Troupe of Slaves is an iconic fixture to the kink photography scene. Most notably their work has been widely regarded on FetLife for it’s depiction of predicament bondage, humiliation, and detailed group shots. I recently spoke to Old Master, the organizer of the Troupe of Slaves photos via phone from London.
anniebear: I’m personally a huge fan. I’ve been in kink for a little over two years at least actively playing and I found your photos pretty early on and so I’m a big admirer.
Old Master: Thank you! We’re quite popular. Fame is my biggest worry.
So I take it you keep it pretty underground just maybe to the cast of characters and yourself?
Yes, I don’t really go clubbing and things like that. I go to bed fairly early. But I’ve got a great space where I shoot so everything kind of happens under our roof.
Is it a specific studio photography space or…?
It’s the warehouse space that’s connected to my work and I have a flat there as well. It’s a beautiful space, its great. I just clear everything out to take the pictures. Its got the plain walls and floor boards and that’s become a kind of signature of our pictures.
I notice you say you don’t worry about your watermarks because its pretty obvious what a Troupe of Slaves photo is.
Well I don’t really chase pictures, I mean they do get stolen and you see them all over the net. The popular ones-but I can’t keep track of them, you know?
How long have you been taking photos?
Probably about six years. I just never planned this it just kind of happened organically. Really. We were just exploring the kink scene and almost jokingly I was the master and skinny was the slave you know – Old Master and skinny slave. We used to call ourselves old and skinny (laughs). I just used to take the odd picture and I’d think about the pictures-one thing I am is sort of artistic and always have been my whole life. And bit by bit the photos just started taking over in a way- it was the art side that really grabbed me. And once we did that as I said which was about six years ago its just been a huge success really its just taken off.
You have a pretty unconventional way of taking photos because you only use an iPhone or iPad?
Yea well I started off-I knew nothing about photography and I just used to take them with my mobile. As it started to take off and the pictures started becoming popular, well I thought I should try a proper camera. When I started using the camera, they kind of lost their magic, the pictures. Then they started looking like other peoples pictures. I actually like the medium. Some people might like using oil paints or pencils and [the iPhone] that’s my medium. It’s a mobile and I like that slightly poor quality to the picture it kind of gives it something.
To me it looks like they were taken with a professional camera so you fooled me.
Well something that has happened is, they have got better-the cameras in the phones from when I started. Some of the early shots are really bad quality, but I love them. It’s sort of this lack of quality that gives them character.
You and skinny are in a dynamic or relationship?
We’re partners. We’re not officially married but that’s by choice. And we worked from sort of the beginning of this kink stuff.
She seems to be your most recurring model.
Well I live with her, so she’s here all the time. She’s very handy.
You have a pretty large cast of friends and cohorts that you use regularly?
It’s huge really. We must have shot over fifty people but I suppose we have about fifteen –I’m thinking of doing my biggest group picture yet. See how many people I can fit into the studio. And I imagine it’d be about fifteen regulars.
That’s awesome. I like your photos because there’s always something I missed looking at it just once so you have to go back and examine the group shots more closely to catch everything in more detail.
People don’t realize that lots of planning goes into it, even on the simpler pictures. But we try and make it look spontaneous but it is usually well planned.
How do you develop your ideas? Do they all come from you or is it a group decision?
I suppose they’re mainly from me but sometimes they come from other places or members of the group and sometimes Skinny has a few ideas as well. It’s mainly me.
Well you must have a very devious mind indeed.
You know, people do say that.
I think for myself and people who read Kink Weekly they would find it to be an admirable quality
I think we’re always humorous, people think I knock religion but I knock BDSM just as much.
You kind of have to laugh about some of it.
We are mainly humorous really that’s what we do.
So being that you’re fairly private about Troupe of Slaves, have you ever had any gallery or studio shows to display your photography to the general public?
Yes, we’ve been asked to be in several books and websites, things like that. Skin Two magazine – its quite a famous magazine, mainly latex based – its actually non-pornographic even though its sexual-they’ve featured us a couple of times. The producers of that magazine helped me set up a website. I designed the look of it but they did the technical side. I’m thinking of doing a book-well I’m being encouraged to do a book so we’ll probably discuss that fairly soon.
Are you a fairly active member in the lifestyle there in London?
I am but it’s all on my own terms. As I say I don’t really go out much – everything comes to me. I’m not a sort of clubby type person anyway, I go to bed fairly early, so it usually happens on a Saturday afternoon in my studio. We get loads of people and do one of those big shoots and then we hire a big room in a local bar and it’s a riot. It’s a really good time. I don’t know if it comes across in the pictures. Sometimes I wonder how it happens really, maybe these things just happen by themselves.
It looks like the models and friends that you use in the photos despite all of the planning even just seem to sort of all work together really well and generate that good energy to make such a good photo.
I put a huge amount of effort into the actual planning of the pictures and the ideas, absolutely. But the rest of it sort of happens organically, its worth saying it’s all voluntary. People do it just for the fun of it. So if I do a book it would be for charity. One of the great things about using an iPad, which is what I use the most now is that the screen’s really big and it actually helps you see the shots better, almost better than looking through a lens anyway and then you can pass that around the whole group and they look at themselves and think well they can do it this way or that and we kind of improve as we go along and make it something we really love. Its kind of fun because everybody’s involved and they all seem to be so good at acting it always amazes me because you know they’re sort of ordinary people, they’re not models they’re not actors they look so amazing in the pictures.
Did you come up with the name, Troupe of Slaves?
Yea, that was actually before I started doing the pictures. I was going to have this scene with some subs and I said lets string them up like a troupe of slaves. It just came off the top of my head and then I really liked the name and it just sort of stuck. It fits perfectly really, I don’t really try to Dom people its not what I do but I do insist that they’re slaves to the picture not to me. I’m very disciplinarian about that. The pictures are everything.
And they like being slaves to that, they can totally buy into that. I consider myself a slave to the pictures.
Well I think everyone there seems to be in service to creating a really good image.
We’re all in service to the pictures. The pictures are the master not me. (laughs)
You’re just a puppet. (laughs)
For every good photo there’re hundreds of deleted bad photos. It’s tricky.