Mad Crushin' on Defekto

When I first saw the Flickr photostream of Baltimore-based graphic designer and photographer Jim Lucio, aka Defekto [center above], I thought I was looking at an underground John Waters film. His Polaroid captures of wonderful eccentric characters naturally struck a chord in my lil’ heart. I always appreciate a good chronicling of a three-ring circus and Defekto’s pictures never fail. Let us have a gander at what makes this man tick!

+ How old were you when you first were interested in photography?

I was probably about 16 when I first started having fun with photography. I remember dressing up my little sisters a couple of times, but my mom kind of got pissed when I wanted them to hold knives.

+ How did you learn? Did you go to school or were you self taught?

I would say I’m basically self-taught, though when I was 17 I took a basic intro to photography class and later I took some filmmaking and editing classes–that was in San Francisco. Much later I took a refresher semester at the International Center of Photography in NYC. I’m still learning–and honestly, I haven’t really learned much over the years! Maybe I don’t like perfection because that means I have to work harder. Perfection doesn’t stimulate me. Any decent photo student can have perfect lighting and composition, but I think I have just turned imperfection into part of my style. And individual style is much more important to me.

+ Who and what are your main influences for your work as far as people, film, music, books etc?

I have so many influences. I love pop trash culture. Bad movies, lurid paperbacks, exploitation movie art, weird toys…etc. I don’t know that music has influenced my photographic work, though a band will sometimes form or come through town that is exceptionally visual and that is inspiration enough to want to shoot them. I am an avowed true crime junkie and I love the old detective and crime magazines–they were just so filthy and raw. I especially like posed photos of busted hookers or junkies with their eyes blocked out. Somehow that bar across their eyes always just seemed so much more exploitive.

+ Are there any photographers that inspire you?

When I was a kid, I saw a photo of a child wearing a rubber Frankenstein mask and that was the first time I bothered to find out who took the photograph. I thought, “That’s something I would do.” It was Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Cindy Sherman’s “Film Stills” probably influenced me in some way and I love Diane Arbus and Joel-Peter Witkin. I love their subject matter, in the same way that I actually really like Terry Richardson’s work. I don’t know how many times I’ve had people email me or comment on a photo on Flickr and ask if he’s influenced me or saying something I shot is “very Terry Richardson”. I actually never even knew who he was until people started suggesting that I was doing what he does.

+ If you could do a shoot with any historical person from the past, who would it be and what kind of scenario would you like to put them in?

Hmmm…that’s a hard one. For some reason Josephine Baker comes to mind. She was beautiful and had the best props…banana skirts and live ocelots. I would love to have taken photos of Colonel Sanders! He could have roosted in a hen house surrounded by big big plump chickens.

+ Is there anyone you would like to work with nowadays?

Yes. Photo editors at major magazines, celebrities, starlets, wannabes, visual weirdos, exhibitionists… and in my book, the unknown, regular Joe’s are just as interesting and captivating as any celebrity, so I will always want to just work with the people who happen to be around me.

+ What cameras are your favorite to shoot with?

I have been using a Polaroid Spectra for over 20 years. In the past two years alone I think I’ve gone through 5 or 6 of them. I recently got a medium format Speed Graphic…the same camera that Weegee used. I got a Polaroid back for it and will eventually use it, but I’m dragging my feet because I’m probably afraid the photos will turn out bad because I hate learning how to use new equipment.

+ Most memorable shoots? Funny things that happened? I’m sure there have been TONS.

Most of what I do is just so off the cuff and quick that it never feels like a “shoot”. I just sit someone still for a minute or two and snap. I do have a lot of friends in bands and they frequently ask for photos…and those are usually not paid and not particularly fun either. It feels more like work and less like art to me. I did meet The Goddess Bunny several years ago in LA and I was very excited to photograph her. I had her dressed in a Rainbow Brite nightgown and bonnet. But the photos turned out like crap, so that wasn’t very funny. And I didn’t even have my Polaroid camera with me.

+ Was there a time in your life that you wish you could have captured on film but didn’t? If so, what was it?

60s NYC would have been fun. When I was a teenager I was fascinated with Andy Warhol and the whole Factory crowd. They all looked so good and were all incredibly fashionable….oh, but that was before my time. In “my life”…. well, I lived in NYC from 1993-2002 and I regret not having picked up my camera much. I saw so many wild and crazy things and crossed paths with enough celebrities and interesting people that my portfolio would look a lot different now if I’d been carrying my Polaroid with me wherever I went.

+ If you weren’t doing photography or graphic design, what would you want to be doing?

I’m basically a frustrated filmmaker. I used to work on an animated show at Nickelodeon and still think that one day I’ll have my own show. Or just make porn that turns people off instead of on…I have some good ideas.

+ What’s next in the world of Defekto?

I have a couple of shows later this year that I’m excited about. One is a collaborative show with Chase Lisbon of Supercult fame and the other is a solo show with the tentative title: Icons of Baltimore. I’ll be working on getting photographs of everyone I consider a serious mover/shaker or important person who has come from Baltimore or currently lives here. I’m really excited about this show. And basically, I just need to promote myself a little more and start getting paid to be “Defekto”.


You can soak up more Defekto goodness at his website, at his flickr and you can now pre-order his new book, MONDO DEFEKTO: The Polaroid Photography of Jim Lucio!!!