I first met Nate Walton at Family Books in Los Angeles, where he works sometimes. When I Google'd him later and saw his photography, I felt like I should've already known more about his work. His specialty is shooting nudes; the photographs are intimate studies, often turning un-extraordinary situations into beautiful snapshots of a moment. And he's really good at photographing butts.
More recently, I've noticed that Nate's nudes feel very female-friendly, and it surely has something to do with the fact that he has his subjects approve all photos before posting them online — they become collaborative, in a way.
Nate came over to my place, and we chatted in my kitchen over some glasses of water. I offered him coffee but he was already jacked up on the stuff.
Nate Walton: I hit 10,000 followers on Instagram today. Now I'm in the illuminati.
10,000? Holy shit. That's huge.
Actually, I don't think it translates into the real world at all. And all the wackest people on instagram have like 10-50,000 followers— just the thirstiest people with the most contrived, boring feeds. There are also amazing, inspiring ones like Daniel Arnold or Soft Circle, but the vast majority of compelling Instagram accounts I've seen have far less.
I suppose it's a blessing and a curse to reach a mass audience. So what have you been up to lately?
Just taking pictures, hanging with my girlfriend. Doing a lot of community service.
Wow. You do it voluntarily or you have to do community service?
I have to do community service. It's mostly because of traffic violations that turned into warrants. Dumb shit.
Have you ever been to jail?
Yes. Three times.
During your bad boy days?
Bad person phase would be more accurate.
Were you taking photos when you were a teen?
No, never. It started just two and a half years ago.
So, what was the moment where you looked at a photo you took and said, "This is something I want to share, this is art, etc"?
Well, it started out because I had stopped doing drugs and I didn't really know what to do next. I was playing music up until then and I was over it. Cali DeWitt was the one who suggested that I start a blog, as a form of meditation. At first he wanted me to do a blog where I critiqued different energy drinks, because i was obsessed with them at the time. Instead, I just started blogging about my favorite rap albums.
And then, for my 27th birthday, Cali and a couple other friends pitched in and got me my first point and shoot camera, just for the sole purpose of posting on the blog. I was a late bloomer as a blogger. I never intended for anyone to see them, or for them to be “art”, but it kind of changed my life.
That's awesome. So when did it turn into doing nudes?
After I broke up with my girlfriend at the time, this is two and a half years ago, I was being single and sewing wild oats. Taking nudes rose out of that lifestyle. They turned out kinda nice in a way that I didn't expect. It took me a while to show anyone but then when I did, my friends encouraged to develop that aspect of my photography.
Then you started approaching people to photograph or was it always in a sexual context?
Towards the beginning it was girls I was somewhat involved with, once I felt it was appropriate to show some of those, I began to shoot friends and acquaintances nude. Once I had a small body of nude work to show, I became comfortable with approaching strangers and was surprised to find out that the reception was generally positive.
How do people usually submit to being photographed?
These days, mostly through email or Instagram. Models I shoot will often recommend their friends.
Do you try to make people look good? Or is it just about getting a good photo?
Making people look good always makes them happy… I don't want to make people look bad. Getting a good photo is of course the ultimate goal. I think most people are more photogenic than they give themselves credit for.
How much control or input do you give the subject?
100% input. Boundaries are always discussed first. Trust is crucial. After a shoot, I send the photos to them first and if there's anything they're uncomfortable with, then nobody ever sees them. There are certain ridiculous cases where someone will say, "I dunno, my elbow looks weird in this picture" and I'll have to tell them, "Your elbow? That's insane." If I think its worth defending, then I will, but the more collaborative the shoot is, the better the photos are, in my experience.
Who is on your wishlist for women you'd like to photograph?
Stacy Martin from “Nymphomaniac”. Charlotte Rampling. Emily Ratajkowski.
I THINK MOST PEOPLE ARE MORE PHOTOGENIC THAN THEY GIVE THEMSELVES CREDIT FOR.
Would you ever shoot nude males?
Yeah, I have.
Are they out there?
I'm kind of compiling them at the moment.
What kind of guy are you looking for?
I'm not really looking [laughs]. I don't quite have the same eye for the male nude, and I don't want to be insincere. But whenever I'm approached about it, I will generally say yes.
Who are the men you would love to photograph nude?
Jason Nocito. Jerry Hsu. Harsh Patel.
Have you ever shot a nude self-portrait?
Have you been to a nude beach?
Never, I'd love to go.
Do your parents have an opinion on the nudes?
We've never discussed it. We've never even discussed sex. My dad's a preacher, and I'm horrified to think about it. I know he's an avid Google’r…
He's googled you.
Yeah and all that comes up when you Google me is a bunch of butts. We will probably never discuss it.
It's fine. It's great. We don't ever need to go there.
Now that you have 10,000 followers on Instagram, is there pressure to post more stuff?
No, I feel like it's not as exciting anymore. It was lame to get caught up with wanting those kinds of numbers, but I totally did. And now I feel relieved. I can put the phone down. Maybe I'll sabotage it.
Now just post people with their clothes on and you'll lose followers really fast.
I definitely would.