If there is ever a modern photographer who is highlighting key members of the LGBTQ community to its fullest potential its Bob of Scoland. He is our latest to be featured in Instinct’s ongoing photog series.
Bob (real name Robert Frashure) has developed a massive career for himself in the world of photography thanks to his incredible shots that highlight people we know and love from Joey Mills to Boomer Banks to Laganja Estranja to Jaida Essence Hall.
He describes style of photography as Tom of Finland meets Dragula meets Helix Studios. Three very different kinds of inspirations that totally work together after you see the kind of photographs he puts out into the world.
Check out our exclusive interview with him below.
How did you get involved in the art of photography?
I started out being an oil painter as a teenager, making large paintings of houses and landscapes. They were pretty repressed paintings, with obviously phallic lighthouses and ship masts from my hometown of Boston.
I would say that the defining moment was the afternoon I first visited Tom of Finland’s foundation house in Los Angeles after moving to California at age 25. That day changed my life! The house is full of his drawings and a diverse collection of erotic art collected from around the world. More than that, the founders have also created an inspiring community and series of creative events during the year to sustain this vibrant legacy. The library awoke in me a way to explore my own desires and longings that has continued to this day.
Drag culture has been a very big influence for me. Another defining moment in my life was attending RuPaul’s DragCon in Los Angeles for the first time. I remember feeling so inspired by the creativity of everyone attending and just wanting to capture the incredible uniqueness of the outfits, makeup, and queer aesthetic. It is a beautiful experience to be a part of that community and attending each year has encouraged me to pursue making art that reflects this vibrancy. It is a huge movement with so many young people that seems to just get bigger every year.
Did you have any inspirations before getting into the industry?
For me, I am always looking at and inspired by all kinds of art: digital animation, obscure B-movies, vintage design, The Boulet Brothers and Dragula, fantasy literature, rave music, and whatever else I can get my hands onto. I think being open and curious about all kinds of art keeps us artists fresh and always growing. One of the biggest influences on my artistic development has been the photographs of James Bidgood, with his iconic colorful scenes and playful male models. They definitely inspired me to pursue photography and I admire the way he has kept making art throughout his life.
Of course, the drawings of Tom of Finland have also been a huge influence on me! I will never forget the first time I visited the Tom of Finland house in Los Angeles, I would never be the same after that afternoon! The house is full of his drawings and erotic art collected from around the world: it is like a candy store for erotic art! The founders have also created an inspiring community and series of creative events during the year to sustain this vibrant legacy.
Recently, the drag queens on Dragula and RuPaul’s Drag Race have been especially inspiring to me. I am blown away by the international drag community and how those visionary artists keep pushing the boundaries of everything. I look forward to attending RuPaul’s Drag Con every year and seeing what everyone comes up with!
How would you describe your specific style?
Tom of Finland meets Dragula meets Helix Studios!
In all seriousness, many of my favorite artists also subvert traditional masculinity as well, including Bidgood, Pierre et Gilles, Ron Amato, Magnus Hastings, Ron Athey, Catherine Opie, and the Boulet Brothers.
Beyond this, I hope that people looking at my photographs can sense the vitality, fun, colorful spirit, exuberance, and natural beauty in what we have created. I would hope that the photographs might empower people to feel more free in expressing who they are, their artistic spirits, their unique personality, and keep pushing the limits of what we can make of this world. The world desperately needs us creative visionaries right now, let’s share our gifts and inspire the change we know is possible.
You’ve shot some pretty yummy looking guys during your career. Do you usually search for them or do they come to you?
I like to that we find each other! It has been so helpful to have social media tools like Instagram because it can really provide opportunities to discover like minded souls and fellow artists. I remember the dark days before social media, we had to look in newspapers and actually meet people in real life to connect for art projects!
I have also been very lucky to work with the extraordinarily talented producer, model, and photographer Ricardo Diaz without whom most of these photographs would never have happened! I have never met someone with such an intuitive brilliance for creatively directing scenes, scouting and developing relationships with talent, limitless and exuberant energy, and pushing everyone on the creative team to expand our visual lexicon and dare to break out of the comfort zone. I can’t wait to see where his career takes him, as well.
What has been your favorite shoot to date and why?
I would say that photographing Jaida Essence Hall was an amazing experience. She is so uniquely gifted and breathtaking, it was one of those shoots where I really didn’t have to do much because she can pose with her eyes closed. Also, it was a pleasure to work with the hairstylist Edward Sizzahands who continually produces incredible hair looks and has a very bright future ahead.
If there was one event that you could cover what would it be?
I am looking forward to developing my photography work into film and video projects. I am excited to work on film sets more often in the future and it would be a pleasure to direct a film.
Do you feel photographers are not as appreciated these days due to so much of the focus shifting to social media selfies and filters?
I actually think that social media has done many positive things for creative artists. For me, I hope that my photographs might provide a launching pad for viewers to consider and dialogue in their own communities with what it means for them to be LGBTQ.
Social media sites are useful because I do think that there still is a lack of representation of LGBTQ lives, artists, activists, and performers in television, film, and the other important areas of life. Just as the protests of the last few months have illustrated how it is dangerous to be black in America, there have been so many incidents which have indicated how it is dangerous to be transgender and gender non-conforming in America as well.
In a small way, I hope that sharing my art through social media can play a role in initiating conversations about redefining masculinity, gender inclusivity in the LGBTQ community, and ways to expand opportunities for queer visibility.
What does the future hold for you and what are you looking forward to the most in your career?
I feel so fortunate to live in Los Angeles and have the incredible opportunity to meet and get to know such an extraordinary community of LGBTQ artists, performers, activists, and people who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries. I am especially proud to work with models and performers who are so politically engaged and passionate about making change happen, whether through art or more direct political action.
I think the timing of this interview is incredibly relevant given the larger context of global protests against racial injustice, police brutality, and the health disparities revealed by the COVID-19 outbreak. It certainly is a time of reckoning for all individuals no matter what industry you work in to reflect upon how systemic inequalities function to keep communities of color disenfranchised.
When the dust settles from these global demonstrations and it is finally safe to get out of our houses and living rooms again, I personally can’t wait to get back to work in reconnecting with my fellow queer community to see how we can channel some of this energy into much needed changes. Now is the time to listen to each other, empower those that have been left behind, and draw upon our creative visionary capacities to co-create a world that we want to live in.
Check out more of Robert’s work here.