each model volunteered to be included in this project, but Jason, wanting to be fair to the people who help make this a successful endeavor, pledged to give each model $200 once the sales reach a certain level. He’s also donating a portion of the proceeds to the Slutwalk organization and also to Dance Naked Productions once he reaches his sales goal. “I also had to take out a small loan to fund the printing so that will need to be repaid, and then there will hopefully be a little left for me.”
The project has brought other work to Jason though. Dancers looking to add to their portfolios and people looking to get boudoir sessions have started calling him.
He is considering doing another volume of Stripping Out Loud for Portland, but pursuing the dream of getting to travel for paid work is too hard to resist. “I’d really like to travel abroad, go live in another city, maybe Paris, or London and put together a “Stripping Out Load” card set for each city.” Funding is a challenge, but who knows what could happen as the word of his project and activism spreads?
This is just a sample of Jason’s walk through with his submitted art for our Artist Spotlight series, some of his work is NSFW so not suitable for publication in this forum. You should check out the entire layout in our magazine which is available for free online at this link.