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MJ Atlas - AtlasMen

"AtlasMen" include 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.    

"ON DUTY"Mark: How did you get started in photography?


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 gallery show.


M: What are some of your influences or inspirations when it comes to your art?


"REFLECTING"MJ: 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 AtlasMen?


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 web site.


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?


"DEEP END"MJ: Showing my work in the Dennis Dean Gallery 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 the show.


 M: What can we expect to see from you in the future?


 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!