Natural girls

For his latest book project, photographer Dave Naz went to Ross and bought lots of women's cotton underpants.

Published March 28, 2003 8:38PM (EST)

Dave Naz likes girls as they are.

Naz is a 33-year-old photographer who grew up in Pasadena, dropped out of Beverly Hills High, and toured as a musician for most of the '80s into the early '90s with bands like Chemical People and Down by Law (yes, named for the movie).

But around 1995, "I felt like I had to do something else," he says. When his best friend died, he decided to become a photographer. "I wanted to do something that he would have been into," Naz says. "I think he'd be proud of me."

Naz's latest book, "Panties" -- a collection of photos of girls in big-bottom cotton panties -- is all about a lack of artifice. The models wear no makeup and they're shot in real living rooms (and sometimes bathrooms) in bright, unromantic light. This is realism to the extreme. Some of the models have dirty feet or blemishes; some of the furniture is quite ugly. Some of the carpets the models are rolling around on need a shampoo.

That's because it's what turns Dave Naz on. I had told Naz before we started the interview that his work didn't turn me on, that it wasn't my aesthetic. I told him I was more of a romance lover. I like to see women in beautiful clothes in gorgeous lighting and with clean feet if they are going to be shoeless. He was open to talking about our differences and said he knew not everyone would like his work. So we agreed to disagree. He spoke to Salon by phone from his home in West Hollywood.

Why did you do this book of photos -- which is essentially a group of gals without makeup or even fancy panties?

My first book, "Lust Circus," is all girls and a couple of guys with extravagant latex and corsets and all kinds of fetish fashion with full makeup, so this is the next book -- something different. I use a lot of the same people. A lot of the shots [for "Panties"] started out with makeup and we ended up taking it off. It became this project.

I love girls with no makeup -- the fresh-out-of-bed look. A lot of photographers use light coming through the window, to make it more romantic. I wanted to make it like I normally would for a magazine shoot. I used just a little point-and-shoot.

What kind of point-and-shoot?

A Leica...

Quite a point-and-shoot!

Well, compared to a Hasselblad...

So where did all the panties come from? Were they the girls' own?

Some of it. I had a big collection, too. I'd go into Ross and buy $2 panties. I've never felt like such a pervert. Everyone in the store was looking at me. I was just checking the bottoms to make sure they were full bottoms ... they know you're not getting them for your daughter because you're looking at all different sizes. Finally, there's one girl in the book, Anna, who was kind enough to get me a bag of panties after I had had a few experiences in Ross.

I wanted to keep the aesthetic. To me the thong ... I'm not into that. It's unsexy to me. It's very "girls gone wild," which to me is the most unsexy thing you could ever do.

So these cotton panties are your fetish.

I also like nice Wolford pantyhose. That's my next project. That, and Vivienne Westwoods...

Wow, Wolfords are incredibly expensive. Their cheapest pair is about $50!

I know, but I reuse them. And my girlfriend gets to wear them.

Which brings up the obvious question: How does she feel about your work?

She's in the book. She's fine with it. The book looks sexual, but she also knows from being a model that when you're working it's very nonsexual. I find myself, when I'm working I'm looking at the light and where it's going.

OK, now comes the harsh question. I think I told you that I don't really like the work. It's kind of a turnoff for me to see fabric stains, toilets, cellulite. Is that all on purpose?

If I had the book done exactly the way I want it, if a girl came in with a bruise I'd put it right in front, and that's what I'd focus on. Terry Richardson does the same thing.

But is this a new aesthetic?

Well, Richard Kern taught me quite a bit when I assisted him. It's all what you're into. You shoot what you need to for the money, then you do what you are into. The reason it looks a little different is the way it's lit and the settings. It's brighter. Usually there's no makeup. I never shoot in studios. I spend a lot of time finding places to shoot. I used my old house, my new house, my mother's house ... I want it to look real.

Well, I did an informal poll around the office, and most people I showed the pictures to didn't think they were sexy. There was an "eew" factor. Did you mean it to be sexy?

I expect to get mixed reviews. Nerve loved it. They had a pic of the week for a week or two. I think it's really sexy. The funny thing is, I think a lot of women find it sexy. That's the feedback I'm getting. I haven't gotten too much negative feedback. I don't mind it, though. But you should see the original photos, with the bruises...

So you've touched them up?

A few of them. There's one girl who had a bruise from being hit by a luggage cart at the airport. I told her not to cover it up, but the publisher didn't want it in there. When it's up in a gallery it'll be the way I shot it. It makes it look different from other people's work.

The funny thing is this book is doing better than the last one. People are kind of afraid of latex ... and there weren't as many naked people either.

There is one layout that is different from the rest, on pages 148-149. It's in half-light and it's soft. It's totally different from everything else in the book. What was that about?

That is a mistake. The strobe didn't go off. It was a happy accident. The publisher liked it.

In the intro, Lydia Lunch says that you have captured women as the gods intended them ... free of all artifice. Are you against plastic surgery as well as makeup?

It kind of matters. There are two girls who have fake breasts in the book. But I don't like fake breasts at all, even looking at them. The girl on the cover [Aria Giovanni] -- they're natural. She's a pretty well-known model.

Do you see any historical precedents for the kind of naturalism you do?

Not that I know of. It's just something I've always been into. You see a certain amount of it, but it never looks the way I want it to. I made a book that I liked.

So it's not some kind of reaction against Playboy or that more fantasy kind of photography?

I'm not a huge fan of Playboy but I like the burlesque style. I'm not into the airbrushed look. Glamorous is fun, but I like it more raw. But I wasn't making a statement.

So I was going to joke that your next project should be about bras, but you've already told me it's about stockings...

I like bras, though. I like the ones from Agent Provocateur. And there's a Gucci bra that looks like a Gaultier rip-off. I just bid on it on eBay and lost. I have all these clothes I save. I get excited about finding the girls to wear them and finding the right background. It's so fun to get the film back and see what you've done.

By Karen Croft

Karen Croft is the editor of Salon Sex.

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