“I’ve never been classically trained. I don’t know my technical shit. I don’t know anything about cameras. Camera talk bores the fuck out of me.”

Rae Threat is not a photographer . . . just a big assed, loud, unapologetic girl who happens to be very good with a camera.

“In Los Angeles, everyone is very plastic and beauty-driven and I’m not really conventional compared to them so I’ve always been the wallflower at clubs watching people from a distance,” the plump Threat explains. “I’m not classic Los Angeles – not a fucking wannabe model/actress kind of thing. I was never in the spotlight, always the wallflower, so it kind of migrated to ‘What if I had a camera to capture what I see?’ Some things are mundane. Some are just like: wow.”

This casual entry into photography reflects Threat’s attitude to her work. She prefers working with natural light and loves capturing random, unstaged pockets of life which are “a rarity in LA”. She has a self-deprecating propensity to describe her line of work as “artfaggy” with its inhabitant “artfags” reveling in their “artfagginess”. Though currently living in LA, Threat is visiting New York for the hell of it and spends most of her three-day visit jetlagged and eating falafel at 4am. The interview momentarily derails when Threat stops on the side of the footpath. “Oh wow, let me take a photo of that.”

There in the middle of Brooklyn, book-ended by two stoops, is a gathering of household paraphernalia on the ground. It’s pretty much a small concrete graveyard where bric-a-brac has gone to die. A giant stuffed panda sits atop a plastic toy truck which is parked up alongside a bonsai tree. Threat is sans her alpha SLR camera because Brooklyn is more known for its history of muggings  than its undersized shrubbery begging to be put on film. Threat borrows the writer’s beta point-and-shoot camera (the kind where you look through a viewfinder instead of at a screen). She has a compulsion to encapsulate the joy of the moment – this kind of gold doesn’t happen every day.

“I LIKE REAL LIFE MOMENTS, NOT ONES THAT ARE POSED,” Rae later yells over the noise of an incoming train at the subway station where she also stops to admire the symmetry of the grotty pillars. “Something out of the norm, usually not seen by masses. Something unique in its own little way, not in its own cliché way. I don’t know. Does that make sense? Something unique that you kind of see but you don’t really always see exploited. It’s that exploiting that just exaggerates the beauty.”

There is no coherent trajectory to Threat’s career. There is no starting off at the high school photography club and working her way up to Fully Fledged Arteest. Instead there is just an explosion of work making it impossible to tell whether Threat is going up the ladder or jumping right off it. There was the chance to be a part of the Istanbul Biennial, an exchange of works between Turkish and American artists so their pieces can appear on opposite sides of the world.  Threat’s black and white portrait of an elaborately graffitied city wall was accepted but she neglected to send it over. (“Completely forgot. I’m just . . . well . . . whatever,” is Rae’s laconic explanation which inadvertently sums up how she managed to miss the deadline.) There is the burgeoning affair between Threat and LA’s alt porn scene – porn featuring girls with tattoos and fearlessness and spiky hair. For her own website Threat regularly photographs models from The SuicideGirls and Burning Angel who are to alt porn what glamour girls are to regular porn – as ‘respectable’ as you can get in the industry. Threat’s darkened photographs of a naked woman hanging about on an unmade bed are eerily un-titillating and strangely beautiful. 

Such work doesn’t really lend itself to chit-chat with other photographers, which is fine by Threat who is more interested in taking a good picture than knowing the terminology which gets you there. “I find it boring because all they talk about is their work . . . ‘Ooh yeah, check out my new lamps’. They have a geek orgasm over the latest tech things. I’m still working with a camera that’s five or six years old. I honestly don’t think it’s the camera that makes the photographer. It’s not the tool, it’s the artist. That’s how I feel about that. I’m not like ‘look at me, I’m carrying a camera’. I’m not carrying a camera now.”

Do you see yourself carrying a camera in the future? “In a perfect world I would be making great money off my art,” Rae answers, even though you get the impression she doesn’t care if it happens or not. “And I would be very impressed with myself knowing that I got there not even knowing what an f-stop is.”


 by Rebecca Gin  |  NO Magazine  |  Issue 7