As far as having a powerful fan in the art world goes, it doesn't get much bigger than Damien Hirst, the British provocateur best known for his freaky formaldehyde-preserved animals and even more monstrous sales (a 2008 Sotheby's auction of Hirst's work netted nearly $160 million in two days).
So kudos to Mairi-Luise Tabbakh, the London-based erotic photographer who's the apple of the art titan's eye. Hirst has collected several of her saucy photos, which have been favorably compared to those of Helmut Newton. We recently emailed with Tabbakh about inspirations, influences and what's next. (Note: photo gallery may be NSFW.)
How would you describe your work?
It's very intimate and candid. I photograph friends, lovers, family—in the case of my sister-in-law Eliane— models, and people whose beauty I am attracted to. At the beginning of picking up a camera I took portraits of musicians, boxers, clubs I went to. Then I left the camera for a while. When I took it up again, it progressed to more women/erotica.
What photographers do you admire most?
My biggest inspirations are Helmut Newton, Bruce Weber and Nan Goldin. All of them are special in their own way.
What do you like best about shooting in black and white?
They are classic, beautiful. I feel they transcend time, occasionally adding an air of mystery.
Damien Hirst is famously a big fan of yours.
Yes, Damien bought Eros, Eliane T2 and Maille Doyle from my exhibit 'Human Relations' with Fenton Bailey. Damien's a great force in the art world, quite a character. I think rock 'n roll and death is a central theme in his work, perhaps that's why I like him. It's my dark side.
What are you working on next?
I tend to keep things under wraps until they're done, so unfortunately I can't reveal what's next...but I will say it includes a project in Brazil.