Monday, October 28, 2013

Houston Heller: Dark Side Of The Sun

'Ohh yes... They Float Georgie... They Float... and when your down here, with me... YOU FLOAT TOO!'
Stephen King, IT

'Russ Simon is a gifted makeup artist with an eye for detail. He's L.A. trained at MUDD make-up designery in Burbank but works in Detroit. He can do everything from turn you into a beast for Halloween to take ten years off you and highlight all your best features for your wedding day. And to top off his unbelievable professionalism, he's one of the funniest and most genuine people you can ever hope to meet. He's my best friend, I'm very proud of him!'
Houston Heller

Two images above from Russ Simon

Is there anything more terrifying than a clown. Reading IT gave me nightmares, seeing the mini-series however, then brought them to life... For some however, clowns can actually bring joy. Not the demented clowns above mind you, but circus clowns seem to have the power to bring smiles to some and mind numbing fear to others. I think the skill and ability to bring forth such dramatically opposing emotions is one of the marks of a great artist and in the case of this post, there are three of them.

Houston Heller by Ted Sun

Last summer, while profiling Los Angeles based photographer Ted Sun, (A Taste Of Honey) I spent quite a bit of time immersed in his images. Ted's work, based in fashion and figure beautifully expands to the seductive and sensual with more than a hint of mystery and darkness weaved within. Ted's nude work in particular is filled with distinctive elements which bring an air erotic danger to the viewer. Through lighting, poses, the use of masks, and in the case of Jayk, who I profiled in August, covering his naked body head to toe in honey.

There was one masked man in particular who stood out when viewing Ted's work one I wanted to devote particular attention to. Model Houston Heller has an incredible face and body and killer blue eyes. What I loved so much however about Houston's work was not just the courage he demonstrates to expose his body, but the courage to expose much more, sometimes by covering it.

The first two images in this piece, featuring a homicidal Houston in clown white come from make-up artist Russ Simon. Houston calls Russ Simon not only a crazy talented makeup artist, but also his best friend. When Russ is done, Houston's beautiful face morphs from pleasant to psychopathic and it's fascinating how covering a face, even in heavy clown make-up, can expose emotions much more difficult to express without it.

It was interesting that the first images that grabbed me from Ted Sun's work with Houston also included images with his face partially covered, in this case with a mask. Both Ted Sun and Houston love to push limits within their work and the images they created together show so many facets of Houston's personality and abilities in front of the camera.

Ted first came across Houston on the set of "Luna Park", the 2013 NYC Black Party trailer video by Justin Monroe (below). Ted was helping out with the projet by taking behind-the-scenes photographs, and says that Houston really stood out to him. He had such a great presence in front of the camera, and gave me a good vibe whenever I pointed the camera at him - and I wanted to photograph him more.' Ted had some series that was working on at the time, including the 'nude masquerade' and 'honey' shots so they to meet up to work on those, along with some portraits.

Rough Trade at Luna Park from Justin Monroe Photography on Vimeo.

'When collaborating with a new model, I like to know what what they are about - what else they do or what interests them, before interpreting how to see them. I was interested very interested in Houston's spiritual side, with his practice of yoga and thai yoga massage... so doing portraits of him with mala beads felt appropriate. On a more basic level, he has such striking blue eyes, so I wanted to highlight those.'

Ted says that their first shoot went very well, and a couple months later, Houston contacted him about wanting to do another, this time an underwater shoot. Ted also had been looking to an underwater themed shoot inspired by his friend and mentor Ed Freeman, who has a stunning underwater series. During his years travelling, Ted had become certified in Scuba Diving, and already had an underwater casing for his camera, but until now, had never had an opportunity to use it. According to Ted, Houston was a real pro during the shoot.

'While I had snorkel gear to help me breath while submerged underwater... he had to repeatedly hold his breath, and jump in-and-out of the pool. He's committed to getting the shots and is always a pleasure to work with.'

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