Produced by Marc Santo & Scott Newman
Director of Photography: Kevin Scheafer
Camera Operators: Kevin Scheafer, Ray Zablocki, Kevin Gillooly
Edited by Xavi Marrades Orga
Music: Time Lee of Boy Scout Recordings
Interview by Marc Santo
Danielle Luft is a former fashion model whose editorial spreads by Terry Richardson and Bruce Webber have been featured in the pages of French Vogue. Jonathan Leder is a photographer who has shot for magazines like Nylon and A4. The two met on a photo shoot, and within a couple years they married and gave birth to a son, Jack, and a magazine, Jacques.
Published quarterly from their Williamsburg loft, Jacques is a throwback to the classic days of Playboy and collectible pulp magazines. The retro art direction pulls equally from back issues of vintage skin mags like Oui and Nova, as well as obscure art magazines like Wet and Avant Garde. The photographs, shot exclusively on film and published without re-touching,conjure up the soft focused spirit of works by master erotic photographers like David Hamilton and Carlo Mollino. Each issue, released under themes that celebrate everything from sports to voyeurism, feature opinionated reporting, provocative interviews and soft-core pictorials that present the curvier, artier, girl we all wished lived next door.
The culmination of Jacques’ highly stylized aesthetic is a masterfully crafted men’s magazine that brazenly announces itself as an analog project for the digital age. It may look like something that you’d expect to find stashed away under your father’s mattress, but it doesn’t quite feel like porn.
MARC SANTO: How did Jacques happen?
JONATHAN LEDER: When I looked around at the magazine industry, I got frustrated. There are so many things wrong with magazines that it’s embarrassing.
DANIELLE LUFT: Most magazines are crap and people wonder why they’re closing.
JONATHAN LEDER: They pander to advertisers and worry about featuring products that nobody needs. That model is broken and the magazine today doesn’t matter, which is sad. For us this magazine is a reaction to the status quo and the garbage that’s out there right now.
MARC SANTO: Do you consider Jacques to be pornographic?
JONATHAN LEDER: I think there’s something charming about our nudity. I don’t think we’re doing nudity in a vulgar way. I think there’s something tasteful and elegant about it. And I hope that comes across.
DANIELLE LUFT: Compared to most things nowadays, I think we’re actually kind of wholesome.
JONATHAN LEDER: Pornography has a very dirty and cheap connotation, and I don’t see anything about our magazine being cheap or dirty. We have high production values and are tame compared to other stuff that’s out there. I guess you could call it a nudie mag but younger people don’t really understand nudie. We call it erotic and maybe that’s worse, but in my opinion erotic doesn’t necessarily have to be showing anything. It’s just a word that captures the feeling behind the photos.
DANIELLE LUFT: The great line is that we’re a nudie magazine that’s fashionable.
JONATHAN LEDER: We’re not a fashion magazine. I hope nobody puts us in the category of being a fashion magazine. It’s really about the girls isn’t it?
DANIELLE LUFT: Yeah, the girls and the photography.
JONATHAN LEDER: And the articles.
DANIELLE LUFT: Right, the articles too. !ere has be something in there that I can tell my mom.
MARC SANTO: What type of girls do you look for?
JONATHAN LEDER: We’re looking for a special kind of quality. If they’re too overtly sexual, or more on the vulgar edge, we stay away from that. We’re looking for something more innocent and a little bit more girl-next-door.
DANIELLE LUFT: We love American girls! Somewhere along the line the industry shifted to Russians and Brazilians and we’re not into that.
JONATHAN LEDER: I don’t understand why girls have to be so foreign looking to be beautiful?
DANIELLE LUFT: They like them because they’re skinny.
JONATHAN LEDER: During the second half of the 20th century we had beautiful American pinups, and in the ’70s we had beautiful girls with freckles. It was always very American.
DANIELLE LUFT: And then in the ’80s we had Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, and that was really the last of the American girls.
JONATHAN LEDER: In the last 15 years we’ve been seeing an imported idea of beauty. If you ask a normal person if a Russian model is beautiful, they’ll probably say yes. I don’t think we subscribe to that kind of aesthetic. I think we shoot girls that nobody else would shoot because they’re shorter than your stereotypical model and maybe 2 sizes too big. They don’t fit that stupid spec sheet that modeling agencies have, so they rarely work in that industry, which is sad because they’re beautiful girls.
MARC SANTO: How would you describe the Jacques aesthetic?
JONATHAN LEDER: Our aesthetic differs significantly from what you’ll find on the newsstands today, but I don’t think it differs from what you would have found on the newsstand 40 years ago. We’re inspired by book and magazine design pre-1986. Somewhere around the late ’80s the quality shifted and things became more plastic. We’re going for a retro feel that’s bold. We don’t shoot anything digital. Everything is film, so we’re definitely trying to keep it analog.
MARC SANTO: Why have you chosen to avoid digital photography and retouching?
JONATHAN LEDER: It’s a magazine, not something you see on your computer, and so the photography should echo that fact. If you look back to a French Vogue from the 1970s you can see the pores and the hairs on the skin. Sometimes when you look at the pictures of these girls, it’s these details and imperfections that get you going. What are we so afraid of today? Why does everybody have to be retouched? I have no idea where this came from!
DANIELLE LUFT: There’s something honest about showing women how we really are. We have scars, pimples, stretch marks, and that shouldn’t be retouched. When you’re checking out a hot girl on the street she’s not airbrushed. Retouching is sounnecessary.
JONATHAN LEDER: When I’m taking a photograph, I have a specific idea of what I’m looking for. Everything is planned out ahead of time, so by the time I’m actually pressing the button the photograph is done and a monkey could take that picture at that point. A great picture is a great picture no matter what format it’s shot on, but to me film looks more elegant. Photography is more of a state of mind than anything else, and it’s not particularly technical. If you can’t operate a camera, you’re going to have trouble with most things in life.