Jonathan Leder started his photographic career assisting superstar fashion photographer Stephen Klein in New York. He reached success with fashion photography, appearing in magazines such as A4, Sleek, Mirage and Nylon. He went on to work as a central photographer and film director in the development of Jacques Magazine with his wife Danielle Luft, who edits this new luxury erotic quarterly magazine. Jacques reinterprets classic men’s magazines of yesteryear. Their editorial content with opinion pieces, fiction and interviews is combined with striking erotic pictorials. Their tendency to use imagery that's not retouched renders more realistic tones in their approaches to imagining eroticism and women.
Q: Why did you decide to create Jacques Magazine?
A: We started Jacques Magazine in the spring of 2009. We really believed that Amjerica in particular needed a men's magazine with more class and more sophistication than what was currently available. Of course there are a lot of magazines on the newsstands today, but so many of them look exactly the same and seem to follow the same formula. So we definitely wanted to do something that was unique, but also very true to ourselves.
Related: images from the pages of Jacques
Q: Being centred in New York, are their certain sexual, cultural manifestations, subcultures there influencing your work with Jacques?
A: Not that I can think of ... I am born and raised in Manhattan, but as far as I can tell, the New York City of today is a very conservative place. I find places in the U.S. like Florida, Nevada and California much more liberated than New York. If anything, we find most of our influences outside of the city, in the more mainstream cultural heart of postwar America. I would say, with sadness, that the New York City of today is not particularly inspiring.
Q: How do you find the models you work with in Jacques?
A: We try really hard to find the right girl for the magazine. We definitely have a specific look and feel we are going for. We prefer to use girls that are American, and girls that have not done a lot of modelling in the past. Generally, I would say most of the girls featured in the magazine are really sweet people you would love to sit down and have a conversation with. Generally, quite a wholesome group and a lot of fun.
Q: Is it true you guys shoot everything on film and do not retouch?
A: Yes! Absolutely. It is one of the parts of Jacques that is unique. There are so many bad photos out there and the digital equipment is really not what it should be, even today. We really prefer the aesthetic and feel of analog film. Also, there is a much wider range of cameras to work with when you are shooting film, from old Rolleis to 35mm Nikons to Polaroids, etc. I guess you could try to simulate these film effects in Photoshop, but why bother? None of our photos ever seem to need retouching.
Q: What are the articles like in Jacques?
A: Actually, there are a lot of articles in Jacques. We are trying hard to build a strong staff of writers and are always looking for talented contributors. They range from interviews [to] articles [on] the economy, global affairs, and of course erotica!
Q: Would you describe some of the erotica you’ve featured that strikes you most?
A: The photos of Barbara Nitke from her series American Ecstasy were by far the most provocative and interesting images I have seen in a long, long time. Barbara worked on the sets of porn movies during the 1980s and shot some of the most beautiful, poetic erotic images ever.
Q: It’s been said Jacques caters to an audience who yearns for centrefolds of yesteryear. How do you find Jacques relating to its audience otherwise?
A: I think all of us probably "yearn" for the realness of yesteryear. Does anyone really want to see images of a retouched model that winds up looking like a blow-up doll? Is that sexy? We are human. We sweat. We have pores. We are not perfect. It is these imperfections that make us human. To be human is sexy. We are not all tanned, athletic, poreless, perfect beauties.
I think Jacques is looking to tell people that it is OK to be human. I don't think the girls we feature are perfect – but they are beautiful. More beautiful than girls that are too processed. If that's "yesteryear" then so be it. Maybe the world has just gotten off track. Maybe it's easier to create beauty on a computer than to go out and find it.
Q: What do you think of Jacques’s approaches to melding fashion with the erotic material?
A: Jacques is a fashionable erotic magazine but definitely not a fashion magazine. There are tons of fashion titles on the market and we have no interest in competing with them in any way. I think the major difference between Jacques and fashion magazines is that at Jacques we do not feature clothing. Of course there is clothing in the shoots from time to time, but the primary purpose of the clothing is to serve the images. We are not driven by advertisers and credits and top models.
Also, at Jacques we are really trying hard not to sell our readers things. We want them to buy Jacques for the original content and articles. We are not in the business of recommending the coolest cellphones or skis or gear or perfume, etc. I believe all these things help distinguish Jacques from other contemporary magazines.
Q: What about the video trailers? Are you planning to continue those for future issues?
A: We love doing the video trailers. Clearly the sports theme lent itself well to this idea and the squash trailer with Michea Crawford and the bowling trailer with Lauren Young were both quite successful, I think. We have more in mind for the coming Asian issue but I don't want to give them away. We are probably going to return to Super 8 for those, like the one of Tori smoking in the car.
Q: Without giving away the tone of the upcoming Asian issue, is there a certain Asian model you are thinking of in relation to eroticism?
A: The Asian fetish is certainly a particular part of the American psyche. I think, given the rise of China and the East, this is just a particularly interesting time to explore that. I can't say for sure, but I have a feeling our Asian issue will probably touch on several different cultures, rather than just one.
Q: What does the future hold for Jacques?
A: Well, we just signed two deals with distributors here in the U.S./Canada and with a distributor in Europe/Asia, so you will definitely be seeing the magazine in many, many more places. We are now printing 10 times more copies than the last issue. We have also increased our page count and will hopefully continue to do that as well. Ideally, we would love to see Jacques available everywhere magazines are sold and have it be a product that appealed to men and women on many levels, not just as pictures of stunning semi-clad women. It's supposed to be a fun project for everyone, reader included. As we are an independent company, we are free to pretty much do what we like – within reason, and I don't think we are close to running out of ideas yet.
Our goal would be to make Jacques as many people's favourite magazine ever – one they loved to read, collect, hang on their wall, etc. Wish us luck!