How did you guys meet each other and decide to start taking nudes of strangers?
M: We met at a secret Knapsack reunion show at The Void a few years ago. Brandy had just returned from Europe and kept trying to walk outside with her drink because she’s an adult and she had forgotten that here in America no one is treated like an adult. Anyway, we got to talking and I noticed that she was beautiful, well traveled, intelligent, and very very funny in a dry and self effacing sort of way. We kept in touch and our first date was at the Live Wire 21st anniversary thing. One of my cameras does multiple exposures and Brandy and I went to Balboa Park to learn how to shoot them. We noticed that it was most effective on bare skin so we ran home and did a bunch that way. We posted a few of them and several of our friends said it looked amazing. Brandy was looking for ideas and came upon this one shot that she forwarded to me saying she wanted to get a look like that. When I saw it I noticed that it wasn’t multiple exposure but was an image projected onto someone’s back. We got an old slide projector from her father with some old random slides and started shooting what was to become our project for the next couple years. We loved how they looked! Around this time we asked our friends Steph and Alex if they would like to be our subjects so we could both focus on how best to do it. They were the first brave souls. We set up an Instagram account so we wouldn’t be bombarding our pages and annoying our friends. We named it Strangers In A Fire after a Lunar Maps song which is my dark weird pop project. After those first shoots we decided to add a digital projector and now the possibilities seemed limitless.
Has photography always been an important part of your life?
M: We have always been fascinated by it but really decided to explore it more fully a few years ago and subsequently we bought some better cameras and lenses and a backdrop and some rudimentary photography lighting gear.
Where do you find your subjects?
M: At first we just shot our friends who would comment on our pictures. Later we started reaching out once we got more confident that we weren’t going to be wasting everyone’s time. Now it’s a mix of people messaging us wanting a shoot and us approaching people that we feel we could do something cool with.
You shoot a lot of rad women & men in the San Diego music and art scene, is there a reason for picking them?
B: Well, Mitch was in No Knife and has a lot of musician friends. We also always add an element of music to our posts, whether it’s lyrics or song titles. I guess artists and musicians are more likely to want to do photos with us a another creative outlet.
M: We really want to get more into shooting our favorite bands in a unique way too. We are both very into music and it permeates every aspect of the things we do so it’s natural for us to gravitate toward musicians and artists.
What’s the preparation process for a photoshoot with a stranger?
B: Like an actual stranger? We make screens, set up, sometimes clean the bathroom and drink a bunch of wine.
M: How was the process for you?
R: I loved it honestly. It was so freeing and you guys are the coolest. You made me feel so comfortable and drinking the wine helped a lot too! It didn’t hurt that I had just got back from a weekend in Mexico with a beautiful English dude. It was a very liberating and freeing experience.
If you could have your work displayed anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
B: I would love to have our work (even just one photo) displayed in Paris and bought and then I would feel like a part of me lives there. It’s my favorite city.
M: We want to have shows all over the world so we can travel there and take pictures and drink exotic cocktails. I’d like to go to Japan and Berlin and NYC and Milan and Paris and Madrid and Barcelona etc etc etc etc.
If you could have the chance to photograph anyone DEAD or ALIVE naked, who would it be and why and what would you project on them?
B: I don’t care- I’ll shoot alive and dead people. Everyone has an interesting aspect to them.
M: Hmmmm… Penelope Tree, David Bowie, Francoise Hardy, Sade, Helen Mirren, ’73 era Roxy Music, “82 era Christian Death… we love shooting our friends and people we see around that aren’t models. I like when we can get a beautiful shot of someone who doesn’t model for a living or anything. We are learning our way around all different body types and shapes and skin tones. Everyone has an interesting aspect to them. We enjoy trying to bring that out.
What happens after your subject leaves? Straight to editing or straight to the bedroom?
B: I feel like that’s a question we get often. To me it’s just so technical that it’s like asking a gynecologist what they do at the end of the day. I’m just trying to figure out the best angle and exposure. Sometimes I forget that it’s even sexy.
M: When we first started it was very strange to have someone come over and remove their clothes so we could photograph them; but I think anyone who has modeled for us will agree that it’s very important to us that we make sure they are comfortable and we are always very professional. Like Brandy said, we are buzzing around trying to troubleshoot the lighting and get really interesting poses and angles. We do our best to get the most compelling images of each person that comes in trusting us to use them as a canvas to make something unusual and striking.
What are your hopes for the future of Strangers in a Fire? Where would you like to see the project go?
M: We’d like to travel the world taking photographs. We’d like to learn and experiment with new techniques and styles that we find interesting. We’d like to publish a book or two once we have enough images… and then we’d like to have gallery shows in San Diego and Tijuana and LA and NYC and Europe and Asia and everywhere else that will have us.
Where can people buy prints of your work? http://strangersinafire.smugmug.com/
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INTERVIEW BY: Rachel Frank