Interview with Photographer Evan Butterfield, Part 4

Welcome back for part four of our chat with Evan Butterfield, creator of Gentlemen of Steampunk.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.

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Airship Ambassador: We were just talking about how the photo shoots go. What challenges came up during shoots? Any interesting behind-the-scenes stories to share?

Evan Butterfield: Security can be a challenge, for the models. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised) the stories I hear! There are some seriously creepy people out there claiming to be “photographers,” who are not really interested in photography, and make it a lot harder for semi-amateurs like myself. Nearly all the women I’ve worked with insist on bringing a companion—another woman, or sometimes a boyfriend. One model brought her father the first time, although she came alone on subsequent shoots; I guess I passed the “dad-test” for un-creepiness! Companions are fine as long as they stay quiet and don’t try to supervise the shoot; somebody has to lace that girl into her corset, and it’s kinda nice to have some assistance!

For men or women, I’ll always show them around the condo so they can see there are no gangs of thugs waiting to pounce on them—it’s risky for them to go to some stranger’s house, after all. (Of course, it’s risky for me, too, but I spend a good deal of time chatting with models on the phone or via email, and I always meet them at the condo community gate and have a good opportunity to sort of check for red flags as we stroll back through the grounds.)

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AA: Putting together a book doesn’t happen overnight. What of schedule and scheduling issues did you and the models face?

EB: I wish it happened overnight! Well, the main scheduling issue is that, unfortunately, doing steampunk photography isn’t my job. My work is pretty demanding, so I have to shoot around that. Then add the fact that for most of my models, modeling isn’t their primary vocation, either, and in many cases their jobs are at night or odd day hours, or they’re students, so we have to coordinate all sorts of work schedules to make this happen.

That’s probably the biggest logistical issue. Then after the shoot, it does take some time for me to do all the magical Photoshop gymnastics to get the vintage look I’m after—I know a similar effect can be achieved in a click with an Instagram filter, and that just annoys me. So time is not my friend.


AA: You posted a blog sharing some thoughts about the whys and wherefores, and feedback, on this book. What are some memorable reactions to Gentlemen which you’ve heard about from the steampunk community and outside of it?

EB: My favorite thing, which I think I mentioned in the blog, was the reaction of most of the men, at least to the first set of photos, which was outrage and shock. The women (and a few men) posted very positive remarks, but some of the men felt the images were “pornographic” and “exploitive.” I thought that was very funny, especially given how women have been portrayed. Now, I have no problem with anyone showing off skin, I just think there should be…equal opportunity voyeurism.

The funny thing is, I’m a gay male, but I initially entered into this project with a female audience in mind, and much of my speechifying on the subject reflected that. I received a number of emails from other gay men, though, who reminded me that my audience was not just women. Overall, though, over time, the reaction from both men and women has been very positive, and the complaints have pretty much faded away.

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AA: What kind of attention has Gentlemen generated? Any new opportunities because of it?

EB: I think so. Photos from the book were featured on a gay-news website called Queerty and activity on my website went up quite a bit. Seven of the GoS photos will be in a juried exhibit at Bent-Con (November 7-9, 2014), and I’ll be doing special Con pricing on the digital versions of Gentlemen and Aether. Also this interview. A number of people have urged me to do panels or something at cons, which is very nice, but I’m not sure I really have anything useful to say in that kind of venue. I could show pictures and do readings, I guess, but would anybody show up for that? I don’t know.


AA: Everyone has to start somewhere and build from there. What can you share about the sequel?

EB: Well, I can share a photo that will be in it. To some extent, Gentlemen of Steampunk, Version the Second will be very similar to its predecessor: some skin, some steampunk, some text describing the various characters and world. As I said, though, my model pool is randomly selected by choice (though the specific models I choose from that pool is my call, obviously), and some interesting things have happened. There will be a bit more ethnic diversity, for instance, and a couple of older models.

Not all the models have gym-bodies, but one in particular is phenomenally sculpted. The models are skewing a bit younger. Interestingly, maybe as a result of that, I have a lot of models with buzz cuts and shaved heads, which makes for an interesting overall aesthetic.

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AA: Looking beyond steampunk, photography, and working, what other interests fill your time?

EB: I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that I quite enjoy PC gaming. I have some very specific requirements for what I’ll play: first-person shooters set in very large, open sci-fi or dark fantasy worlds with a weird, idiosyncratic look and some dark humor. So the Bioshock series, the Fallout series, Skyrim, Dishonored, the Wolfenstein reboot, that sort of thing. I don’t do MMOs because I prefer to keep my incompetent gameplay private.

I read a lot of history: I just finished a great book called Shooting Victoria by Paul Thomas Murphy, about the alarming number of assassination attempts made against Queen Victoria, and The Faithful Executioner by Joel F. Harrington, about a 16th century German executioner, and Peter Ackroyd’s amazing London: the Biography. Also science fiction (Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Haldeman, Rajaniemi, Ken MacLeod, Ian M. Banks, Frank Herbert; I go back to China Mieville all the time—I love his work because it’s so strange and complex and interesting and compelling!). I subscribe to a great online magazine called “Clarkesworld,” and it has an really fine quality of fiction that it delivers with amazing consistency.

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I can’t do fantasy, for the most part—George R.R. Martin and Tolkein…I just find those worlds impossibly complicated to wrap my brain around. But I do love reading, and I love my Kindle, and it’s fed my reading habit very wickedly. Because I can carry around hundreds of books, I end up reading multiple things at once.

I love movies, too, and traveling. My husband and I have been to Iceland, Argentina, and most recently honeymooned in the south of England. I travel quite a bit for work, and have a real fascination with China—even though it takes forever to get there! I’d be lying if I didn’t say we like watching TV probably more than’s good for us. And we have a cat, so of course serving his whims takes a good deal of my time, too.


And there is still one more post in this interview, so we’ll pause here.

Keep up to date with Evan Butterfield’s latest news on his website.

You can support Evan and our community by getting Gentlemen of Steampunk here and Aether & Rhyme here.


Published in: on December 17, 2014 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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