Who IS Venfield 8?
and how do I get to Bear Hill?
Who IS Venfield 8?
We love alter egos. We love mystery. Most of us assume them in our daily lives. We love movies about superheros who almost always, have dual identities. Can you truly say the person you depict online is who you are 100% of the time? Or is the you at work, the same you that exists at home? Personally, I think alter egos are good. They give us a chance to explore our other sides. The adventurous side. The darker side. The playful side. The sexy side. They give us a chance to play. To be something you might not be in your everyday life. Like Batman.
Such is the case with one of our art superheros, Venfield 8. A widely known and highly regarded photographer in his day life, but also, there is another side. A mysterious identity known only as Venfield 8. A mystery shrouded by a veil surrounded by fog. No one really knows who Venfield 8 is in real life. But in examining his work, not much else is needed. It truly does speak for itself. The mystery has taken a back seat to the work which is ever evolving, ever changing. We speak to him today soon before the unveiling of a major project. One he hopes does well. One very close to his heart. A beautiful book of images you will not see anywhere else. And a short promotional art film to accompany it. Getting to know him as I have on a slightly more personal level, I’m often surprised at the level of humility at his core. The same can be said of one of his more recent muses and collaborators, David LaFlamme. A model who first became popular as the face of the Scruff app. A man whose popularity has grown quite large in a short period of time. I’ve told Venfield 8 about the tenderness and humility that comes forth in pictures of David. I see the same in Venfield8. He is warm, friendly, generous and inviting. When he told me about the collaboration months ago, I was immediately excited. David appears the everyday man, approachable and kind…but in that, he is also exceptional. He is effortlessly boy. A man with tender eyes who feels like someone you’d like to know. Or marry. And to be honest, the combination of talents is breathtaking.
Venfield 8’s work is lush and sophisticated. It brings to mind exotic locales and warm climates. He allows room for you to imagine who his subjects are. Venfield 8 has quickly gained an audience, and rightly so. He became well known for often up-ending branding, presenting it in new and perhaps controversial ways. I’ve told him I’m surprised the corporations haven’t approached him about infringement, knowing how litigious some can be. His humor is evident as you feel the ‘wink’ in his work. As is the respect for his subject matter.
OOFAHPapa: Hi Venfield 8. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this with me. I know you’re in the last stages of preparing for your launch. I was so excited to share the exclusive you generously provided to me and as excited my followers will get a chance to discover and know both you and David better. Launch day for the book and short film is quickly approaching. How are you feeling?
VENFIELD 8: Excited and nervous. But also incredibly proud. This project has been a long time in the making, lots of work, and I am thrilled with the results. I think it will mark a milestone in many was for the fans out there. It is exciting to see the tangled fruits of our labors. And I am excited to share it with people.
OOFAHPapa: Going back a little bit, one of my biggest questions about your older work was whether you approached the Brands…the Corporations, prior to taking upon a new project that incorporated them.
VENFIELD 8: I have never approached any label, because I think in doing so, I would limit myself and the creativity. I mean, what if they said no – they didn’t want me to do their brand? I would be crushed – so it was better just not to ask. Hahaha.
OOFAHPapa: Have you heard any of them are aware of the images?
VENFIELD 8: Yes. A friend in Paris at Louis Vuitton told me that Marc Jacobs had put the LV up on his wall – just something printed from the internet.
Apparently it was quite the hit. And another designer saw my show in Los Angeles and asked why his brand wasn’t done yet – so, you know, I had to get on that. I think he was more than pleased with the results.
OOFAHPapa: I remember looking at one image in particular being fearful that “they’d” come after you. (laughing) Like, literally a bit afraid. Then I sat with it and realized how powerful the image was to make me feel that way. Almost like a child would say “oooo, you’re gonna get in trouble!” (laughing again) You have balls my friend!
VENFIELD 8: Thanks, but you know, despite people’s initial quick reaction, when you really look at them, you will notice that these images don’t harm the brand. No malice is intended. In fact, these are just my way of celebrating the brands, and I think that comes through. Lots of artists use logo and brands in their art – and lots put it in a bad light – as if to get street cred by trashing a fashion house or something. I can make observations on a consumerist society and the far reaching lust of luxury without resorting to bashing things. And at the end of the day – just because I use a penis in my images, does not make it shocking or liable. It just means I have done something the actual brand couldn’t do.
OOFAHPapa: To me, I deem art as anything that elicits a response. Your work, provokes a response. It polarizes me internally. The majority of your work takes strong sexual imagery and yet instead of titillation as its main goal, it provokes thought. Is that intentional?
VENFIELD 8: Thanks. Yes, it is a bit intentional. I like a picture of a beautiful man as much as the next Tumblr viewer, but fuck – there is so much of it out there. After a while, it all becomes numbing. I didn’t want to just take “pretty boy” pictures, because frankly, there is so much out there, and a lot of it is pretty banal. Not that there is anything wrong with eye candy, but I appreciate pictures that say something more than “ aren’t I pretty?” When I started shooting as Venfield 8, I figured, people are either going to like it or hate it. I’d prefer that you like it, but if you hated it, then that is okay too. If the viewer just goes’ “Meh”, then I haven’t done my job. I live in constant fear of mediocrity.
OOFAHPapa: That is not to say it is devoid of titillation either. They are beautiful subjects, photographed and lit beautifully. The appreciation is immediate. Your work is undeniably hot. The sex captures my attention, the underlying layers, keeps it.
VENFIELD8: Thank you. That really means a lot to me.
OOFAHPapa: My pleasure. It’s Punk, Pop, and Sophisticated, all at once.
VENFIELD8: Thank you. I recently read a comment where someone said of the images, that the surprising thing about my work was that the common denominator, regardless of subject matter, was an inherent “chic-ness” about them. That made me smile. I do put a lot of work into every session and the resultant images, so I am heartened by the appreciation from people. Especially from observers like you – I can’t imagine how many images must blaze through your retinas every day. To make something that sticks out to YOU is an achievement!
OOFAHPapa: (Laughing), thank you! I’m just a guy who shakes through the sand looking for gold. But you Sir, now you are onto something new. You have taken your hallmarks and transitioned your signatures into new places with new people. How did this all come about?
VENFIELD 8: It is just a natural progression of evolving and access. More people now are willing to go out on a limb with me, and as we all know – that is where the fruit is!
OOFAHPapa: And such tasty fruit it is. Tell me about Bear Hill….
VENFIELD 8: Bear Hill is a book, but it is also a state of mind.
OOFAHPapa: Why not Twink Hill or Muscle Hill?
VENFIELD 8: The book is an homage to BEAR POND by the great Bruce Weber. But in true Venfield 8 fashion, I chose to use “bears” rather than the fashion model types in the original. You could say that Bear Pond was the true Twink Hill, hahaha.
OOFAHPapa: Or Twink Pond. (laughing) It sounds like Venfield8 is moving into a new phase.
VENFIELD 8: I don’t know if it is a new phase. I love all types of men, and enjoy shooting different looks. I don’t think anyone could look at the work and say there is a Venfield 8 “type” necessarily. I tend to like masculinity, but masculinity is so fluid – there are so many elements to it – and it doesn’t have to fit in a box. I try to show men the way I see them, which I guess, is an extension of who I am.
OOFAHPapa: Aesthetically, our preferences change. In the past it was hyper-masculine iconic imagery that attracted us. In the 70’s it was the biker in leather chaps, Levis with aviators and a mustache. The highway cop, with muscles that seem to be bursting from his uniform. The dirty masculine trucker, at a rest stop, looking for another trucker to fulfill a need. Or the regular boy next door. In the 80’s it was about androgyny and blurring the lines. Twinks. Big frosted hair, mousse, Jheri curls and acid wash jeans. The 90’s weren’t distinctive so much. These days, we’ve moved towards HGH and steroid pumped muscle men with well manicured body hair and bodies modeled after superheros. What made you move more toward bearish naturally masculine body types? Personally, I much prefer the jungle to the manicured lawn. There is so much more mystery in the jungle (laughing).
VENFIELD 8: Yes, jungles do have an allure that is amiss on the barren plain… (laughing). I think what I personally find attractive is not always what is “in” from a fashion or trend standpoint. Except, I guess bears are kind of trendy now. To me they have always been and always are sort of classic. But I do enjoy playing with the styles of masculinity. I can certainly appreciate the beauty of someone very manicured and pretty, but it just doesn’t elicit the same sexual response in me. Not that it really matters to my work. What I get excited about isn’t necessarily translatable to my work. Being turned on isn’t a mandatory component for me to take a great picture. I chose models and looks based on what I am trying to convey, not about how I personally get my kicks.
OOFAHPapa: I think the fact that the project takes place in nature just enhances that. It feels…natural and warm. I want to step into this place. I’d like a cabin on Bear Hill.
VENFIELD 8: Yes – me too. Too bad it is a somewhat fictional place that exists only in my head…. (laughing). But it is quite lovely. That is where the state of mind comes in – and that is what we tried to create – a place the viewer can go to, something calm and innocent, beautiful and compelling – if only within the pages of the book.
OOFAHPapa: I also see a typical Venfield 8 wink with their being exactly 69 shots in the book. (laughing) Your irony is not lost on me Sir.
VENFIELD 8: Believe it or not, that is truly coincidental. You can thank Jessica, my editor for that. Maybe she is making a statement.
OOFAHPapa: So what made you choose David LaFlamme as a muse and when did you become aware of him?
VENFIELD 8: I am probably the only person on the planet that never saw him associated with Scruff. But I started seeing these images of him on Tumblr and other places, and I , like everyone else that sees him, was instantly smitten. I knew I wanted to shoot him probably from the moment I first saw him. He has that indefinable quality of sex and innocence. He is a man child in that you just want to do dirty things with him, and yet you see so much humanity in him, you just know you want to talk to him as well. I am sure millions of guys look at him and say, ‘why can’t I ever meet someone like that?” or “ I would be so happy with someone like him”. He is the rare epitome of so many fantasies. And that quality is so compelling. And I will tell you something else – even after meeting him, and getting to know him, and now being friends with him, I can honestly say, that initial quality we all see in him – it hasn’t diminished. He really is that guy. It is so unfair…. hahahaha
OOFAHPapa: (laughing). And speaking of David LaFlamme, I’d like to bring him in on this. Hi David!
David LaFlamme: Hi Papa, thanks for having me here.
OOFAHPapa: David, I became initially aware of you through the Scruff campaign. You were there whenever I opened the app, and I remember seeing your photos in a few Scruff sponsored events. I remember thinking, “wow, if guys like THIS are in this app, I’m going in” (laughing).
That app has you in part to thank for its popularity. Then photos of you started to appear on Tumblr with regularity. Did you notice that more people were starting to know who you were?
DAVID LaFLAMME: I was honestly quite surprised by the reaction. When Johnny Scruff approached me and asked to take a few pics for the app, I had no idea what what gonna come from it and now here I am doing a project with Venfield 8.
OOFAHPapa: I think a LOT of people took notice of you. Where are you from and how did you get into modeling?
DAVID LaFLAMME: : I’m originally from Quebec, Canada. I moved to the United States with my family in 1997. The whole modeling thing happened by luck. During the day I have a regular Monday through Friday day job. So I have Scruff to thank for opening up that door from me.
OOFAHPapa: Your modeling doesn’t look like modeling. I have yet to see your Blue Steel look (laughing). I don’t recall seeing you collaborate with other models before either. Was it a different experience?
DAVID LaFLAMME: [laughing] Blue Steel? that is definitely an ongoing joke. I keep being accused of doing the puppy dog eye or bed room eyes, so i guess that’s my blue steel look. As for collaborating, it was different and much more enjoyable. Ryan and John are actually friends of mine so we had a good time. It felt more like we were hanging out rather than doing a “shoot”, minus the minor naked factor.
OOFAHPapa: I’ve found myself as a blogger wishing there were more images of you available. They are so popular. And now…there are.
DAVID LaFLAMME: Well, thank you, except I hope most of these stay exclusive for those who purchase the book. I’m certain some of these images are gonna get out there and Venfield 8 is incredibly talented so his work should be seen, but this is after a limited edition.
OOFAHPapa: I’d agree. David, this project with Venfield8 is a first for you. On my blog I posted a photo recently that I found of you that had been doctored. It was nude showing frontal and to my knowledge, a first. It was actually Venfield8 who alerted me to it being Photoshopped and a fake, and I quickly took it down. To date, there have been no nude frontal images of you anywhere…until now. Now, that can be seen, only available in this beautiful collectible book. Was it a difficult decision to make?
DAVID LaFLAMME: : Actually yes it was difficult and still is. I keep having mixed feelings but I’m following my gut on this one. The photo shoot was actually the easy part. Venfield 8 was very respectable and made me feel at ease. But knowing these images are out there can be a bit nerve racking. Today’s society has censored us so much to think a certain way but this book is a work of art. There is nothing wrong with nudity and the human body. There is nothing sexual about this book. Even though we are nude, the images have a sense of purity and innocence.
OOFAHPapa: Do the fakes upset you?
DAVID LaFLAMME: Nah, it’s flattering. And plus, I have so many shirtless ones out there that those who see the edited pics have to know that’s not my body.
OOFAHPapa: What in Venfield8 made you say, “Okay…I’ll do this”? Why now?
DAVID LaFLAMME: I gotta admit, when I first read his email i thought “WHAT?” but he provided references to his work and when I looked him up, I found his work incredibly artistic, daring, and beautiful. I never thought I’d do nudes but when we met at that coffee shop and he showed me his inspiration, I saw the great potential this project could become. This was going to be a true masterpiece and I would be honored to be part of it.
OOFAHPapa: And so you are…and so it is. Venfield 8, I think there are some artists you can have full faith in. You may not be able to see their vision, but you are trusting enough to put yourself in their hands because you know they will be kind in their depiction and are capable and trustworthy. A true artist who you know will create something beautiful. I think you are one of those people. This is the first time I recall seeing a Venfield 8 image with multiple characters. More men makes it fraternal. A brotherhood of sorts. A camaraderie exists. Why did you move from one subject to many?
VENFIELD 8: When you work with one subject, you get to focus on creating a study of sorts. With more than one model, it becomes a moment or a feeling that you are trying to capture. And Bear Hill is all about those moments, whether in a group or alone.
OOFAHPapa: Venfield 8, how did you prepare for this project? Are you inspired by your surroundings and sets and models…or is it more story-boarded and clear in your head before you start the process? And what really inspired it?
VENFIELD 8: First I studied the Bear Pond book and tried to get it down to its central themes and messages. David and I discussed them and decided on what would translate and work to what we were trying to say. He coordinated finding the other bears, and after we cast it, we set out to shoot at the locations. Neither of us knew exactly what we were going to get until we got in the woods and started working together with everyone. We were very aware that we didn’t want to copy any shot from Bear Pond, but we tried to capture the feeling – and put our own stamp on it with the most respect to the original.
OOFAHPapa: It sound much more collaborative that I would have imagined. David, I’ve told Venfield8 but I’m also telling you directly. Be prepared for larger fame. With this combination of talents, it is inevitable. Get ready for a lot more “hellos” in your day to day (laughing).
DAVID LaFLAMME: Oh boy…
OOFAHPapa: (laughing) and y0u deserve every single one. Venfield, I’ve read somewhere, if the cock is hard, it’s porn, if it’s soft, it’s art. Is that true?
VENFIELD 8: (laughing). Funny. Like the saying that the difference between nudes and naked is that "naked" has staples.... (laughing) it is funny the abstract ramifications and rules we construct to censor and label things. But it is all bullshit. I just want to say that men's bodies are beautiful. An erection is a perfectly natural occurrence. If showing it makes someone uncomfortable, tough. Get some help and deal with your issues. It is beautiful, and it can be art. Erections have appeared in art since the beginning of time, and if someone wants to cling to some idiotic puritanical belief about what constitutes appropriateness, then fine, but they have no influence on me. Venfield 8 is about creative freedom and no limits. No one element anywhere or anything, changes what is considered art. Period. Hahaha. Gee - do you think I have an opinion?
OOFAHPapa: I do indeed. An opinion expressed beautifully in your work. Venfield, one last question. Will the world ever know who Venfield 8 really is?
VENFIELD 8: The world already knows… I am my pictures. Venfield 8 exists as a figment of people’s imaginations. To all the people that enjoy my work, they need only know me as the essence of what they already see.
OOFAHPapa: Gentlemen, you have outdone yourselves. Thank you guys for your time.
I urge everyone out there to rush and get this limited edition work of art. I have sneaking suspicion Batman is soon to become even more famous than Bruce Wayne if Venfield 8 isn’t careful.
BEAR HILL a book by VENFIELD 8