TSURURADIO Presents… An Interview With therealAARONDUNN with Accompanying Musical & (Mostly NSFW) Photographical Mixtapes!!!

All Photography by therealAaronDunn

*** Warning to our beloved readers… The following special presentation contains imagery and links that may not be suitable for youngins, our more “sensitive bears”, or people wasting time at work. If you are easily offended by nudity, two photographer music-freaks jibber-jabberin’, you are at work (tsk, tsk), or you are home-schooled 12 year old who never heard the word “nipple” before, you may want to come back a different time, day, or year. ***

I’m very excited about today’s very special TSURURADIO Presents…! So very excited in fact, I seem to be using the word “very” very much already and we are just one paragraph in! Verily! It’s a rare day that we do interviews as we tend to let the artists’ music & art speak for itself here, but I recently had the opportunity & distinct pleasure to interview one of my favourite contemporary fine art photographers, Aaron Dunn.

Now some of you may be wondering just who Aaron Dunn is, therealAARONDUNN, and well, if you JUST come here for the music and not the artsy stuff and don’t happened to peruse deviant art and are not a fan of A Flower A Day or Fleshbot (both NSFW), well then yeah, you might not be all that familiar the man, nay, the legend that is Aaron Dunn (accept NO imitations). Well, let’s give you a little background…

Aaron is a fine art photographer, painter, a fellow “Aaron”, and music-lover born in raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (lucky bastard) and, unlike my sorry ass, makes his living this way. He graduated the Alberta College of Art & Design in 2004 but was told that because he never pigeon-holed himself to one medium, one “look”, that he lacked focus. Fortunately for us, that “lack of focus” gave him the ability to use any medium that seemed medium-worthy, from drawing to painting to glass-blowing to textiles to, of course, photography! The ability to express one’s self in a wide array of formats and to express it in a way that is understandable & appreciated from the lowest of low-brows (yay, boobies!) to the tweediest of high-brows (I like the use of light under her left bosom) is a gift most of us will never have…



Great, now you got a little snapshot of the man, let’s get on with it. You are in luck, not only are you getting to peer into the mind of a photographer, but you’ll also get the opportunity to enjoy two special treats! One, a photographic “mixtape”, which, for the uninitiated, is simply a thoughtful and ordered collection of photographs… We’ll pepper this in throughout the interview for your convenience. And two, our special guest has compiled a mixtape of his own, a therealAARONDUNN essentials mixtape! And that’s pretty fucking sweet…

Okay, let’s go sit down by the fire, toss on another log, sip our cognacs, pretend we are talking while the theme music plays, until the cue that is, and let’s roll some tape! All metaphorically, of course, as…

TSURURADIO Presents… An Interview With therealAARONDUNN with Accompanying Musical & (Mostly NSFW) Photographical Mixtapes!!!

*applause*

Tsuru (T): Thank you so much Aaron, for taking the time out to talk with me! Let’s get right to it, eh?

Aaron Dunn (AD): Was that “Eh” a subtle hint at my Canuck heritage Tsuru? *laughs* Thanks for putting this together man, I’m really honoured. I’m always down for a discussion on art or music… but art AND music? Count me in!

T: I’m working on my “Canadian”, the subtleties are harder to master that one might think… *laughs*

Okay… As a kid, I used to hide out in bookstores and look through the photography books, taking in every little bit I could with the compositions. I especially drawn to my hero, Helmet Newton and his ability combine fashion & nudity and his perfect eye and master of natural lighting. What got you into photography? Who are some key photographers (if any) that have inspired you?

AD: Photography started out simply as a tool in which to create a painting, a starting point really. It’s only been the last 3 or so years that I’ve begun seriously exploring photography as a medium of it’s own. I’ve always found photographic images intriguing though… I was the kid that would tear out images that they liked from magazines. The first real art I can remember producing were collages with all those images I had. As far as inspiration, Helmut Newton, Edward Weston, Sam Haskins, Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jeanloup Sieff, Stephen Shore, Yousuf Karsh, Andy Warhol… I could go on and on. Inspiration comes from odd places at times as well…



T: That’s wonderful! For me, I could never paint from photos, they always came out flat, very weird, so my paintings became more abstract and emotional and less real. The camera (an old 35mm pentax, loooong gone) became my tool. But it wasn’t until I got an ugly little 1-megapixel Fuji point-n-shoot (which I still have and works great) about 10 years ago(?) that everything started opening up.

AD: You bringing up that old Fuji made me think of this old digital that I had seen at a garage sale… it wrote to a floppy disk. That’s some funny shit right there.

T: Ha! Fantastic….. Back in college, one of my rich friends (an early tech adopter) got a FULL VGA (woo!) digital camera when it first came out. Yeah, I think it was a box with a lens and a diskette or something inside. Funny shit. Cost him $1000 or so I think? Ooof.

AD: *laughs* FULL VGA!! That’s awesome!! My first “real” digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 5700… that was back in the 5 MP race days. That fucker cost me 2K, but I loved that little camera. I took out a student loan so I could get it…

T: Damn! It’s amazing how far and also how little the technology has gone. I’m just glad the dSLR’s are a bit more affordable then they used to be. I picked up a D40, a great SLR for well under $1,000. What I’m waiting for now is Nikon to bust out with a dSLR that looks and feels like the old Nikon F1, completely with a simple prime lens. Oh man… that’d be heaven.

AD: I want that now… *laughs* Hopefully it’ll only be a matter of time.

T: I keep looking in the mags hoping to see it, but nope. Though I do look at photography magazines, I find I rather look at things I’m into, such as music, cycling, etc, to find inspiration instead of, say, other peoples work, not always, but I find I get more ideas from looking at, say, an album cover than I do looking at PHOTO magazine…. What do you look to now for inspiration, if anything?

AD: This is going to make me sound like such a douche, but I find everyday life to be constantly inspirational. Both the good stuff and the negative stuff… it makes us who we are and my work comes out of that. I carry a little notebook with me where ever I go and if anything hits me, I write it down. Most of it is shit or is only a simple concept, but from that has come some of my best, and most bizarre, work. I’m also a magazine freak… I love looking at photography magazines, mostly for the technical stuff. Geeking out on lighting and reverse engineering of the images. I also buy fashion magazines, art magazines, gaming magazines, lifestyle magazines… you never know where you’ll find that image that sparks something in your brain. I’m still that kid tearing out images…



T: Nothing douchy about that! I agree with you on the photo mags for tech inspiration. I have a stack of Shutterbugs, PHOTO, PDN, and even a couple of those dime-a-doze “Digital Camera” mags by the toilet for a few minute-glances through for technique ideas and, in case of emergency, as toilet paper! ha!

*laughs* Damn, that would hurt!

AD: *laughs* I suppose it was more of a cliché really. I strongly dislike clichés… photography is so full of them that it’s like walking across a frozen pond, you can fall through before you realize. That statement was a cliché.

*both of us laugh, because we are geeky like that*

T: But yeah, I usually have a small notebook and a point & shoot at me at all times, even on my bike rides. You never know when something will hit you upside the head!

AD: It seems that the notebook is fairly common practice, hey? The way I operate is to allow the ideas to flow as if it were automatic painting. I then go back into the book with an analytical brain ablaze; it’s then a matter of filtration. I think photographers need to filter more.

T: I couldn’t agree more, I’m trying to get better at editing myself, find the balance between under and over editing.



I wanted to ask you about equipment… I LOVE my Polaroid Spectra, but with the film become more & more scarce, I use it sparingly…. What’s your favourite camera and why?

AD: Hmm… this is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. I love all my Polaroid cameras as well, particularly my SLR 680, but I think I’d have to go with my Mamiya RB67 Pro S with my Polaroid back on it. I love everything about it… the weight, the feel, the image quality… nothing beats that tank. That was kind of a parent answer huh?? I love all my children… but when it boils down to it, there’s always a favorite.

T: I hear you, you seem to have a knack for using the right tool for the right job…. to be honest, I think a trip to Alberta would be worth it alone just to hold and shoot with the mamiya/polaroid!

*day dreams of shooting with the Mamiya* Speaking of Alberta, it seems to be cropping up a little bit on the Canuck music scene (much to my joy and glee), what are your thoughts on Alberta? Do you see the “Alberta Advantage” being an advantage, not just for your photography, but your career as a photographer? Or do you see yourself heading out to Toronto, or NY/LA or something like that?

AD: I was born and raised in Calgary, been here all my life and I adore the city… it’s truly a great place to live. As far as the “Alberta Advantage”, it seems to matter less and less these days as to where you’re physically located. There’s this thing called the internet that seems to have changed things quite a bit… I think it’s the way of the future! *laughs* Calgary has an under current that’s growing and growing… people are craving more contemporary art. They no longer want their bronze horse statues.

T: Baby & I want to go up to Calgary… Alberta in general just looks amazing! But speaking of being a photographer in the modern age, how difficult do you find it to make a living as a fine art photographer? Do you do it on your own or do you have representation? Do you find it best to get in galleries or through self-promotion online? I guess what I’m asking (quite poorly) is how is it making a living as a fine art photographer in this day & age?

AD: Difficult. *laughs*

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do this full time for the last 3 years… but it’s not exactly financially lucrative. *laughs* But really, if I was looking for something financially lucrative, I wouldn’t be doing what I do. I’ve had opportunities to do weddings, which is a common “go-to” for a photographer seeking some cash, but I have zero interest in it. The real issue is visibility. There are so many people running around out there calling themselves “photographers” these days that it’s really dumbed down the medium as a whole. I was represented by a gallery in the UK for a year, but nothing ever really came of it… I’ve sold far more work independently. I haven’t yet bothered with any local galleries, but it’s an idea that I’ve been toying with though. One of my newer series, Portrait Series II, was planned as a gallery show…. it’s still in it’s infancy, so we’ll see where it goes and if it’ll ever hang in the big white room. The majority of my exposure comes from fine people, such as yourself, that feature my work on their sites. There is no easy answer of course…

T: Ah, thank you, we just share what catches us emotionally, not just the music, but the photography too. If anything, photographers need much more help than musicians getting noticed in commoditized world we’re livin’ in… So, we are always happy to hear that we might have given an artist a little bump, no matter how little that bump may have been.

Now, as I’m well aware, much like myself, you are quite the music lover… Music often dictates much about our lives, how we dress, who we hang with, our viewpoint on life, etc. How would you say music has influenced your work?

AD: I can’t work without music on… it then directly influences how I’m feeling and therefore how I approach what I’m doing. The first thing I do, even prior to picking up a camera, is to put an album on. Now having said that, music selection becomes essential… If I want mellow images for example, I’ll put on something like Iron and Wine. The fact that 99% of my work is of people, music becomes a way of dictating how the shoot will look without having to say a word to the model. You throw on some Motorhead and you’re going to get something completely different…



T: Amen…. I’m always baffled by people who have an indifference to music, but I try not to hold it against them! *laughs* Do you let the model start the music, to help her “be her” or do you dictate the music to mold the model into the image that’s in your head?

AD: I’ve always been baffled by any indifference… most likely because I have opinions on most everything. *laughs* I always start off by asking the model to list some of the music they like, from there I’ll adjust accordingly.

T: That sounds like a good plan! I think I’m going to have to pick up a little ghetto blaster for some “on location” shoots! Getting a model comfortable is so important…. speaking of, I gotta say, you have some of the most beautiful and interesting models, from hard & punk to innocent & introverted looking. Are they friends, lovers, strangers, coffee shop girls, or all of the above, or do you just make online connections like through modelmayhem / onemodelplace / deviantart / etc type sites?

AD: The majority of the models that I’ve worked with up to this point, have contacted me on ModelMayhem… having said that, it’s sometimes now a friend of a friend or someone who has randomly come across my work and is interested in collaborating. I have an amazing group of ladies that I work with on a regular basis… I’m very lucky. I’m quite picky with who I work with though, to be honest. I still find that, for the most part, the best images come from photographing non-models… models usually have a persona that acts as a wall, I need to break down that wall prior to achieving anything of use. I’m simply looking to get an honest image…

T: Going back to music… What are a few “Essential Aaron Dunn” albums, some required listenings to get to know therealAARONDUNN?

AD: Do you remember the scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack is organizing his albums auto-biographically??

T: Fuck yeah!

AD: That’s how I roll as well… The Doors – Morrison Hotel, Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison, 16 Horsepower – Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes, Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica, Scissor Sisters – Self-Titled, The Clash – London Calling, Primus – Pork Soda, Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary, Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Rancid – … And Out Come The Wolves, The Ramones – Self-Titled, The Velvet Underground & Nico – Self-Titled, Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns, The Born Ruffians – Red, Yellow & Blue, Brendan Canning – Something for All of Us, Thelonious Monk – Self-Titled, Solomon Burke – Self-Titled, Lightnin’ Hopkins – Self-Titled, Handsome Furs – Plague Park, Frank Sinatra – That’s Life, Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde, The Beatles – White Album…

T: Fantastic list! Never listened to the Josh Ritter album, fortunately our beloved Society member center52 made it this week’s Basement Required Listening, so it will be up on my rotation very soon.

NOTE: Since then I have indeed listened to and fell in love with the Josh Ritter album.

T (Cont’d): I see Rural Albert Advantage has already made it into the Essentials lists, mind-numbing album eh?

AD: I’ll start by saying thank you. *laughs* The RAA and NMH? I’ll forever be indebted to you for those 2 albums. The first time I listened to “The Ballad of the RAA” I was thinking “well this is rad”… then when track 2 “Comes Apart” comes on with that Zeppelin “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”-esque clapping?? I was SOLD. Easily top 3 albums of 2008… could even be number 1 for me.

T: Thank you, man. It means a lot to me, the whole point of tsururadio is to get a few people likin’ something they otherwise might not have heard. RAA has become a serious “go to” album for me, but as a music blogger, I find that sometimes I need to move forward. Recently my ipod got erased, so I looked at it as a chance to break off from 08 for now and get looking ahead more. 2009 has been fantastic so far! Any oh-niners kicking you ass yet???

AD: Well you definitely deserve kudos my friend, you’ve turned me onto some pretty rad stuff. As far as ’09 goes… I’m loving the new Handsome Furs album, I was ridiculously excited to hear that one when it leaked. Can I talk about leaked albums? I will anyways…

T: *laughs, while looking over his shoulder for the RIAA*

AD: ’09 has started off rather amazing hasn’t it? Animal Collective, which I was honestly surprised at how much I’m enjoying it, Andrew Bird, Bat for Lashes, Clem Snide, Bell Orchestre, Heartless Bastards… such great stuff already.



T: I think High Fidelity was onto something. Music is an emotional connection, there are no right or wrong answers, no good or bad albums, autobiographical is probably the most honest way to look at your collection, it is what it is, and you need to accept and love, for example, in my auto-biographical-discography Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea just as much as that damn Footloose soundtrack I had when I was a kid. Both have shaped me and got me where I am today!

AD: I couldn’t agree with you more… “music is the soundtrack to our lives” as the old cliché goes… but it’s so very true. I’ll listen to an old Alice in Chains album and I’m brought back to being that angsty teen. If Oasis comes on the radio it makes me think of an ex-girlfriend…

T: What are some of your record store haunts, online or, as the kids text, “IRL”?

AD: Sam the Record Man was always one of my favorites when I was growing up. They were the first that allowed you to open up the album and take a listen before you bought it. They had this huge wall of open albums, categorized by genre, with little Sony Discmans below… I used to go in there and listen to everything I could get my hands on. And everyone that worked there seemed to be a DJ… DJ half-pint or DJ LookyLoo. They were awesome… it was like Empire Records, that kind of store where you wanted to work and discuss the intricacies of modern music or why Paul wasn’t wearing shoes. I’ve been avoiding the HMV’s of the world lately… they’re over crowed by pompous little dufus hipsters. I’ve had a beard since I could grow one and it pisses me off that the hipsters have taken that away from me. Fuck you hipsters for making the beard “cool”! *laughs*

T: *laughs* At least you can grow a beard, my face can best described as “patchy” at best… It’s not the beards that kill me, though, as much as the mustaches…. yeah it works on a few of them, but the rest look like skinny 80’s porn stars in skinny jeans and a dirty American Apparel v-neck shirt! Ha! Oh well, whattayagonnado? To each their own right?

AD: *laughing*… the “ironic” mustaches. Indeed, to each their own though.

T: But yeah, it’s a rare day for us to go to a HMV or whatever. Barnes & Noble is the closest to a corp-music-shop we hit. I often find it more comfortable to find/buy music from the comfort of my computer, unless we’re traveling, which is often, then baby & I like to find the little hole in the wall record stores and see what’s what. We found some amazing new & used albums that way.

AD: I’m finding that the only way to get what I really want is to order it online lately… if you’re not looking for Top 40 shit, music stores usually don’t give a damn. I’m lucky that I can find some of the Canadian talent in the local shops though. Random independent shops are fantastic though… I’m with you on that.

T: Do you have any musical prejudices that find difficult to reconcile? For me it’s “electronica/DJ” stuff, but I’ve fallen for Dan Deacon’s latest Bromst, and I try to listen to everything with open ears, or through the ears of someone who DOES love it, do you have anything like that, a genre or sound that you can’t seem to bust through or turns you off the moment you see the label in the description?

AD: To be completely honest, to call my musical tastes “eclectic” would be an understatement. With almost any genre, I can find something that I like, there are of coarse certain genres that prove a little more difficult to find something I dig in… namely Country or Rap/R&B. It’s funny that it’s electronica for you… I went through a phase that I listened to a lot of electronica. I always looked at it as contemporary classical… the way it was composed. Trance/Ambient or Drum and Bass for the most part, was what I was into. I don’t listen to it much anymore though…



T: How funny! I used to listen to rap when it first came out back in the 80s, and maybe a smidge of gangsta in the early 90s that was it. Old school country and R&B have been big parts of my musical growth. I remember the “alt-country” thing coming around, it really hit me as a great way to reconcile the old with a new sound. Now, if only “alt-R&B” existed, we’d be in business. Well, I guess we do have Daptone Records, but a little more variety would be nice. Given your past, I’d definitely recommend Bromst, though, gooood times.

AD: I guess I should have clarified that it’s usually contemporary Country/Rap/R&B that bores me. I grew up with the old school country playing on my grandparents record player, artists like Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Waylon Jennings… my Nampy (paternal grandfather) was a huge Boxcar Willie fan. Now having said that, I dig BlueGrass today… give me some banjo and I’ll probably dig it. My partner Christina is into country… so you know how that goes. *laughs* I don’t remember the “alt-country” thing though? As far as Rap, I went through the Gangsta phase as well… Easy E, Snoop, Dre, Tupac. Old school R&B was an influence on me as well… The Four Tops are a favorite. Dude’s like Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Fats Domino… all amazing stuff.



T: Ah, you are taking me back to my youth, my mom was/is huge into old school R&B, Soul, and Gospel. I don’t know how many Saturday commutes when she’d have to drag us to the restaurant in St. Pete where she was a waitress that we’d spend the 45 minutes listening to Michael Jackson or Anita Baker or the Mighty Clouds Of Joy! Good times.. good memories…

Now, before we bid each other farewell and wrap up the best goddamn interview ever (I said “EVER” goddammit!), I understand you’ve prepared an Aaron Dunn Essentials Mixtape? I can’t wait to hear it!

AD: I really hope everyone digs it… at first glance it may seem haphazard, but I’ve tried to weave some cohesive threads throughout. The art of the mixtape is a beautiful thing.

NOTE: FUCK YEAH! Sorry, I had to add that in as I built the post….

AD (Cont’d): My deepest thanks Tsuru, for the wonderful conversation, as well as this tasty metaphorical cognac.

T: *laughs* Trust me, it was MY pleasure, so thank you…. Now let’s cue the metaphoric dancing bikini-clad models to boogie to “My Goodies (or Milkshake or whatever it’s called)” at the closing credits as I requested!!!

What? Oh… According to the boss, that’s not happening (no budget) and that I’m metaphorically drunk. Oh well, it’s probably for the best, because now we can just get right into the mixtape I’ve been listening to since yesterday! And it’s a gem, my friends, spanning decades and genres guaranteed to have your toe a-tappin’ and your face a-smilin’!

So let’s do it! Thank you again, Aaron, it was great to interview, and get to know you more, not just through your words but for the mixtape we are about to share as…

TSURURADIO Proudly Presents… An Interview With therealAARONDUNN with Accompanying Musical & (Mostly NSFW) Photographical Mixtapes!!! Accompanied Mixtape!!!
(Full Zip!)

01 Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
02 The Doors – Peace Frog
03 Bob Dylan – I Want You
04 Josh Ritter – To The Dogs Or Whoever
05 Brendan Canning – Churches Under The Stairs
06 Born Ruffians – I Need A Life
07 The Rural Alberta Advantage – Rush Apart
08 Primus – Ol’ Diamond Sturgeon
09 16 Horsepower – Black Soul Choir
10 Ben Fold Five – Army
11 The Clash – The Card Cheat
12 Scissor Sisters – Take Your Mama Out
13 The Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)
14 Hayden – Bad As They Seem
15 The Beatles – Blackbird
16 Modest Mouse – 3rd Planet
17 Iron Horse – Float On
18 The Jesus And Mary Chain – Sometimes Always
19 Rancid – Ruby Soho
20 Wolf Parade – I’ll Believe In Anything
21 Neutral Milk Hotel – Two-Headed Boy
22 The National – Fake Empire
23 Bat For Lashes – What’s A Girl To Do
24 Frank Sinatra – That’s Life

Go show all the artists all your love here, and THE artist all your love here, here, and especially here now…


1 comment for “TSURURADIO Presents… An Interview With therealAARONDUNN with Accompanying Musical & (Mostly NSFW) Photographical Mixtapes!!!

  1. fulltext
    March 6, 2009 at 1:49 PM

    Well done, both Aarons!

    Love the writing, mix, and of course beautiful models … oops, meant photos.

    Actually, I’d only seen a few before through those twitter-type places (shhh) and didn’t know anything really about therealAaronDunn so it was a good peek at the work and life.

    Good interview!

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