Interview with Gastohn Barrios

On Both Sides of The Lens

Gastohn Barrios was interviewed about his experience in being on both sides of the lens - as a model and then a photographer. You can read more about Gastohn's work in photography in ADL's Featured Photographers including galleries of this outstanding work.

Can you tell ADL how you got into modelling?
Well...I have to say that before becoming a model, I was an actor. I started studying drama when I was a kid and worked in soap operas and plays as a teenager. At the age of 19, I decided to relocate to the United States. Whilst there, my agent started sending me to commercial auditions, but my English was not very good. I was not able to act due to the language barrier at the time. It was easier to use me for non-speaking roles and as a model. That was the beginning. Modelling was easier for me to do, and it became the way to pay my bills. I never took it seriously and I never ever called myself “a model” because I didn’t feel like one. I thought that would be disrespectful to the real models. I felt I was just an actor, acting in commercials or posing for pictures.

How did your career evolve from in front of the lens to behind the lens?
This was a natural transition. I never planned for it and I never thought that I was going to become a photographer till after one year of taking photos.

The story is funny because in my mind, the next step after working as a model, was to start my own modelling agency, which I did with my former boyfriend, who was a “real model”.

We went to South Brazil (I had already been living back in Brazil around 4 years by that time), and we opened our own modelling agency. Our plans were to discover new models and to send them to Sao Paulo or the biggest world fashion markets. But the first problem we found was that the models didn’t have good pictures, and we didn’t find a photographer who could deliver what we needed. I decided to try myself. We had nothing to lose. I started to photograph with a basic camera (borrowed) without earning any money. People liked the result, and the rest became history.

Are you still modelling?
No, I’m not (haha). My last work was in 2009 for a male cosmetic campaign, and I was the model and the photographer of it; I thought it was a good way to close a period of my life.

You have an amazing physique. What's your fitness regime?
No, I don’t (haha). I used to be very disciplined with my exercises and my diet but that´s not the case anymore.  I just try to be sensible and feel good about myself.
I think if your body is your way to earn a living, then you must take care of it. If you are a regular guy or woman with another type of work, you should just take care of your health and try to feel good about yourself. The most important thing is to love yourself the way you are.

How did you prepare for a photoshoot as a model?
There was no preparation; I always ensured I was on time and complied with what I was asked to do e.g. shaved or not shaved, or what clothes to bring etc..

How do you prepare for a photoshoot as a photographer?
It depends on a lot of things like whether or not the photoshoot is for a campaign; it depends also on who the model is and if I have worked with them before.
I try to make everybody feel comfortable and make them feel they are among friends in a relaxed atmosphere.

If we were to ask you about your most memorable photoshoot to date as a model, which one would that be and why?
Oh, I don´t know. Maybe the last and just because it was the last one.

Tell me about one of your most memorable photoshoots as a photographer?
Well, I don’t know if I have any favourite photoshoot, but I do have some pictures that I love most.
One of the pictures is called "Fallen Angel". The picture symbolizes the discrimination faced by transvestites, transsexuals and drag queens in our society. The naked and lifeless body symbolizes how deadly social condemnation can be for a person. The body in the picture is portrayed without a gender. On the pavement, you can see a pair of red high heels symbolizing their struggle with their dreams becoming reality. The wing drawn on the street portrays the main character as a martyr, a divine creature (as we all are); and at the same time, it represents the purity of all human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation.

I have a particular fondness for this picture because of its meaning and also because it was exhibited in the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art of New York. I won a LGBT Photography Contest of Next Magazine with this photo.

I also truly love a set of pictures that I called "Terra & Mare", where I photographed my boyfriend, who is a ballet dancer. I really really love everything about these photos.

Which social media platforms you use the most and why?
All of them!  Haha. But I am more focused on Instagram and YouTube.

Do you think being a model helped you be a better photographer?
Yes, indeed.  I always try to be in the shoes of someone else, but in this case, I was.  I work with models the way I would have liked photographers to work with me.

Do you have any hobbies outside photography?
Filming or videography; it’s something that I really love. I also, love to write, poems mainly.

Any advice from you to any young men or women who wish to venture into modelling or photography or both?
Go away! (haha)

Just kidding…..I think that in any career that you decide to follow in your life, you have to try to be unique; to be honest with your work and yourself; to work hard; but above all, you have to be kind to the people that work with you, respectful and very grateful of every little achievement. Every little helps…. even if your goals are much bigger than that. To be thankful keeps you happy.

Finally...if you were to be in front of the lens of an inspiring photographer, who would that be?
There are so many photographers and artists that I admire so much… maybe Erwin Olaf or Steven Klein. I also I like works of Terry Richardson, David LaChapelle, Herb Ritts, Mario Testino, David Vance, Klaus Gerhart… oh, so many, I cannot choose…

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