Monday, 19 January 2015

Special Guest Blogger: John Tisbury

My route into bondage and suspension photography

“You will need to whip me as I want real red marks on my arse.” a customer stated when they were enquiring about a private commission. Why am I telling you this? There’s one thing I’ve learnt in life and that is; never say never. As in I’ll never do this or that, or that will never happen. I never thought I’d have to whip a customer’s bottom to get some photographs, how wrong I was. Granted this was quite some time ago, but it still acts as a reminder to me about never saying never.

About 8 years ago I remember saying to myself, I’ll never do rope bondage as I didn’t like how it looked, this was the early days in my career as an erotic and fetish photographer. Then I believed that bondage distorted the flesh and disrupted the smooth flowing lines of the female form. Yet now I love photographing bondage. So what happened to change that opinion?

As an artist I like to explore new techniques, ideas and experiences. Those fresh stimuli inspire creativity and result in new concepts and ultimately new images. Why limit yourself to things you’ve always done. That’s a recipe for always getting what you’ve always got. I now actively immerse myself in new things, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it is my approach. I’ll have a go; if I hate it at least I know from experience that I hate it. It could be that I love it and it’s a new passion that slowly develops and unfolds.

I’d been dabbling in bondage photography since around 2009 being self-taught learning from books and the Internet and I thought I was okay at it. Below is an early 2009 shot of my bondage in action with model Demi Scott.

An early bondage photograph taken in 2009 with model Demi Scott.

On reflection, knowing what I now know about bondage, I’m aware the tie shown in the image is not good both aesthetically and from a secure perspective. There are loose ropes allowing the model to move around and work loose from the tie. The wraps around the boobs top and bottom can move apart and are not evenly spaced and don’t get me started on the tension on the ropes!

In February 2011 I decided to get some rope bondage tuition. There are quite a few people who teach bondage but I wanted someone who was also a photographer as well as a bondage tutor. Bondage is not a lifestyle choice for me, so I was only interested from a perspective of things that I could tie and then photograph. After quite a bit of research the person I contact was Rod MacDonald and as luck would have it he was local to me in Cambridgeshire. I said to Rod I wanted to learn suspension work and he sensibly said that it would take a couple of sessions with an experienced bondage model to achieve this.

Rod, pictured right, showing a grinning me a chest harness tie on our model Clover.

In our first full day tuition session we ran through the basics of rope work and it’s here that I learnt that I was doing some of the fundamental things wrong. For example, my rope handling skills resulted in inconsistent tension being applied during the tie leading to a loose tie. This also meant it would never look good in some parts of the tie as they would be loose whilst other areas would be tight, this resulted in a visually imbalanced tie, which worsened when the model started to move around against the ropes. I also had a reliance on using knots to tie bits off rather than letting the rope tension itself against itself. I guess my reflection on this session was that if you’ve never been shown, then you don’t know what you don’t know.

In our second full day session we worked through different ties and started on suspension. We covered the safety aspects around suspension and the importance of health and model wellbeing.

My first 2 point suspension with experienced bondage model Clover.

From that day onwards it was a case of practice, practice and yet more practice. I’m still no expert, however I can now competently tie and undertake suspension work safely, and consider that I know what I’m doing.

Bondage photography does not always have to be about the tie, the marks left by the ropes can be visually interesting too. Model is KatyCee.

The power of influence and role modeling. If Barbie came in a bondage set then perhaps it would be more acceptable to the masses.

I’ve also done quite a few pregnancy bondage ties now. They started by chance when photographing a pregnant model and we decided to do some bondage ties. During my first tie the ropes were kept quite loose, as you can see below, so loose in fact that it allowed Louise, the model, to push both her hands underneath the ropes. As an aside, I’ve also kept this shot in colour which is rare for me as I prefer to use sepia for most of my shots. However, I liked the red rope on this shot.

As I became more confident with the method and got feedback from the models I was able to improve the tie and slightly increase the pressure on the ropes. In one of the shots below you can see that Abigail has more pressure on the ropes, to the point of leaving small marks across her tummy. During the tie I’m constantly checking with the model about the tightness of the ropes and ensure she is okay. Mother and baby come first that’s of the upmost importance, after all said and done, I’m just taking a photograph.

The awesome Gestalta in a session where we combined ballet and bondage.

Maya Homerton gets into a self-suspension pose. This is our homage to the Isle of Man.

A 3 point suspension with model Maya Homerton

Rope bondage is great fun to do and allows for great flexibility and creativity. Each tie can be different using different types and thicknesses of ropes. You can change the direction and route of the ropes so no two ties are ever the same. It allows me to express myself in other ways and gives an added dimension to my photography.

If you are presented with a new challenge or opportunity then grab it with both hands and see what happens. What’s the worst that can happen? The worst could be that you didn’t like it and you won’t do it again. You’ve lost nothing. However, like my bondage photography it could open up a whole new avenue of creativity.

Model Araneae in some floor work bondage.

About John Tisbury

John works out from his studio in Rushden, Northamptonshire. He’s been interested in photography for about 35 years and most weekends can be found working in the studio or editing stills or video. He’s won awards for much of his work:
·    2010 I was awarded Erotic Artist of the Year 2010, by JADE Magazine.
·    2012 I won Best Photographer 2012 in the Guild of Erotic Artist awards.

He is a member of the Royal Photographic Society, achieving his ARPS distinction in 2004 and a Fellowship in 2013. He’s a member of the Guild of Erotic Artists and the Association of Erotic Artists. He’s published 4 of his own books on erotic and fetish photography, along with having his work included in many more art-nude, erotic and fetish books.

Twitter: @johntisbury


  1. John - thank you for being our guest and sharing your thoughts and photographs with us. Amazing work.

  2. Really interesting article. I was extremely taken with the pregnancy shots and enjoyed supplying my own metaphors to them. I wonder if there's been much negative feedback to those pregnancy images in particular? They strike me as potentially quite polarising, depending on who may be viewing them and what they see as "appropriate" for pregnant women.

    1. I've had one or two people show concern about the welfare for the model and baby. However, I'm quick to point out that no harm has come to any of my models / subjects, and the ropes are not as tight as you would normally use for bondage work. More people enjoy them and comment in a positive way, than pass negative comments. As often with my work most females see the art in the image, whereas most males see the provocative and sexual aspects of the image.

    2. Certainly as a man the images provoke a sexual response in me, but as a writer and artist my appreciation reaches far further. I'm glad you've had a majority positive response. I've seen in the past how proprietary the general public can get when pregnant women are involved. It's a wonderful visual, though.

  3. Thank you for sharing your adventure of learning and practicing your art. The pictures are beautiful! I will definitely be looking into more of your work!

  4. I have loved your work since I saw it at the first Eroticon conference- it was one of your pictures of a woman tied to a trolley that inspired me to write Making Him Wait - your work is stunning, Great blog xx

    1. Thank you Kay. Cool to hear that my work inspired your work too - that's lovely to hear. Thank you

  5. Very interesting read - I really liked the photo's that showed the markings after the ropes were removed.

    1. Thanks. Yes I too like the post bondage markings, they form their own story and art. In fact some of those temporary skin tattoos featured in my Fellowship panel that I submitted to the Royal Photographic Society.

  6. Wonderful post John thank you for sharing all that. It's lovely to see how your art has progressed. Some of these images are just breathtaking x x

    1. Thank you Tabitha, that's great to hear - I appreciate your comments.

  7. Wonderful post John and . . . of course . . . wonderful pictures.
    As you already know, it was your presentation and beautiful pictures at Eroticon in 2013 that inspired me to book a private session with you later that year. I still cherish those photographs . . . next time I'll ask for more rope-work! LOL!!!
    Xxx - K

    1. Thank you. I'm pleased to hear you still cherish those images that makes me really pleased as I hope they have a timeless element to them. It's a deal on the ropes :-)


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.