shots taken over last 10 years from his first shoot through his
very latest shoot last month. Mark sat down with MJ to discuss
his artistic passion and ambition.
Mark: How did you get started in
MJ Atlas: Starting in
photography was literally a gift from a stranger. I was living
in Los Angeles and
went to pick up my mail one particular Saturday. I met, by
chance, Peter McWilliams, a writer of best-selling self-help
books and photographer. Peter asked me if I would model for him
(nude of course). I followed him up to his Hollywood Hills home.
He gave me a book of portraits he had published.
I happened to mention to him that I had an
interest in photography. After the shoot, he unexpectedly took
me to the camera store and bought me my first 35mm camera and a
couple lenses. It was a wonderful gift. I actually used that
camera in my very first photo shoot.
M: What was your experience like when you
did your first shoot?
MJ: My first shoot was exactly 10 years ago
this month. My partner Bob was a bodybuilder, and he asked me to
do some shots of him. We went out to the beach to do the shoot.
The photo of Bob lying on the beach is one of the images in the
M: What are some of your influences or
inspirations when it comes to your art?
I've always admired Jim French's work. He is one of my
photography heroes. Living in Los Angeles,
I had many friends & boyfriends who shot with Jim French. I
really loved the artfulness of the way he presented men in a
classic, powerful and sexy way. I think that's why
I have such an interest in shooting male portraits.
M: How did you come of with the concept of
MJ: My life really didn't allow me to pursue
photography until I moved from Los Angeles
to Fort Lauderdale
in late 2004. In fact, I can say that
AtlasMen started over New Years 2005. Larry Nash, a friend of
mine was visiting me from Los Angeles.
Larry has always been very encouraging of my photography, and we
did a few shots over the holiday. One of the photos became the
AtlasMen logo (back double-bicep shot), and I put up a simple
I started thinking about shooting more. I
first started taking some event shots for friends. In fact, the
underwater pool shot from the gallery show was taken at an event
in the spring of 2005. I didn't really like shooting events, so
I put an ad on Craig’s List looking for models. I got my first
few models that way.
A few months later I contacted 310lb
bodybuilder Brad Hollibaugh, who was planning a trip to
Fort Lauderdale. Brad is just an
incredibly great guy and has always been really supportive of my
work. He took a chance and agreed to do a shoot with me. In
reality, I think it was my first "real" shoot. He is a real pro.
The photo of Brad [currently in the gallery]
sitting on the lifeguard stand was from that first shoot. We
have done several shoots since that time and even published a
calendar of him last year.
In October 2005, I started the AtlasMen
"Daily Man" photo blog and started publishing a new image every
day. I had all these great photos and really wanted to share
them with people. I knew that the pressure of having to come up
with a photo every day would force me to keep shooting and
working on my photography.
I started asking my friends like Chris
Filippelli if they would model for me and things took off when
friends started referring new people to me. I've done about 150
photo shoots over the four years. It has been a great
experience, and I've met some really great guys.
M: How does it feel to see all of your
important works displayed at the same time?
Showing my work in the Dennis
has been a really nice way of wrapping up my first 10 years of
photography. It was a lot of fun to go back over all my old work
in preparation for the show. It was very retrospective.
The most recent image in the show is of the cowboy,
Julio. That was the last shoot I did before selecting images for
M: What can we expect to see from you in
MJ: I would like to continue publishing my
photo blog online. I'm also currently working on some big web
site updates. I'm planning to finally put together a book this
year. It is something I've wanted to do for a while but haven't
had the time. I've got some interesting ideas for upcoming
shoots. I'm always looking for great models and would also like
to shoot a lot of couples and groups of friends for book about
gay men relationships.
M: Do you have any advice for those looking
to get into photography?
MJ: Just shoot. Great cameras
are inexpensive these days, but equipment really doesn't matter.
Photographers like Michael Alago (roughGods.com) take Polaroid’s
and shoot with small digital cameras for great results.
Photographers should also work on developing
their personal eye. They shouldn’t bother looking at other
people's work; they should just focus on what THEY like. It is
the uniqueness of your vision that will make your photos
interesting. Also, there are lots of great opportunities to
shoot men around here!