In a new small-format (5½ by 8 inches) magazine called Skin & Bone, photographers Philip Campbell and Brandon Shade explore the male form—all of its nooks and crannies included. The volume, which has the polished feel of an artist book, includes images they each shot over the past year. Campbell’s aesthetic is heavily influenced by fashion, and earlier this year he released a short “experimental fashion film” called Hideaway that seems to take a bit of influence from TV commercials, highly edited music videos, and perhaps a touch of Wes Anderson. Shade, on the other hand, makes photographic series, including his breezy, charming “Precious Moments,” and he maintains an active and popular Instagram account. The combination of their two styles yields a sharp, seductive, and a bit provocative take on what the human body can look like in front of a camera. We took to email with Campbell and Shade to discuss how the first issue of their biannual magazine came to be.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
ARTnews: What is Skin & Bone?
Skin & Bone: Well, Skin & Bone is a collaboration that we both came up with. We’ve always wanted to collaborate, and we didn’t find the medium that could work. We both have a similar interest in male form. Brandon comes at it from more of an abstract view, and I come from it from more of a fashion sense.
AN: What about the male form did you want to show? How did you want to explore it?
S&B: The human body is very sexy and at the same time, very raw. It’s the only physical thing we truly own. My main inspiration when shooting is how the muscles and bones move under the skin to create lines and shapes in light. The male form is important to me because it’s what I can relate to as well as what I’m attracted to. I also like to use models others can relate to and feel attracted to, even in an unconventional sense.
AN: There’s quite a bit of nudity, including full frontal. Why did you think it was important to include that in the book?
S&B: Neither Philip nor I set out to include full-frontal nudity in our work. It’s more about the mood of the shoot and what will make the image, as well as how comfortable the model is to share his body. Although most of our work does include nudity, it’s more about the emotions we can stir with posture and body language.
AN: The magazine doesn’t look like a magazine in that it has a hard cover and much smaller than what you would find a newsstand. What factored into it looking like this?
S&B: We wanted to make something small that you could hold in your hands and be intimate with. When you hold the book, it is also close enough that you also notice the light accentuating the texture of the paper. The size as well as the hardcover make it easy to carry, share, or place on your coffee table. We wanted to create something that wasn’t disposable.
AN: It also looks more like an artist book than a magazine. Since you are both practicing artists, do you think that mindset influenced the overall aesthetic of it?
S&B: The goal was to create something between a magazine and an artist book, so that is flattering to hear. Philip and I always joke that we just want to make “pretty things,” and this collaboration is no different. We wanted to create a periodical, but at the same time something people find beautiful and want to keep or collect.
AN: There is one spread that is totally empty, except for the page number and Skin & Bone logo at the bottom. Can you explain what prompted this and how you decided to place it so close to the beginning of the issue?
This occurs in a few places throughout the book and ties back into creating that “gallery-like” flow. We used blank space throughout the book to allow the viewer to focus on individual images and take a break after certain spreads. Philip, having a cinematography background has a natural instinct for laying visuals out in a storyboard fashion. The goal is to feel “beats” within the book, not just breaks between sections, but moments of pause. You can find this thought process within the image size and placement as well. If you were to break the book down into its structure, you could argue that it resembles the bones of a narrative script treatment.
AN: I think one of the most striking parts of the issue is the athletic shoot with the model working out and in various states of undress. Can you tell me more about that shoot?
S&B: Our goal with the fashion side of Skin & Bone is to work with interesting, new designers. Many times inspiration strikes just from researching them. Other times it is a blend of tones and concepts from the collective elemental database of art and film. We knew we wanted to do a vibrant fashion spread and as soon as we found Huntley Homme we were hooked.
I suppose I have been in a Kubrick kick the past year; many projects have pulled inspiration from minute, possibly minuscule details within his work. Creating a vibrant “workout room” complete with plaster cast statues and cheesy faux palm trees certainly pulls from the iconic imagery of both A Clockwork Orange and 2001.
AN: You’ve said that you wanted to give the book a curated, gallery-on-the-go kind of feel. Is that why you didn’t include any text?
S&B: Yeah. Neither Philip nor I consider ourselves writers, so we wanted to put our energy where we thought it would count. However, we’re only on our first issue, so who knows what will happen with future issues! I think that if we ever do include copy, it will be in the form of creative literature.
AN: How would you respond to any comments that the book is pornographic?
S&B: What is pornography? Personally, I find Skin & Bone to be far from pornography in the conventional sense. However, I’m not defending it against the idea that the material can be arousing. There is a wide range of men: body types, ethnicities, different states of undress, etc., inside the book, and I think the ability for the viewer to relate to these men with a sense of attraction is a natural emotion. If the viewer can see through those emotions or take something else away from the images, that’s great too. I think it’s about your own personal experience.
AN: If that’s not the intent, what should the reader take away?
S&B: Going back to the idea of making “pretty” things, what Philip and I want the viewer to take away is the experience of seeing something beautiful. If the viewer remembers even one detail from a single image, we are happy.
AN: And who would you say your reader is?
S&B: Skin & Bone is for anyone that isn’t afraid of seeing a little backside.
The second issue of Skin & Bone will be released next spring.