Portland native, Lucian Schmit is a photographic artist, who has been creating erotic artwork since the ‘90s. Lucian’s explorations of the photographic medium have been almost entirely self-directed; in place of structured instruction, Lucian has taken a typically Portlandian DIY approach to his learning: doing his own research, seeking out the advice of artists he admires, taking workshops that interest him, and just learning by doing. Lucian sat down at Portland’s Rialto Poolroom and shared insights into his artistic perspectives.
The first thing one notices about Lucian’s thinking is how much basic human connection comes up in conversation and how much it — and avoiding what inhibits it — means to him. For Lucian, the joy of creating art comes from the social aspects of sharing his work with others. His motivation comes from interacting with people who are interacting with his artwork… live and in person. “For me the joy is showing the work… I’m really social, that’s what gets me off; I like people seeing the real prints.” You may be able to find examples online, but having his work seen by anonymous internet users doesn’t create the experience Lucian is looking for from sharing his art. “People I don’t know click on my picture and they like it and that does nothing for me, (for some people [it does]).”
By the same token, Lucian seeks out the same sort of authentic interaction when he is photographing someone, whether they are an acquaintance or someone modeling for hire. “I like shooting the work… I like to make the model feel good.” In his work he wants his subject to feel allowed to be admired and uplifted though the gaze of another. Lucian believes wholeheartedly in the individual’s intrinsic beauty and seeks to celebrate it, rather than to diminish it or photoshop it away. One of his formative artistic moments came while browsing the pages of a popular ‘90s men’s magazine. “They take perfectly beautiful women but they put them in front of white paper w/ really bright lights, and then … they airbrush out the moles and the freckles, and I was just, like, pissed!” Looking for alternatives, Lucian went to Powells and sat on the floor looking at the work of every erotic photographer they had. He found a catalyst for his personal aesthetic in the work of French photographer Jeanloup Sieff. “He has his models laying on a couch nude … and he waits for light to move, and his models would sometimes fall asleep while he’s waiting.” Seiff’s work became the main source of inspiration for Lucian’s use of natural light and relaxed settings.
Lucian is a self-described sensualist. “I’ve always been turned on by fabric, texture, and skin.” Rather than seeing his work as erotic, he sees himself as aiming toward something a bit more ethereal. “A feeling of nostalgia is a big motivator for me… a blend of… that fuzzy feeling you get from bourbon, nostalgia, nudity…”
As a long time Burning Man participant, Lucian’s philosophy embraces, more than anything, the Burning Man ideal of “radical inclusion.” In Lucian’s view, this means being welcoming of anyone, no matter what labels or categories they may choose or seem to fit. In Portland, one of Lucian’s favorite venues to find fellowship with others who share this ethos is Sanctuary Club, which paved the way for him to exhibit there earlier this year.
He appreciates the challenge of shooting all subjects and would love to pursue more variety in his work. “I would like to shoot men, I’d like to see larger women… I tried to shoot a couple having sex because I wanted to see if I could… I like to try to challenge myself.” But Lucian finds there are different obstacles in such unfamiliar dynamics such as the male form. “It’s way harder… in every way… It’s challenging to get a model — you’ll find out men are open to being shot, but like ‘I wanna lose 5 more pounds,’ and they look great … And then when I do the work, I have a hard time getting what I’m after …I want no tattoos … [not ripped, and] maybe chest hair… like, Sean Connery would be my dream.”
In his personal life, Lucian describes himself as “float[ing] on the periphery of many groups … I never go deep into any.” He chooses to remain at a distance out of a lack of patience for the melodramas that develop toward the core of social cliques. Instead he chooses to dabble at the edges of communities such as the swingers, ecstatic dance, poly circles, and so on. Asked what he would like to see in Portland’s overall sex-positive community, Lucian describes his vision focused on sensation, connection, and collaboration. “It seems like in Portland, fetish equals being spanked and wearing black clothes … How about oil and feathers and wearing a blindfold and being massaged by people wearing leather gloves…just like my artwork, a more sensual experience?… I kinda wanna curate a more sensual erotic event… What we’re talking about I think is bigger than we know.”
For much of Lucian’s artistic career, his artwork focused on black-&-white film photography. One of the best pieces of advice he ever got came from “an old hippie” (as he put it), who advised him away from high end films and chemicals, and to focus instead, more simply on larger-format negatives — 120, 4×5, and more — Lucian says he’s gotten his best results by working in such formats. These days Lucian is branching more into digital photography, and exploring more color imagery as a result. Lucian takes us on a guided tour of some of these newer explorations… but due to the NSFW nature of his work, you will have to visit our online magazine to see his collection of favorites, and he personal stories and anecdotes about each image…