Candace Meyer is a Vancouver-based fashion photographer who is hailed as the queen of soft lighting and provocative poses. She often adorns her models from soft feminine dresses, yet her imagery moves beyond dated assumptions of romance. Her work involves various sensual, emotional entendres. I was first drawn to the sense of sensual stealth in her hobo photos, her model pressed against the wall, listening. Listening to what?

View a gallery of her images¨¨

Q: I heard you started experimenting with a camera from a young age. Have you always been interested in shooting figures, girls particularly?
A: I started shooting at age 18. A friend and I went out with her dad´s Nikon, and shot a bunch of photos of each other in a park, black and white. When I got the images back and liked them (only the ones of her!), I went out and purchased my first camera. I shot rolls and rolls every day after that. The only thing that has every really appealed to me is shooting women. I began by shooting my fellow flight-attendant friends, a job I did while finishing university (SFU, Communications), and then began model testing. Early on I was influenced by the look of Peter Lindberg´s women – sensuous, strong, very womanly. Shooting in Vancouver, the models are very young and when they “grow up,” they leave for New York or wherever, so necessarily I developed a book that was filled with the faces of very young, very innocent and often very demure girls. It´s a look that has stuck for me. And while photographers like Lindberg still inspire me, the only true thread is the love of shooting very beautiful faces. The edgy, more avante-garde style is one I appreciate but would never attempt to try, as it is so far outside of what I do or what I am interested in.
Q: Your photography often features soft lighting, natural earth tones with your model forms. How do you see these combined elements?
A: I believe I have been influenced greatly by my location – Vancouver. The light is special there, as are the locations. Last year I did a shoot in New York where I wanted water and sky, very simple, plain. It amazed me how hard it was to find. We ended up navigating a shoot amongst a rocky “boulder beach” – tourists at the rivers edge, skyscrapers in the distance. While I wouldn´t describe myself as an outdoorsy person per se, I do love natural light and I like the freedom of what many open, outdoor locations offer. ¨¨

Q: When working with models, do you find you’re drawn to certain soft, feminine types?
A: It is this way I was raised. I wasn´t allowed to wear pants until Grade 8. I grew up in dresses – at dance class, riding my horse, which I think is a very feminine sport in general. It seems natural that I shoot what I know.¨¨

Q: Are you interested in any romance concepts or fictions in relation to your work?
A: While I love softness and quiet, the word “romance,” when applied to my images, makes me very uneasy. Sometimes when a shoot is going too syrupy, I can feel it and I stop it. I like the softness and vulnerability that women so often and so easily display, but I like to show their strength at the same time. It is like the images of Georgia O´Keeffe´s hands by Stieglitz. They are very rough, sometimes harsh looking, but they are shot in very feminine shapes and appear delicate despite their rough texture and obvious usefulness.¨¨

Q: It seems your figures often seem to be posed alone, in states of emotional and sensual reverie. Are you interested in modelling inward processes in your forms?
A: Nothing is worse to me than images I make that seem really empty, really unthoughtful. When I am shooting, I often ask the girls to “think of something, to express something.” The top girls, interestingly, all seem to do that. Successful models, yeah, they have to be gorgeous, but they also have to be able to quickly communicate something and to show life in their eyes. It´s true that many of the girls I shoot show some sort of emotion, often sadness. This is curious as I´m not so much like that myself, naturally melancholy I mean, but I love to shoot that type of sadness which leads to seeming introspection.

¨¨Q: I find certain provocative suspense in your "Hobo" series and film. What do you think of these images? Are you interested in subculture, perceptions of wandering figures?
A: I like these images, as the subject does seem to be caught in the middle of something – we are seeing only a little bit of her problem, so to speak. I made that little film very quickly and threw in all these specific things that I like in moving imagery, just because I wanted to film a few very specific things. For example, movement in hair, fire, gentle movement in water. Some of the things that when shooting stills I would always remark, “Oh, I wish this were motion!”

As far as being interested in subculture, wandering figures ... nothing of that nature specifically has ever driven me. But I love the idea of being alone, of finding oneself alone, literally and figuratively. I used to do this more as a kid – would sit at a beach, be sad and be alone. It´s kind of funny, this period, and I see it now in other young girls occasionally. I saw a girl the other day at the beach – her family 10 yards away and she was alone, looking very sad, staring out to the water. I think it´s really beautiful, and you know that what she’s thinking is very important to her. But it’s something we lose a bit. Maybe due to lack of time, to just plain old “growing up.” I guess I am hoping to reflect some of that emotion, that importance of personal thought, in my work.¨¨

Q: I was troubled when I came across a book, called The Lolita Effect which looks at various ways the media is sexualizing younger and younger girls. Like there’s a company making padded bras for six-year-olds, pole-dancing kits sold in children’s toy sections. How do you commonly see the sexualizing of younger forms in photography?
A: There is a line that shouldn´t be crossed. Those things, padded bras for six-years-olds, to use your example, are horrendous. It´s obviously out of the child´s hands; it is a fault of capitalist industry and mostly it is the fault of unthinking parents. Modelling has done very little to curb this trend, in fact it very obviously propagates it. It´s true that many models are very, very young. Too young I suppose. Though I must admit, it is very hard to dismiss this trend, to resist shooting such girls. Very young girls have beautiful skin, clear, bright eyes, soft shiny hair, and they often have a sort of vital energy that is innocent and unabashed. Even when you look at your average Canadian five-year-old kids, playing in sunlight with their buddies, they look very beautiful – youth is beautiful. But there is a point when it is brought into an adult world, when it is made sexual, that we have a real problem. If I am shooting a very young girl, models start at 13 years old sometimes, it is very important to keep the images age appropriate.¨¨

Q: What do you think of common fantasies of girls getting together? I find your imagery much more perceptive in terms of the playfulness of girlish ingenue forms. What was it like working with your “Valentine” or “Girls” series?
A: I shot the “Valentine” series when I was living in London and felt really alone, was missing my girlfriends back home. I set up this shoot to be like a conversation between the two figures in the story with myself, the photographer, as the third party in the conversation. It has a kind of intimacy I think, that story. Rather pathetic way to make friends when I think of it Relationships with the girls in my life are very important. I am lucky to have very strong bonds with many women, my mom included. "Girls" is the only series that I have ever shot that takes that relationship a wee bit further, but it sure gets a lot of attention. I like it for the energy, the light on that day was so gorgeous, the models were into it. Often girls shot together, in a sexual way, is shot for men. My series was, in my opinion, obviously shot for women; shot by me, for me. It is less sexy and more playful, cheeky, close.

¨Q: I’m curious about the spatial associations you’re bringing to your imagery. From gorgeous island and lake settings to senses of upstate Hampstead. Are you inspired by spaces you uncover? Do you find certain spaces impart suggestive energies?¨
A: I like wide, open spaces and so naturally that leads me to the water time and time again. My agent is always moaning, "Oh, another water shot." But it´s really what I love, for it´s simplicity and permanence, and the more that I shoot, the more I realize that success and happiness come only when you are true to yourself and you allow yourself to really do what you do.¨¨

Q: How much are you directing the “exposedness” of some of your figures? What was it like to work on the series “Crazy in Love,” where there seems to be a young couple?
A: This is a very old story, one that I wouldn´t shoot today. It is so interesting to look back over the last 15 years and see how my interests have changed and how they have stayed the same. “Crazy in Love” represents change. It is mildly torturous shooting couples for me now. It is very hard to keep it from looking cheesy, contrived.¨¨

Q: Is “Chamber 8” located in an actual space? How do you see provocative associations with hotels?
A: If I can´t shoot at a beach, give me an all-white room any day, which is where “Chamber 8” is shot. I suppose that the vastness, and again, the simplicity, is what appeals to me. But there is enough information in the texture of the space, the dynamism of the light, that we understand that it is not a studio. It is a space in time. Those locations never date, they remind anyone of anything, the interpretations are limitless. And it is that way when shooting. A blank space allows you to create something with your subject that will not be influenced by a dressed set. It is then just up to you and the subject to tell a story, to make something of very little.¨¨

Q: How do you see processes of depicting lingerie, semi-nudity in photography? Do you think lingerie, when used, imparts the most attractive manifestations of direct sartorial sensuality?
A: I would like to shoot more lingerie. It is exciting to see more of people. When a model emerges in her first lingerie look, the entire crew always reacts with a kind of reverence for her form. It just is not something we often see in day-to-day life, that amount of flesh. When photographed properly, lingerie shoots can be exceedingly beautiful. Not often do we walk around home totally nude, but often we girls walk around in lingerie. It is that glimpse into a private life, the quietness of being alone, that is most sexy to me.¨¨

Q: Do you think men and women see lingerie differently? What do you find most sensually interesting in terms of apparel?
A: It just seems to depend on which guy you talk to. Obviously, research has shown that the sexual “hard sell,” the blatant display of sexuality, is very powerful and effective in marketing to men. But it seems that many men also are attracted to something much more subtle. Women, it seems, are attracted to the most subtle sexualized imagery of all. An analogy may be found in burlesque dancing; many men find that style of performance to be very sexy, enticing. They like it because it doesn´t show everything, but it shows a lot. For me, well, I like ballet.¨¨

Q: There are suggestions of narrative ambience in some of your work. Do you find you’re relaying sensual stories to your models in any of these series, like “Lagoon”?
A: Sometimes I will loosely tell a story with the images. And if I am attempting to do so, of course the model and I will discuss “the plot.” Fashion stories are always funny, as they are so disjointed and often, in the end, it is only the team who kind of gets it. And only kind of. But instead of just shooting pretty pictures, it is smart to start with an idea of a mood, of a glimmer of an idea. Most often, the thing will then run away with itself and you´ll end up with something constructed out of the imagination of you and your model. For this reason, it is sometimes fun to shoot actors – they are used to telling a story and often have to confidence to portray something personal and surprising.¨¨

Q: When you look at your imagery, do you find identifications with any of your photo series?
A: I identify with all of them.

More about Candace Meyer:

Louise Bak is a poet, with books including Tulpa and Gingko Kitchen. She co-hosts Sex City, Toronto’s only radio show focused on relations between sexuality and culture (CIUT 89.5 FM). Her performance work has appeared in numerous spaces and in video collaborations such as Partial Selves and Crimes of the Heart.