All day I dream about pizza
It’s morning. Your alarm goes off. A terrible ringing in your ears. Begrudgingly, you may turn over and hit the snooze button, taking full advantage of another eight minutes before you get up for another day at the office. Well, that’s not the case for NYC-based photographer, Joee Vee. Another day at the office means hopping out of bed to photograph stunningly gorgeous men. Eating pizza. On his bed. Naked.
Joee Vee has been up and coming in the photography industry for years, starting his journey as a photographer nearly 10 or more years ago. Having followed him on social media all this time, it has been incredible to watch his journey as a photographer and to see his woks notoriety and growth. Now, with a couple of issues of DNA Magazine under his belt, one being a cover, and a recent feature in Instinct Magazine, I had to connect with Joee Vee to see what he was up to.
Having known you for several years, All Day I Dream About Pizza has been in the works for quite a while. In 2019, before the pandemic, it finally happened. Tell us about this project.
Joee Vee: When I moved to New York in 2016, I knew I wanted to make some sort of coffee table book. I had seen the photographers that I’ve looked up to produce their own. I wanted to make one of my work, and I wanted to do one that was different. One that wasn’t just like, you know, sexy, naked men showing everything, I wanted there to be substance to it.
I was brainstorming ideas, and at the time, when I moved to my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, it was a box. I was used to being in Connecticut, where I had so many different rooms and different locations outside. Here, I was relying on white walls and a bed.
I had already started to [photo] shoot men in bed. I was like, “well, maybe I can relate my new style to my new home here in NYC.” I was walking down the street from the gym one day and inside a pizza parlor, I saw they had taken photos of their customers enjoying their pizza. I was like, “wait a minute, everyone comes to New York and thinks of pizza.” I have friends from Russia that are like, “we need a New York City pizza.” It’s everywhere. It’s on every corner. You can’t miss it. I thought I should do a guide of the best pizza in the city. Each male model actually selects their favorite slice. They bring it with them. They strip down to nothing and I photograph them in white sheets enjoying their favorite slice.
Afterwards, we just chill out in bed and I interview them. I had about seven questions I asked each of the guys, from “why is this your favorite pizza” to “what turns you on in bed?” I wanted it to be very sexy, playful. Once I created the book, I turned the interview into a paragraph featured with each model. I also wanted there to be diversity, so I tried to represent and feature as many races as I could. The only guy I really wanted that I couldn’t get was a redhead!
Fantastic, and here it has come to fruition. How are you feeling?
JV: I’m really proud of it. It took a long time, but I wanted it to be perfect. I knew the vision that I had, and doing it myself, it was all new to me. I had never made a book before. I’m thinking, “I’m going to produce this book. I’m going to figure it out myself.” Then, one of my friends involved in book publishing encouraged me to consider trying to get this published. I didn’t even think about that. I dove into a whole other process, learning about the proper way to reach out to publications, writing stuff up for it, and submitting it.
It was a process that I didn’t consider the length of time I had originally planned for. One day, Carson Kressley had reached out about purchasing prints of mine. When he and I started talking about the book, he loved it. He was like, “I’m going to give you the information to my publishing company” because he had written a book. Unfortunately, because of technology and social media, everyone thinks they are photographers. A lot of publishing companies no longer publish photo books.
I kept trying. I decided, “you know what, I’m going to just build the book the way I see it. I’m confident enough that I’m just gonna go ahead and self-publish.” In the end, I’m really happy that I did it. I was able to keep the book the way I saw it, how I wanted it to be
I think the passion comes from when I got into photography, the encouragement I would get from my photo teacher in high school saying, “you have such an eye.” That encouragement turned into a passion because I never picked up a camera before or went to a dark room, but it was a requirement, some sort of art, in high school. I went through the process of learning about photography as an art. It really developed into a passion of mine. Professors would say, “I can feel the connection that you have with your models. They feel comfortable with you.” That always stuck with me. I take the time and I want to get to know each person. It’s an intimate moment that they’re going to create with me or in front of my camera, “baring all” pretty much.
I remember picking up a copy of DNA’s Sexiest Man Alive issue and seeing one of your models featured in it. Later, another issue with your work was on the cover! Did you feel like you arrived at that moment?
JV: I was ecstatic. I reached out to DNA multiple times before. A goal of mine was to be in a print magazine that you could find somewhere, in a store that you could pick up. When I received their email, I was through the roof, smiling from ear to ear. I called my mom right away and I was so happy. She’s always been my biggest supporter. I’m so blessed to have a family that supports what I do for a living. To answer your question, I did think, “Okay, Joe, you’re going to be in a magazine. You’re going somewhere. Keep it going.” It’s hard work and dedication. It’s doing shoots for nothing sometimes, but it’s going to be worth it in the end.
Ever since that shoot with Anthony Laguardia, when DNA wanted him for the Sexiest Man Alive, that shoot was actually the same day that we shot his pizza photos. I removed the pizza. (I think he devoured it). And I said, “let’s do some without the pizza so we can use these for something else.” I submitted them to DNA and got a reply right back. They created a full spread and called it “In Bed with Joee Vee.” A couple years after that, I received my first cover of DNA magazine in March of 2019. It was a great, great thing for my career.
It must be fun, sexual, sensual to be shooting these gorgeous men. Tell us about inclusivity and diversity. How does your work speak to the social justice needs of our nation?
JV: I think I actually already do that with my photography when I can. It’s when I feel I can express it through my art in the correct way. I would love to focus on so many issues in our world, but certain things can keep you from expressing everything you want to through what you do. When I feel confident enough that I can show something in my work in the correct way, I will. For me, I’ve always tried to show gay pride, LGBTQ+ rights. I’ve done shoots to showcase equality, highlighting that love is love. A specific shoot that comes to mind is one of Josh and AJ in bed together. It’s not raunchy and it’s not porn. It’s two beautiful Black men in bed together, sensual and beautiful, just as if it was a man and a woman.
I try to incorporate important topics into my work. Just recently, I did a shoot in October to promote the vote. To get out there and help make a difference. It was a very big election and it was important to get out there and vote if you can. So I did a shoot to promote voting positivity. In other ways, as it relates to issues in our world, I believe we need to use our mouths, our voices, to harvest dialogue with people to better understand what’s going on.
Now that we’re starting to rise out of the COVID crisis, what’s next for Joee Vee Photography?
JV: Well, 2021 is going to start very positively. I want to dive right in and get back into work. And I’ve done exactly what I said. I’ve been taking all the precautions and having safe shoots. I’ve had to make definite changes. It’s definitely not the same as before. I feel as almost like, as I mentioned, part of my passion is sitting down, getting comfortable with these people. I feel like that’s changed because you’re so nervous. You’re cautious. You have your mask on. You don’t hug. Don’t touch, don’t even handshake, you know? But I said, “you can’t use it as an excuse to not work, to not create new stuff.”
I want to try and continue to promote the pizza book as much as I can because I was hoping to have done a meet and greet of some sort that was not able to happen in 2020. I want to continue to promote the book. If all goes well, there will be a creation of a new book that will tie in most likely with the All Day I Dream About… and make that into an ongoing series. I’ll be really focusing on myself and other new projects that have been circulating in my head during the pandemic.
I am a creative person. Other than photography, I enjoy painting. I enjoy decorating. I enjoy making baked goods. I want to start possibly focusing on those other things that I enjoy as well and make them into a career.