Photographer Spotlight: RJ Shaughnessy

A knuckle injury at the 2000 Junior Olympics prematurely ended RJ Shaughnessy's boxing career. "I spent a few weeks searching for something that was less stressful but still gave me the same visceral rewards as hitting another man in the face," Shaughnessy told us. "It was in those days that I found my first camera at a Detroit pawnshop. From there, I was hooked."

Shaughnessy's work can be characterized by a raw, urban quality enhanced by a kind of drunken joy and subtle humor. Perhaps best known for his book, "Deathcamp," which documented his life at the infamous LA-based art collective of the same name, Shaughnessy has since gone on to hone his editorial skills, lending his edge to glossy fashion magazines.

"I like to capture moments that feel like they happened to you, even though you weren't even there," says Shaughnessy, whose quick to mention his affinity for "pictures of happy people jumping over things, jumping out of things and climbing up things."

Sounds simple enough, but according to Shaughnessy, ancient Greek mathematics also figure into his oeuvre. "Ever since I was struck by lightning, I would dream of the golden triangle," he explains. "Before I even knew what it was, before I knew about mathematics, I would have these visions of this ratio and when I would go out and walk around I would see it everywhere -- architecture, geography, people. That's always excited me, and I try to pour that into my work whenever possible."

To what degree the golden ratio has influenced his fashion spreads, we can't really say. But one could safely bet that shirtlessness will continue to play an important role in Shaughnessy's images. "Through a friend, I had the unique privilege of meeting Helmut Newton just before he died," he says. "I asked him if he had any advice for my career. He leaned in really close to me and in a very determined voice said, 'Try to make everyone take their shirts off.'"

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