December 03, 2017
Hywel Phillips. Physicist, I think that you are the one physicist and bondage producer of all the world. It's very curious. Explain me. Why did you choose to study physics?
I'm sure Im not the only kinky physicist in the world, and I'm probably not the only physicist bondage producer either.
But I guess it isn't the most obvious career path!
I've always been interested in science, since I was very small. I remember being given books of experiments to do by friends of the family who came to visit- like the chromatography one with kitchen roll and felt tip pen (draw a line on the paper with the pen, then wet it: the pigments will separate out into different colours). I was fascinated by space- another early memory is the Apollo-Soyuz linkup mission of 1975. I missed the moon landings, I was too young to know what was going on, but I was mesmerised by the idea of understanding the world and the universe. At school my favourite subjects were definitely the sciences and Geology; when it came to studying for my degree physics won because it promised to go deeper and deeper, and I was excited by the discovery of the W and Z particles at CERN when I was a teenager.
Physics sits in between pure mathematics and engineering in many ways... and since my mother was a pure mathematician and my father an electrical engineer it seemed like a pretty natural place to go! I grew up as a University kid in a University city, and a lot of my parents' friends were lecturers and professors, which is why I got given science books when I was a small child I guess!
But really it's the thrill of discovery, of taking things apart and finding out how they work that's the beauty and attraction of physics.
I still am a particle physicist by the way, I will always think that way, it's just that I'm making my living as a photographer now instead.
(It's flat, everyone went out drinking all night and clubbing, and the food's ... plain at best. I like mountains, being up early and in bed early, I don't drink alcohol at all, and I like nice food. Hamburg sucked.)
By contrast, DELPHI was an experiment that was taking data, I was in a research group with people I really liked, the rest of the experiment was mostly very cheery French and Italians and Greeks who approached the whole thing with a lot of flair, impassioned arguments and lots of long lunches. It was in the mountains, and it was gearing up to a second phase at higher energy that had a LOT of potential to see new stuff- but which also promised precision measurements of the Standard Model which are another really good way to look for new physics. I had six very fun years charging around the world and won a personal fellowship to study the interactions between the W and Z bosons- the very thing which had first drawn me to particle physics as a teenager. I had an absolute blast.
With this combination of physical and bondage producer, are you a fun person with a good sense of humor? Or are you a serious and shy person? How are you of character?.
I don't know that I can answer that - maybe you should ask people who know me!
I am very serious and shy, and very introverted. I like to spend a lot of time alone or with a very small number of close friends. Social interaction wears me out, especially unstructured (small talk at parties is my worst nightmare). But I like working with people very much, I get on with people pretty well and enjoy working together on a shared project or activity. I can be fun and I do have a sense of humour, it's just that you probably won't see it until we've worked on a project together for a while.
As a result most of my socialising is done around shared activities. I run roleplaying games (Dungeons and Dragons and the like) for my college housemates- we still get together several times a year, 25 or so years since we lived together as students. I have made some really good friends shooting for Restrained Elegance and in the industry as well, as shoots provide an excellent ice breaking project to get to know new people. And I like learning new stuff, so I usually have some sort of evening course to go to and meet people there. (I'm learning Welsh at the moment, having moved back to Wales three years ago).
I'd also been chatting to bondage models and producers online for a while- I'd discovered BDSM erotica online as a Ph.D. student and joined many of the early sites. I'd even met up with bondage star Molly Matthews and taken some photographs of her, though not bondage ones. I'd been doing some pencil-and-paper drawings of my favourite models and I was a big fan of her site. I was over in LA on a physics trip so it seemed only natural to say hello.
So when it came to my first "proper" bondage shoot where I was tying up the model as well as taking the photographs, I wasn't that nervous. My first real shoot was with Nikki Whiplash (https://twitter.com/nikkiwhiplash) . She's mostly a domme, but she was on the model register at a studio near where I was working, so I booked her for a two hour shoot one afternoon. My initial plan was to take some photos to draw from- I felt that using other photographer's rope work photos as reference wasn't really "fair" somehow, even though everyone had been very kind and given me permission to do so.
I did make a classic newbie mistake on that shoot. I wanted to do some horror-film inspired shots, and I wanted blood running down Nikki's calf and foot. I'd got some stage blood and tested it on myself and it had washed clean off. No problem I thought. But it turns out if you leave it on the skin a bit longer- say, long enough to shoot a roll of film- it doesn't wash clean off. It leaves a great bit red stain! She was very forgiving, thankfully. As was Jim Weathers when my second newbie mistake at a shoot a couple of months later was using sealing wax for a storyline without testing it on my skin first. Jim tested it on his hand, instead of on his wife Jewel Evans' bottom. Good job too because it burns hot as hell. Jim still has the scar, which by rights out to be on MY hand, not his. Fortunately I'd brought some much cooler burning candles along and we used those instead.
Your photos, and your work, it's very diferent, it's a style "romantic bondage". Why do you choose this style of bondage?.
I don't know that I had much choice, strange as it is to say. Those are just the sorts of pictures that come into my head. Always have been, influence by things like 1970s TV shows and photos in catalogues and magazines I guess, but it's just the way my imagination works. I can shoot in other styles, but when I'm left to my own devices to dream stuff up, that's what I imagine.
When we are working on a project for me (Restrained Elegance, Silk Soles, Elegance Studios or a custom video where the customer has commissioned it though me), I'm the boss. When we are working on a project for her where the customer has commissioned her, she's the boss. And when we're not working, we're equal partners and try to be kind to each other.
The current date of this interview is 2017. You created Restrained Elegance 17 years ago! Are there many changes in the Bondage Community since your first day? Are these for good or for bad? What is the more important?.
There have been huge changes in the industry and the bondage community since I started. Some good, some bad.
On the really good side, the availability of online BDSM erotica has helped a lot of people come to terms with their sexuality. Speaking to people like our niece who grew up with the internet, they are not afraid that they are the only person in the world with those desires, or that they are a danger to society, or anything like that. They see that people can be into BDSM and still be perfectly nice and normal people as well. They take it so much in their stride that our niece came to make a documentary about us for her film school degree.
And if you like it and it is consensual, broadly speaking you can find or commission the erotica you want online. That's such a liberation. If you're queer or kinky or trans or sub or switch or domme or you're into custard and tickling or gummy bears and pedal pumping, you can find what you want and probably a community too.
On the bad side, this may all be about to change. Governments are moving in to control and censor the internet, huge businesses like Google, Facebook and Paypal are increasingly limiting what you can see and in particular what you can pay for. That last is a critical factor which is often overlooked. The golden age of internet porn came about because small producers could put up what they wanted and get paid for it. If you can't get paid for it, it'll be hard to keep making it, and it feels like it is getting just that little bit harder each time a government introduces new legislation or Facebook censors a nipple or Google stops adult sites being able to advertise or Paypal bans a model or a producer from their service.
If we don't speak up and defend our right to enjoy the erotica we want, we'll lose it.
And the elephant in the room is piracy and the tube sites. Producers don't want to give porn away- it's how they make a living. Free porn is pirated porn, where the pirates are selling the people who view it to advertisers. The pirates have got big enough to start getting into bed with governments (eg MindG**k and the UK age verification regulations which are about to come in) and that might cut off independent production, at least as far as websites go. We might all be forced onto big platforms like Clips4Sale- which is OK right up until the point where they are bought out or leaned on to self-censor. We run the risk of being back where we started with everything banned.
There are many mythical models that have worked for RestrainedElegance. How many models have you worked in all these years for RestrainedElegance?
About 250 in total I guess.
What are the requirements to be a bondage RestrainedElegance model?.
Well, looking good is an obvious one, but that's pretty much a given if you're working as a professional model.
I think the main thing is being able to emote, to project the feelings of the character you are meant to be in the story, whilst still looking sexy and attractive and being tied up. Being pretty isn't enough if you always do the same face and the pose whether you are playing a medieval princess damsel in distress or a vampire seductress.
Other than that it is probably just a matter of being on the same wavelength as the photographer, I guess.
What is for you bondage? It's emotion? Fantasy? Passion?.
All of those things, but first and foremost it is story and drama.
At the first shoot I did with the couple who already ran a website, we had a discussion about what we liked in bondage photos. He said he liked photos which focussed on the sub's situation- her predicament, what was happening to her. He didn't really mind much who was actually in the photos. A lot of BDSM erotica is a bit like that, to me. A bit sort of impersonal, like it doesn't matter too much who the tied up girl is.
I realised then that I wanted the absolute opposite. It's about getting your ropes on the most beautiful girl you've ever seen, having the princess in shackles or the movie star tied up in the boot of your car or making your impossibly beautiful but bitchy boss into your sex slave. So it is about telling that story- who is the girl in bondage? Why should you be in love with her? Why have you chosen her, out of the whole world, to tie up?
Bondage is also foreplay. It comes before sex, of course, but also before harder BDSM activities like caning or whipping or nipple clamps or torture. I like those things too, but there's something special about the anticipation and the rising tension while she's tied up but the worst (and best) hasn't actually happened yet... like a very long intake of breath, an ultra-slow motion movie shot before the action starts again.
So while I do photograph and film harder BDSM, I have particular affinity for that emotional moment just before it turns from anticipation into reality.
We don't really shoot sex, not really anything explicit. We're too British and up-tight to be comfortable with that, truth be told. I've tried it a few times and I'm not very good at directing or shooting it, so I'll leave the more explicit stuff to people more comfortable producing it. There are a few exceptions where we've shot scenes with just Joceline and me, though.
I like your locations. I live in a city of Girona, near of Pirineos Mountains. If you come for here, write me, but not now, that is winter haha. It's very important the locations for bondage scenes? What is your favorite locations?.
What I don't like a distracting or wrong or untidy location. I don't like photos taken in the same identikit hotel room where the characters are meant to be superheros or glamourous spies, or where you can see light stands and drinks bottles and rubbish.
So I like the location either be really inspiring for the story, like fjords or mountains or old country houses, or totally abstract like a plain white or black background.
My favourite location of all is Scandinavia, I go there whenever I can (not always to shoot!) It's just so beautiful and suggests such great stories of vikings and goddesses and spirits and giants and tales from the sagas, myths and legends.
Tell us a funny anecdote during one of your bondage sessions.
I've already told you the two early mistakes at shoots, which are funny in retrospect although they weren't at the time! We do have fun at shoots but I'm no good as a funny storyteller so I think I'll just leave it at that.
What is your opinion about piratery digital? What do you think about this problem?.
I spoke about piracy a bit above.
It's nasty from several angles all at the same time.
It devalues the work of models, performers, producers, directors, camera operators, everyone.
On the flip side, one side of the industry is really booming- direct interaction with the models, via things like Snapchat, social media, custom video and Only Fans. It's never been easier or more fun to contact your favourite model and book them direct, and that's really cool and exciting.
You have been the cinematographer on mainstream indie films, for exemple, "The Dossier" (2015) and "London Wall" (2014). What is indie films for you?.
Those productions came about by networking with people I'd met via kinky productions. There's a lot of creative people in kinky productions, and like most creative people they are interested in lots of different sorts of art or storytelling or style.
So those mainstream indie films are just telling stories about non-kinky characters and situations as well as we can, just the same as inky films are about characters who are into BDSM or in BDSM situations.
I really enjoy the challenge of bigger productions!
Tell me about your awards at the Kiel Fetish Film Festival. What is your feeling, as winner?.
It's a great honour, but I feel bad that I've never actually made it to the Kiel festival in person. I must make it there one year! I think it is more important to support events and community things like this than it is to win prizes- after all, it's not really possible to compare one work of art to another and say which is best. It is just which one most spoke to the people on the judging panel, I guess.
I'd rather have made a piece of art which fills the soul of one person s much with emotion that it makes a lasting impact on them, than appeal to a large group of people but not have such a deep impact. Of course, in this industry you're usually broadcasting into the void, and probably most of what we make doesn't do either of those things. But it is good to aim for having a big emotional impact on someone... the way that the first BDSM photos I saw on UseNet back in the 1990's had an impact on me.
In 2013, you founded and ran the British Fetish Film Festival. Explain us why and how this project works right now.
The British Film Festival is on hold, having been overtaken by events.
It started as a room full of producer and models at a friends' house, showing each others films to the group. Which was scary as hell- we ended up with a ceremonial cushion which we passed around so the person whose film was being screened at that moment could hide behind it! But everyone was very supportive, and we talked a lot and did a bunch of skill exchanges.
The second and third time we ran it, we opened it to the public as well, but mostly enthusiasts and producers again because I wanted it to be more of a film-makers festival than a film-watchers festival. I deliberately didn't do any prizes or anything because I wanted it to be collaborative rather than competitive. We had a great time on the day making a film together at the festival itself, editing it and then screening it at the end, as well as watching films from producers who had come along.
But with all the other stuff going on it was a lot of work to run, and a lot of the early supporters have either quit production or left the UK because of the ongoing attempts of the government to censor us and shut us down.
So we put the festival on hold, in favour of more direct campaigning organisations, a lot of them led by our friend Pandora/Blake, and groups like Backlash and the Open Rights Group.
Maybe we will feel like running our friendly little festival for producers again one day, but right now the climate just feels a bit hostile, and there's such a lot else to do....
Your activism, your productions, webmaster, etc. How many free time do you have?.
Ummm, not much. Which of course means I keep finding other things to do! Like learning how to write computer games, I'd love to make a "realistic" feeling BDSM themed adventure or dating sim roleplaying game some day. Or landscape photography- having moved to a very pretty part of the country I've been out and about photographing sunrises, sunsets, snow in the mountains and star-scapes.
Or writing books, which I really want to get into more. I want to turn our old Lexicon of Bondage Positions into a proper eBook, maybe even into a big coffee-table glossy book eventually. And I want to run more tutorials, and write books to help people get into bondage photography and film-making.
What advice do you give to people and relationships that want to practice bondage for the first time?.
1) Be honest with your partner, say the sort of thing you want to do, ask if they would be interested. Try to find elements of your fantasies that might work well with elements of theirs and build the story together so it excites both of you. Collaborate!
2) Find out a bit about it before you do it. Read a book (Chanta Rose's Bondage For Sex is great if you can find a copy) or watch a few how-tutorials. Read up some basic bondage safety (eg our starter page: http://www.restrainedelegance.com/bondagesafety.php )
3) Start small. Remember the biggest danger in bondage is falling over, so start with something like a simple hogtie on a bed or a chairtie. At least for the first few times, you need to talk to each other as you do it and make sure everything is OK- work your way up to complex rope ties or roleplays gradually, don't jump in and try to do everything all at once.
4) Don't do suspensions until you really know the ropes. In fact, go to a rope class before you even think about dangling someone in the air. Don't tie anyone around the neck in a way which the bondage could possibly tighten - which when you're starting means just don't tie around the neck in any way at all.
5) Don't assume that just because you've seen it done online that you can tie it safely, or your sub can hold the position safely. Every human body is different- you need to work out what is safe and good and fun and comfortable for YOU. Don't be critical of your partner if they can't get their elbows together behind their backs (not very many people can) but also don't be critical of your dom if they can't hold it together for the whole scene or need to back it down or stop it. You should both have safewords and use them sooner rather than later, especially while you are inexperienced. Get comfortable with how to make minor adjustments to scenes without it turning into a big drama, if you can - we still struggle with this ourselves despite 17+ years of professional BDSM and a decade as a couple. But the more comfortable you can get with slipping in and out of a play scene to fine tune it, the better your experiences will become.
6) Remember it is a game played for fun between consenting willing partners. Don't take it too seriously, however intense the scene. Don't get so into it that you lose your senses and forget to consider your safety or that of your partner. No silly little bondage game is worth risking injury.
7) With all that said, remember that bondage and BDSM can be and is done safely and enjoyably by millions and millions of people the whole world over- and you can be one of them! Just be half-way sensible and you'll be absolutely fine, and you will have the time of your life! So go for it and enjoy it!.