Tie me up! Tie me down! – Exclusive interview with brazilian photographer Fabio Motta.
How was your day Fabio?
As usual, I started my day with a green tea and lime, a yoga session surya namaskar, a cup of coffee and bread with butter. The rest of the day I spend running between different tasks. I have been editing pictures, working on a photo book and editing some of my images for screen printing a limited series of t-shirts.
Could you introduce yourself, your background, where you live, where you’re from?
I was born in Londrina and grew up in Cuiaba, both are relatively small cities in the country side of Brazil. In my early 20’s I moved to Sao Paulo and lived there for 15 years. For the past years I have been moving around, going where work and my projects take me. I have not been living on a fixed address for some time now, so I could probably resume this saying I’m 37 year old and living somewhere in Brazil.
How did you start photography and how you get interested bondage?
I became interested in photography quite young. One of the things that fascinated me was how you could capture something real, physical, but at the same time, viewed through a single frame, it became a sort of fiction. I did my first photography course in 98, but when I moved to Sao Paulo in 2000 I actually went there to study art. During my art studies I realized that I was only interested in the classes where I could use photography. I ended up dropping out, pursuing taking photos full time. In the beginning I was doing whatever work came my way, covering gallery openings, parties, fashion shows and other social events. With time I started getting editorials for magazines, and it was in one of these editorials I first encountered Shibari. I hired a shibarist to do some knots on the models, and I became fascinated with the process, the act of tying. With a steady flow of work I started focusing more on my personal projects again, what had led me to pursue photography in the first place, working with people and a space. In my first years of photography I would use my cousins as models and my parents’ house as the set. A bit of makeup and small rearrangements of the furniture would create images that were completely different from the daily life I would live there. In Sao Paulo I ended up following the same methodology, taking a large part of the pictures in my own apartment, changing the space with small layout adjustments or the addition of some other element. Bondage became a part of my images when I wanted to add a new element, or an actor you could say, to the scenes, something that could interact with both the people and the space. Since then I have been constantly pursuing more knowledge on the field, experimenting with new techniques and materials.
I have looked after ’kimbaku’ (i belvie this is the right word for it, but idf not, pls correct it) and I have read, if it’s done properly, it dosen’t hurt at all, more similar to a good yoga session. Is that true?
Kibambu is the japenese world for bondage, a ’beautiful bondage’. Shibari is a japanese verb, that means to tie. So, all these terms are correct. In my experience, it always ends up hurting a bit. That is why it is recommended to have some kind physical preparation, such as good flexibility, which could come from Yoga. People that are in good physical shape can sustain it for longer periods. It can however be dangerous to anyone, so I am always very careful and focused during the process.
How long is it takes to prepare the person for the photo session and how is the process during the shots?
Talking specifically about the bondage part, it usually takes around 40 minutes just for the tying and an hour when it includes mask and suspension. Since it is always in a different place, with a different environment and with different people, each session ends up being unique, with its own atmosphere and dynamic. There is also a personal factor related to the tolerance and endurance of each person. There is always something new to be explored.
You use flowers very often. How flowers became a part of these raw sessions?
The bondage in itself is a strong act of submission, and visually it can sometimes appear quite cruel. With the use of flowers and colors I try to bring a certain degree of delicacy and softness to my images. Flowers and nature is also something that I really enjoy in my daily life.
What is the story behind „mottamasks”? It is because the model wish to be anonymus?
The mottamask concept has to do with the idea of bondage, in particular immobilization and suffocation. It also brings a certain degree of mystery to the scene, a curiosity about the person’s identity, which I like too. In some cases, there are also people don’t want to be recognized, so it ends up serving this purpose as well.
Do you have any dream collaborator?
There are a lot of people that inspire me. Three people that are alive and would be incredible to collaborate with are the director John Waters, the drag queen Violet Chachki and actress Dita von Teese. If I had a time machine my list would include Robert Mapplethorpe and Divine.
Do you have any other passion out of photography?
Lately, everything has been about the Bondage. I have been practicing and studying a lot. I’m also always looking for new materials, colors, textures, people, and environments. That is my passion right now.
How do you see yourself in 10 years?
Well, that is a difficult question. To be honest, I have no idea. I can see myself either living abroad or in a very remote place in Brazil. In Brazil it would be a small and simple house at Chapada dos Guimarães, with a waterfall close by, very connected to nature.
How someone can apply if he wish to be a model for you?
When I started my first nude project, Faceless, it was something spontaneous I did with friends. A shoot could derive from a nice conversation, as a sort of exchange. The concept for the shoot can come from myself and sometimes it ends up being the result of collaboration with the model. I have been sharing my work on social media for a long time and in recent years the amount of people that follow my work has increased a lot. With this increase in popularity there has also been a large amount of different requests, in particular related to bondage. Many people are curious and want to experience bondage, they do not necessarily want to pose for images. People also hire me to bring them the physical experience of Shibari/Bondage and have their photos taken and that’s for their personal use only, unless they allow me o post/use them too. I have also been presenting bondage as a performance in nightclubs and in private events and on tours around Brazil. For my personal projects I always try to find people that fit what I envision for a particular image. This can vary a lot from day to day, and there is no rule as to where I find these people. Some are friends of friends, and others are people that liked my work and that happen to fit what I am working on.