Like many of his fellow Los Angelenos, Dave Naz’s first artistic expression manifested through playing drums and guitar in a punk rock band. Naz’s primary band, Chemical People, toured from 1986 through 1997, taking Naz on an extended excursion into the off-center heart of America. Once Naz picked up a camera and pointed it at people, that kilter-defying locale remained an artistic homebase.
Drawn to the images of Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, and Diane Arbus, Naz has amassed a body of work that has drawn the likes of Richard Prince, who has incorporated several of Naz’s photos in his own art.
Naz’s Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities was released by Rare Bird Books in 2015.
From Rare Bird:
Dave Naz explores the gender spectrum in an entirely new way—by turning his camera on subjects that are genderqueer, transgender, intersex, pangender, and every shade in between. Genderqueer is an eye-opening musing on all of the people who don’t fit neatly into a convenient box.
The Skeeve: Did you receive any friction for incorporating the word queer into your book’s title?
Dave Naz: I haven’t, but queer is a powerful word because it has been reclaimed by a group of people in the gay community. Genderqueer is a term used by some who don’t identify as male or female or sometimes a combination of both. Some use the terms gender-netural or gender-fluid, etc. Everyone in the book doesn’t have the same gender identity, but I believe all are comfortable with the term queer.
The Skeeve: What are the parallels between punk rock identity and gender identity?
Dave Naz: Several subjects in the book were in the punk scene where you could get away with being androgynous and people wouldn’t pass judgment on you. Some were part of the Queercore and Riot Grrrl scenes. Trans performers in the early days of punk like Jane County and, more recently, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! have helped pave the way.
The Skeeve: Why photography?
Dave Naz: I like video too and I interviewed many from the book for my documentary Identity: In & Beyond the Binary. You can find it on YouTube.
Still photography is my favorite medium. You can capture something with photography that you can’t with video. I love movies and documentaries, but photos are what I think about most and have had the greatest impact on me. The great photographers (Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Diane Arbus) inspired me to learn photography.
The Skeeve: Do you consider your work over the years to be political?
Dave Naz: The Genderqueer book is definitely activism. I like the way people such as Karen Finley have an important message in their work, but you get to enjoy the work and understand the message without being preached to. I have these portraits that hopefully people find compelling, and there are stories attached to them. My other work has not been political.
The Skeeve: How do you capture charisma?
Dave Naz: A lot of it is finding the right models and creating an environment that allows the subjects to be themselves. I like photographing people that haven’t done a lot of modeling. You get a look that can never be recaptured. I don’t like posing for this type of work. If it looks too posed, I delete it. Sometimes the model is uncomfortable, and that can be appealing too. It can add an edge to the image.
All photos copyright Dave Naz.