TGM: Hello Dave thanks for interviewing with TransGlobal Magazine. We thank you are doing an amazing job supporting the transgender community as an ally.
First can you tell our readers a little about yourself and growing up in Los Angeles, family life, etc.
DN: I’ve always had a good family life. My father died when I was very young. My mom and I are close and my family have always been supportive of the work I do.
I love L.A. Growing up I was fascinated with Hollywood. Music, sex and celebrity are visible even if you’re only driving through. I started seeing bands at places like the Roxy and Whisky in the mid-80’s. By 1986 I started playing them. It was a fun time for music and being in your teens.
TGM: You were heavily involved in the music scene of the 80’s and 90’s and what were some of your favorite bands to see?
DN: I went to (and played) a lot of shows in the 80’s and 90’s. A few stand-out lasting memories are: X (RHCP opening) in 1984, The Replacements in 1985, Miles Davis in 1991, Sonny Rollins in 1990, Nirvana in 1991 in England (we also played with them in 1990). During that time I use to love seeing Descendents, The Ramones (we also played with them twice in 1989).
TGM: How did your experience playing in punk rock bands effect your creative development as an artist?
DN: Playing and touring in punk rock bands I met a lot of people all over the world. We toured the U.S. and Canada many times. I’ve been on five tours in Europe. Because of this I was able to meet a lot of interesting people. Many I still keep in touch with. I made a point to see some of the great museums in Spain and all over the world. I’ve always had a love for art and when I discovered the work of Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus it got me really interested in photography. The last two tours I was on I brought my camera and took photos of people on the streets in Spain.
Any recent bands in your iPod we should know about?
DN: Fuzz (II), Ty Segall’s ‘Manipulator’ and Wand’s ‘Golem’ are all great.
TGM: Your photography is a big part of your life. Is that what fulfills you creatively or is there another passion that you have that helps fills in those voids?
DN: I love photography. When I started my goal was to have a book and now I am on my eighth (Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities). I feel very lucky to have publishers interested in publishing my work. I’ve also been putting out a zine ‘Identity’ I’m working on the second issue now. I started buying (punk rock) zines when I was in the 7th grade. Over time many of those fanzines have been seen as an important part of music history and have been included in museum / art exhibits. Identity Zine is a photo zine with my images along with interviews, poetry and articles written by trans and gender variant people. I’m printing editions of 300. Once I have several issues, I hope to have them released in book form.
TGM: What aspect of photography as art do you find most rewarding? Most challenging?
DN: I collect my work for a long time before I show it to the public. It’s all about collecting the work and it all being new to the viewer; it gives the project a much bigger impact than showing the work as I create it. It’s exciting, yet sometimes difficult, to show restraint and save my work because I really love how it looks. It’s very rewarding to have a book or exhibition that you’ve been working on for 3-6 years to be finally seen by others. I love having books published and exhibits at galleries.
It’s challenging to find subject willing to be a part of something you’re doing. It’s so easy, and all too common, to make someone look bad in this digital age of tabloid and headlines for clicks. You have to build trust and convince them that their stories and photographs will be presented in a positive way. I love it when the people I work with are proud of the work we did together–it makes it all worthwhile, and encourages me to continue the work I’m doing.
TGM: You married your wife, Oriana, in 2009. How did you two meet? Did you know about her career up to that point when you first met? Does she help you with your own career and vice-versa?
DN: We were introduced at a fashion show by a mutual friend. I photographed Oriana, with Nadia Styles, for Taboo magazine and she asked me to join them for drinks after. I was like, “Yeah, yeah…” figuring she was being nice but, when I didn’t show up, she called me and asked if I was coming. A few years later we were married.
Oriana inspires me to create the work I do. She is totally supportive and I try to encourage her to create as well. She is an excellent writer/artist and has a great memoir on her time in the porn industry called Girlvert: A Porno Memoir (Rare Bird/Barnacle).
TGM: Tell us about the menagerie of animals you and your wife have. Have you always loved animals?
DN: The “menagerie” was more of a creative way of saying “a dog and a cat.” Now we just have the cat. We gave Bambu, the dog, to my mom when her dog passed and visit him everyday. The cat prefers to be the ONLY pet in the house anyway. She’s a princess, and you can see her on my my Instagram acct @davenaz.
TGM: Is there anything in particular which draws you to gender-non-conforming people as subjects for your work?
DN: It started when I saw photos of Jiz Lee and others in the queer porn community. I just thought they had a great look and style. Then, when seeing people like Venus Lux and Mia Isabella, I just wanted to photograph them. The interviews and stories came later.
TGM: What are your thoughts on the recent progress of the transgender community in gaining more acceptance and visibility in mainstream society with shows such as Transparent and actresses such as Laverne Cox?
DN: I think it’s awesome. I hope we see a lot more of it and more from genderqueer and transmen too. I recently saw Laverne Cox at the WEHO Halloween and she has such a powerful presence. I was in a trance watching her walk across the stage.
I’ve seen a couple episodes of Transparent and enjoyed it. I liked Orange is the new Black too, but there are too many shows to see. My first priority for TV shows is The Knick.
TGM: What issues that affect the transgender community do you feel are the most important or not getting the focus they need?
DN: I think homelessness and the jobless rate.
TGM: Your latest project, the book Genderqueer, features essays and photos of transgender, intersex, pangender, and every shade in between people with essays by Jiz Lee, Morty Diamond, Ignacio Rivera, Jenny Factor, Sarah B. Burghauser. What came first, the essays or the photos, and what was the process for picking your subjects?
DN: First came the photos. I heard the stories during the photo shoots and they were so interesting I started interviewing the models too—the interviews are in the zine and documentary.
When I approached the publisher about putting the book out, we agreed that it was important that the personal stories go with the photos. There are five very different essays about gender identity in the book.
As far as picking the subjects, it all was very organic. Drew Deveaux emailed me about modeling and I loved her gender defying look. Around that time I saw Jiz Lee on social media and we worked together. Jiz posted about the project on a queer message board and I started setting up shoots. I took a couple trips to SF and shot others when they came to LA. Five years later the book was finished, but I’m continuing the work for the zine and future books and gallery shows.
TGM: What comments or insights shared by the people you interviewed during your documentary “Identity: In & Beyond The Binary” made the most impact on you?
DN: There were so many, but Chelsea Poe’s comment about homeless trans people was an eye opener.
When I was editing the doc, I kept telling Ori every night, “This is my favorite interview….” That changed pretty much every day because they were all so real and honest.
TGM: One of the women interviewed in Identity: In & Beyond The Binary made the comment that “being trans in America is fucked up.” After your experiences in working with the trans community and getting to know their stories, do you think that’s an accurate statement?
DN: That was Mandy Mitchell. I love the honest and bold answers she gave. In her case, there were some really fucked up things that happened to her. There were other that had very little hardships while some had to move from the area where they grew up to live in a supportive community elsewhere. This all shows that everyone has their own story, and I thought it was important to share them all.
TGM: Buck Angel made the comment that “even if doctors were to tell him that the hormones he takes would cause him health problems, he would still rather have a shorter life but have the quality he now has rather than stop taking the hormones.” Was this view shared by other people you interviewed for Identity: In & Beyond The Binary?
DN: Definitely. The Stefani Special segment showed how important it is to take hormones and the risk she was willing to take to get them over the internet and take them. Stefani is a smart girl and knows what she’s doing, but I’m sure many others aren’t so skilled and could get themselves in a dangerous medical situation. Even she was nervous when going through the steps of injecting the hormones and figuring out the correct amount. We really need better health care providers out there that understand and can explain the risks and dosage to people in need.
TGM: Any new projects in the works? Anything you’re really looking forward to in the future?
DN: I’m really excited about the work I’ve collected for my zine: Identity.
TGM: Do you have a dream project? If you could do regardless of time and money what would you do?
DN: Big productions are nice and I would love to have endless cash to spend on them, but being able to do a project like this for very little money was really awesome. I would like to have more money to pay the models and have Urth Caffe deliver coffee and pasteries during the shoots.
TGM: Thank you for your time in doing this interview. One last question. Any suggestions of insights you would care to share with our readers and allies in particular about how we can better serve the community as large?
DN: Don’t be so quick to attack someone online if you disagree with them. Online policing can be so counterproductive. You can be fighting for the same cause and be attacked just for something misinturpeted or not agreed upon (I don’t mean this at all in the case of hate speech. Hate speech is unacceptable). Real life conversations are so important. Meeting face to face and working ideas out, problem solving. Don’t live your life online, you’ll miss so much.