As is my wont in many cases, I am always on the lookout for multitalented creatives who juggle more than one occupation while employing a varied skilled set. As you will read Paul Reitz takes multi-tasking to a whole other level aside from being a lensman. Paul Reitz graciously carved out some precious time from his busy schedule to enlighten us, yes me too, about his everyday life and what that might encompass which could be anything from flowers to venues, to speeches to photography to napkins.
He is also a consistent presence and voice on social media which may or may not be confined to his creative strengths but also as a critic concerning the politics of our nation.
So, rather than me trying to offer any more of an introduction about this man’s creative endeavors, here he is in his own words and he can tell you himself…
Jeffrey Felner: Can you sort of give us a brief resume as to how you arrived to “where you are” at present?
Paul Reitz: Having moved to New York 30 years ago, following a few years in Tulsa as a DJ at alternative clubs but while in college my interest in photography was amplified studying the craft. I started shooting friends, mostly men, and made a conscious decision that whatever else I did; I wanted to be project a my singular vision of male beauty. As soon as I got to NYC, I started shooting frequently, mostly actors, models, club kids that I would meet and in the post 9/11 NYC. I really put my heart and soul into photography as a way to express beauty and to make my way through what was a rather long emotional and mental recovery. I was so fortunate that in 2010 German publisher Bruno Gmunder approached me to assemble my first book; that experience really just made everything explode for me and I’ve been fortunate to be very busy ever since.
JF: You juggle 2 very different careers… but are they as different as they appear on the face? Explain please.
PR: Simultaneously working as a photographer and producing charity events for nonprofits (which might include fundraising to planning the theme, design concept, evening program, flowers, menu, the overall guest experience, and writing most of the speeches). My touch is in every detail.
Both careers, offer a similarity in that you’re telling a story. I studied journalism for radio/tv/film in college, and saved my money for three years after graduation to move to NYC since it would afford me considerably more opportunities than my native Oklahoma. I don’t work in TV, or at a news organization, but I work with many of those creatives and journalists on a daily basis. I use storytelling in events, in translating a mission of an organization or its culture to donors. As a photographer, I’m trying to tell a story in most images, albeit far more subtly. as event planner I am part of a collaborative effort while as photographer it’s usually just me on the photo side…my vision, my style choices, location — everything.
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
PR; Debby Harry has always been one of my favorite people, as has Siouxsie Sioux, Vivienne Westwood…and a couple of male sports crushes would delight me to no end, but I think I’d instead opt, in the current atmosphere in our country, for five advocates for positive change, and leadership. I’m thinking of Presidents Obama and Carter, both of whom I’ve long admired and who made a tremendous impact on me. Jimmy Carter is a saint…out building homes for the poor at his fragile age. I could learn from him and from President Obama. I’ve been fascinated by the young survivors of the Parkland School shooting, and what they are doing to create change. Like David Hogg. I’d love to hear how he connects the dots and how he motivates young people and people of all ages to take action, and how he has turned a horrific event into action. That inspires me tremendously, Christiane Amanpour who is radiant and fiercely intelligent as well as being a superlative interviewer. the last guest, the “just because” factor would be Cher who is Still out there and standing up for what is right in this country The common theme with this lot, I suppose, is perseverance, humor, thoughtful advocacy.
JF:As part of the maturation process, did you have any mentors or icons that you either tried to emulate or idolize …? Who and why?
PR: Growing up in Oklahoma, I saw these rich black & white photos of the Dust Bowl era and the Great Depression that were part of our history.th eimages documented as well as cinematically transporting the viewer into the grit of the dust and the simple beauty of the faces of the men and women who retained dignity despite the despair of those times. Photographers like Dorothea Lange, in whose work you could feel the wool and cotton garments, the grit and dust, and the bare human emotion. Works like that told a story. In college, studying photographers like Duane Michals who married imagery with the written word, creating a dual impact. Then the rich deep black and white landscapes of Ansel Adams in the American West embodied a majesty, and a stillness that was formative for me. The black and white made it even more timeless. For male beauty, there was the 1970s porn look, more than anything I suppose … Shirtless, barefoot men in jeans, with naturally toned physiques and an easy, open expression, or invitation, punk and rock star swagger…. unfiltered sex appeal. Then there were the old copies of Physique Pictorial that I’d come across from time to time. I love that the magazine is back, and in such a special way, honoring the past and keeping current in male erotica. Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber were becoming popular when I was in college, and I certainly admired their work.
JF: Could you give us your opinions about the influence of social media on the world of fashion? Photography? Models?
PR: I suppose I’m one of those people that feels that so much of our current technology…smartphones etc., isn’t necessarily making our lives more efficient, but really busier, more distracted and I’d argue more anxious. It’s certainly thrown fashion into a tailspin, with many brands rushing to keep up with those outlets and retailers who are savvy in their use of the medium to push fast-fashion. Social media amplifies all of it. As for photography, I think the old rules apply: the image must be multi-dimensional, it must grab you, it must evoke something, and if possible, touch you in some way, especially sensually.
And as for models, I’ve garnered a considerable amount of work and individual clients… a distinction other than agency contact, editorial work … through Instagram in particular. But how long will that model be viable, or “hot?” In a few years, there will be another platform, another way of communicating … the censorship there is infuriating.
Models? Please don’t call yourself a model unless you have an agency behind you; Otherwise, you are a social media “celebrity,” and that can be very empty and rather dull and soulless. These Instagram “models” for example are rarely groomed, rarely do their homework and almost always have an inflated sense of their value. It’s a popularity contest but there’s no single panel of judges. The Kardashian mentality sickens me; they contributed heavily to the downfall of American culture. Kanye and Kim on the cover of Vogue was an absolute travesty, as It endorsed this mindless ridiculousness.
A plus for the social media platforms however is their delivery of fashion; it’s been exciting to be able to watch things that interest me like a Vivienne Westwood show live in Paris via Instagram. So much of what interests me in photography is the use of my imagery to seek a product, or a concept. I love seeing my work focused through someone else’s lens, and have found a new audience in the modern romance novel. I’ve sold numerous covers for both gay and straight romance novels, and have loved learning about and being in that community.
IN the end the old rules must apply. Less is more, for me. That’s my mantra and to present the image as a high point. The current social media platforms will evolve, and change. I’m looking forward to the next one…one that allows my vision to be presented even more in tandem with what I see in my head. I want a new big black and white book in everyone’s hands 🙂