Today I am so pleased to welcome Dan Skinner to Joyfully Jay. Dan has come to talk to us about his latest release, The Price of Dick. He has also brought along and exclusive excerpt and a great giveaway. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Many people have noticed that a lot of my photos, when seen as a group, tell small vignettes, or miniature stories. I have frequently been asked where I got my ideas. The answer is very simple if you’re a movie watcher. A lot of them come from film. One film that I’ve ‘stolen’ ideas from several times is Lolita. There are two version of the film. One directed by Stanley Kubrick in the sixties with James Mason and Shelly Winters, and the later one starring Jeremy Irons. Both, in my opinion, are classics and I’ve borrowed from them because of their extraordinary scenes. I simply switched the characters both to male. Most everyone has seen the spaghetti eating scene I’ve done that was lifted from Lady and The Tramp. So you can see I get my ideas from all different genres of film.
I am a scripter. Which means I will write out each and every scene I want to shoot before the shoot begins. That is my ideal, because I like to frame the shot and light it the way I have planned it in my imagination.
But only lately I have allowed models to come prepared with their own ideas and I’ve gone along with the flow because I wanted a younger, fresher and more original look to my work. I’m still a pain (obsessive, some might say) about my lighting, so I make them go through the motions of the shot they want to do, and then I arrange my lights around it to give me the look I want.
My first preference will always be to shoot outdoors. I like the idea of love being seen in the expanse of the world. Open and free. I scout for locations all the time and discover quite a few by mistake.
The other option I like to have for ideas… is to actually solicit them from authors themselves. Their creativity is limitless… and they always come with stories. So it’s win-win for me to work with them.
So if you have an idea, do not hesitate to send it to me. It might be the next one I shoot!
As a man having lived his life behind the camera lens, I can say that in all the world, there’s nothing more intimidating than seeing a crew haul in and set up lights, a microphone and sound system and video camera in your living room, then point them straight at you. Abject terror stabbed the center of my chest. My breath caught. Blood left my head. In fact, it seemed it had left my entire body. My face felt numb.
The reporter sensed my fear. “This is simple stuff, Mr. Johnstone. Just look directly at me. Pretend the camera doesn’t exist. You’re talking just to me.”
Ironically, she was rehashing the speech I gave to all my new models before a shoot. Yet there I was; professionally dressed, looking better than I had in years, the author of a successful novel, yet feeling insecure the minute my eyes honed in on that polished round piece of glass staring inhumanly at me.
Alex brought me a glass of his iced chai tea sweetened with honey. He bent and whispered, “Time to bloom, J.J. Every challenge you’ve faced has brought you to this moment to do some good. One seed, many flowers. Just tell what’s in your heart. Help others come into the sunshine.” And with that he cupped my chin and kissed me on the mouth. I felt all the life and strength pour from him into me. It felt like I imagined kisses were supposed to feel. It filled me with purpose. I was fearless. All of his coaching for this moment was in my head like a bulleted outline. It was as if it had flowed from him to me magically.
I talked about my epiphany; my transition from shooting straight romance to gay romance, the challenges and stigmas that worked against me for years that had gradually began to turn the tide because of mainstream television and motion pictures. I spoke about how I wanted my work to be used to further the cause of marriage equality, to mark the consciousness of society with an imprint that we, the gay Americans, were here, and not going away. I explained ways in which I hoped things would change because of that imprint. Finally, I told her why I was compelled to write a sweeping, epic gay romance that was directly created for consumption by the mainstream public, not just gays.
“I wrote something for us,” I explained. “But it is also universal for them. I wanted to show that love, itself, is universal in the hope that one day there wouldn’t be an “us and them.” That one day gay marriage would be as ordinary as any marriage. That jewelry shops and wedding planners would welcome us equally with open arms.”
I said I dreamed that one day, television and magazines would feature ads with gay couples and it would no longer be remarkable. That we’d be as mainstream as love itself. It all poured out of me like I was reciting heartfelt passages from a cherished play. The words that had laid hidden in me for so long were now out.
“One last question, Mr. Johnstone.” She’d laid her notebook aside and leaned in toward me. I could tell this was not a part of her script. “National Coming Out day is just around the corner. What words of encouragement do you have for those who still haven’t come out?”
This time I turned to look directly into the lens as if I was speaking to each person out there. I sensed it was the most important thing I could say to anyone who was gay. I knew enough about the subject now to speak with some confidence.
“I’m going to steal a phrase from my book. ‘You can’t dream in the light, if you can’t live in it’,” I recited.
She thanked me. The camera light went off, and the crew stood and clapped. Dionne hugged me, shook my hand hard, then told me I was an inspiration. Alex smiled at me with tears in his eyes.
I was the Lotus.
His name is Richard but he’ll say, “Call me Dick.” He’s a big, butch, brainy guy in an executive suit, hotter than spit on a skillet. The type of guy you can see fully dressed and imagine buck naked in the throes of an orgasm – every six-feet-two, muscular, sexually intoxicating inch of him. He’s an ambitious freshman in a prominent brokerage firm who’s figured out he can use more than his smarts to get ahead. He’s perfected a surefire method to drive home a hard deal. No one can resist him. And he’s got one really big secret. But that will cost you.
For photographer J.J. Johnstone, the price of Dick just might cost him everything.
I’d already been in the photography business for too many years to count, shooting covers for hetero romance covers when I had my epiphany (ten years ago now) to shoot gay book covers and make them as acceptable and mainstream as the hetero ones. It was a big risk and I was told by many people, especially people who advised me financially, that it might not be a profitable thing to do, and could quite possibly ruin my reputation. But I was tired of seeing the proliferation of covers featuring a man and woman, the cologne and perfume ads featuring a man and a woman… every ad under the sun – only featuring a man and a woman, and knowing that only one side of life was being spoon fed to us by the media as the acceptable aspiration and ideal. In fact, it made me angry and crazy, and determined to do something about it. We were here… didn’t anyone see us?!!
I had several things working against me. The m/m fiction genre was just beginning to come into its own, but television and the entertainment industry were slowly allowing us into their vision as folks who existed right alongside them, and I knew the flux and flow of gay literature was going to eventually change. Will and Grace helped that. Brokeback Mountain helped that. So I had hope and crossed my fingers that I made a good choice as well as a conscientious one.
Along with that, I had to find guys daring enough to pose with each other in photos mimicking the same love and adoration as was seen in every Harlequin cover since time immemorial… They had to embrace and kiss and portray romance… between two people of the same gender. So finding the guys was going to be a chore… and finding guys in the Bible belt of the country, the Midwest, was going to be even tougher. But I did it.
Revenge is mine… the dbag’s bed has been christened by the models during a shoot!!
This is where I can be found on-line:
- facebook: D.w. Skinner
- twitter: @ DanSkinnerArt
Dan has brought a copy of to The Price of Dick give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Sunday, June 22nd at 11:59 pm EST.
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