If you run into Brenda Staudenmaier around town, she's likely to be crouched behind her camera at a bar filled with half (or fully) naked people showing off for her lens. The self-described MILF better known as "The Lovely Brenda" snaps for Vice magazine and local sites Velvetlist.com, and punk porn site Burning Angel (needless to say, it's not safe for work for most of you).
Her site's logo, of a skull with flapping wings, is indicative of her eye for the bizarre, twisted, and colorful (and often nude), including clubgoers on the dance floor, handjobs, Coney Island antics and lots and lots of tattoos and bared breasts. From suds and pigtails to a sidewalk split in roller skates to a strategically placed rubber duckie, her porn photos cheerfully mix cuteness with attitude, using outdoor backdrops, doorways, bedsheets and furniture to play up each shot's unique outlook-think ruffled pink panties, a sneer or a smile, and plenty of ink. Homogenized punk princesses, these are not. Burning Angel's star Joanna Angel has called her "the most disgusting, yet amazing photographer," and while it's easy to see why, Staudenmaier goes far beyond shock value. Her work has also been published in Adult Video News,Hustler,Penthouse, and Screw, and she's slated to appear on upcoming episodes of Playboy's Sexcetera and HBO's Pornocopua.
When she's not getting girls to show off their tattoos, the 26-year-old Williamsburg resident enjoys hanging out with her 3-year-old son Hayden, watching Passions and Days of Our Lives, and text messaging, though is rarely without her camera. She hates to have her own photo taken, though she will submit to its greedy stare on occasion, as she did in the accompanying photo for renowned photographer Richard Kern. Read on to find out about her adventures photographing the likes of Tim Armstrong and Amanda Lepore, her party radar, and why porn photo shoots are akin to sleepovers.
Most of your work seems to be portraits or nightlife photos or Burning Angel models, but all are of people. Do you ever shoot landscape or inanimate objects? What are you trying to capture when you pick one shot out of a whole set of a person?
Shooting landscape is something that never appealed to me. Living in New York City, I get exposed to so many interesting people . . . it's just what I'm inclined to shoot.
You also shoot at parties around town for Vice and Velvetlist—what do you look for when you're out at a bar or club? Is it always obvious where the action is, or do you have to wait for the right moment or image to pop out at you?
I'm a part-time club photographer for velvetlist parties. All the photos I take at these events go up on the velvetlist website. The "gems" as Gavin McInnes [owner of Vice Magazine] would call them, go in the do's and don'ts of Vice. Being the do's and don'ts photographer has made me develop a radar in my brain for any exposed tits, ass, fashion faux-pas, people passing out drunk or puking.
You've shot people such as Tim Armstrong and Amanda Lepore and other artists and personalities. When you're photographing people who've been photographed hundreds, if not thousands, of times before does that make a difference in how you approach the shoots?
I think it's important to act as un-fan like as possible. From what I've learned, all celebrities just want to be treated like normal human beings. It's weird because most "normal human beings" in this city really want to be treated like celebrities.
You're work's up on billburg.com and I recognized local bar Tainted Lady Lounge in the background of some of your shots. Do you live in Williamsburg? Does shooting in Brooklyn vs. Manhattan affect the outcome/vibe of the photos?
I love the Tainted Lady, I've shot there several times. It's one of the coolest looking bars in all of New York, and it's also one of my favorite local spots to kick back and drink a beer at. I do live in Williamsburg, so I feel a bit more comfortable shooting in my area. However, shooting in foreign un-familiar territory can be just as fun.
How did you get involved with porn site Burning Angel and how often do you shoot for them?
I responded to a craigslist ad that Joanna Angel posted. She called me up the night before a shoot in a panic. I was waitressing at Time Cafe and snuck out for a smoke break just to return her call. The first shoot was a total disaster, but Joanna and I clicked really well . . . and she continued to call me up for Burning Angel shoots. One thing led to another and a year later I'm "The Lovely Brenda."
How much do you direct the models during your shoots? I'm thinking of something like this schoolgirl with the apple in her mouth and the naked girl in the sink—whose ideas were those?
The schoolgirl shoot was Joanna's idea, and the naked girl in the sink was mine. The ideas for the shoots are a combination of people's ideas, sometimes mine, sometimes Joanna's, sometimes the girls and sometimes the make-up artist or the stylist come up with ideas that work. That's what's so fun about BurningAngel-we can always make anything work if we put our minds to it. The fact that we also shoot anywhere and everywhere BUT a photography studio also makes things more fun and interesting.
Do the girls modeling for Burning Angel have a sense of what they want their photos to look like or do they rely on you to set up the shots?
It really all depends. The girls doing their first sets are usually more shy and apprehensive about coming forward with an idea. Girls who have several sets on the site like Kylee or Sabrina usually come up with ideas on their own. It's really cool . . . like me and Joanna both sit around thinking of ideas for shoots, and when the girls are doing that in their spare time as well. It makes everything that much more creative. Sometimes the girls come up with their own ideas and I modify it a bit and vice versa.
How does being a woman in a traditionally male field affect both the way you work and the outcome? Do you think the models are more comfortable with you because you're a woman?
I think that almost every field is traditionally male dominated, and women have to work extra hard at no matter what they do. I definitely think the models feel more comfortable around me because I'm a woman. Between me, Joanna and the girls, photoshoots feel more like slumber parties than they do work. When a girl is posing naked for their first time it's a very delicate situation and I try to be as atuned to the girl's needs as possible.
Do you consider yourself a pornographer?
Well, first and foremost I'm a photographer . . . but yes, I'm a photographer who shoots pornography so I guess that does make me a pornographer.
What's the biggest mistake you've made during a shoot, and how did you wind up fixing it?
Well, it was actually after a shoot, not during the shoot, but hundreds of really crucial photos somehow mysteriously deleted off my hard-drive. I ran to Mikey's Hookup hoping someone there could salvage the missing photos and I caused quite a scene when I ran in crying about all the lost pornography on my hard-drive.
You've been on the set of Joannas Angel's and other porn movies, documenting the action with your camera. Do you have any naughty or funny porn set tales? What's it like to be an observer on set?
Well, on the set of Joanna's Angels 2, I fisted Kylee Kross [laughs] she wanted me to. Joanna tried to get me to stick things in her ass on several occasions, but I feel weird . . . being that she's my boss and all. Tommy Pistol hits on me but I think he hits on everything. So I don't know if that counts.
Most of the people you photograph are tattooed, freaky, naked, or all three–certainly most are deliberately outside the "mainstream" in some way. How does this affect your interaction with them and their interest in posing
for the camera?
That's just normal for me. I live in Williamsburg. Us weirdos are the mainstream in Williamsburg.
You also posed for Richard Kern—what was it like to be on the other side of the camera? Does being a photographer yourself make you a better model?
I hate having my photos taken! It's torture for me. I had Richard Kern shoot me because he is one of the only people I would trust taking my picture.
Do you have a favorite of all your photos, and if so, why?
Pinky's panty shot, and the photo ofvSmiley's knuckles. They are 2 photos that I can actually put up in my apartment and not worry about my child seeing them.
Do you take your camera with you all the time when you go out, or do you only take it when you're working?
I would feel more comfortable forgetting my wallet than forgetting my camera.
You've done dozens of shoots, but is there a dream set you'd like to shoot someday, or else what would be your fantasy dream sequence shoot?
[laughs] I want to photograph Terry Richardson jerking off.
You describe yourself as a MILF on your MySpace page. How old is your son, and where do you guys like to hang out? Do guys hit on you when you're out with him?
Hayden is 3. We hang out at Willy Bees, Stone Deaf Studios, Buffalo Cantina, and the park when it's a little warmer. This is a funny question because I do get hit on a lot with him. He's a really cute kid and has been raised by me and all my artist friends so he has a pretty rad personality. Guys really dig him, and he brings out the softer side of everyone.
Photo by Richard Kern