“My images are definitely tamer than what people would expect,” says Steve Diet Goedde, a photographer whose work is showcased in a new book, The Beauty of Fetish. “Most fetish photographers shoot either to titillate themselves and their peers or to shock the uninitiated. They forget that there’s a person wearing all that leather or latex gear in their photos.”

Goedde discovered the theatrical genre–typically associated with leather, latex, and an imaginative use of props–after dropping out of the School of the Art Institute in 1986. He was studying filmmaking but decided to take up photography on his own. He shot some pictures of a girlfriend standing on the back porch of his apartment. She was wearing latex gloves and a rubber torso. “I didn’t want to show her face because we thought we were being risque back then.”

Soon he was doing catalog shots for local fetish outfitters like the House of Whacks and Paul C Leather. And he began working with Molly McGee, a friend who’d started designing latex clothing and corsets. After moving to San Francisco, McGee set up her own company, So Hip It Hurts, and the two still collaborate. Her fashions grace the cover and many pages of The Beauty of Fetish.

Most of the models featured in Goedde’s book are friends he photographed here while he held down a string of day jobs at record stores–Peaches, Rose, and Tower. “One thing I miss about Chicago is good places to shoot. Not being a studio photographer, I rely on interesting locations, both indoors and outdoors.” He says one of his favorite spots was Goose Island, “which provided secluded, dank locations.”

Goedde relocated to Los Angeles earlier this year, and he’s now preparing for an exhibit at a Santa Monica gallery, where his photos will be hung alongside the work of such other sensualists as Robert Mapplethorpe. Currently he’s doing still photography for filmmaker George Hickenlooper, who directed the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse and the recently completed The Big Brass Ring, based on an unshot script by Orson Welles. Hickenlooper’s latest project–a documentary on LA disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer–has Goedde shooting portraits of such celebrities as Brooke Shields, Cher, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello, and Ray Manzarek. But hanging around Hollywood hasn’t tempted him to try filmmaking again.

“Making films is a long, tedious experience. Getting a film made relies on socializing and financing as opposed to the actual art of filmmaking. I prefer the lonelier art of being in a darkroom. There I’m in total control.”

Goedde will sign copies of his book from 5 to 7 Saturday at Quimby’s Bookstore, 1854 W. North; call 773-342-0910 for more information. –Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Steve Diet Goedde photo by Marne Lucas; misc. Goedde photos.