A Conversation with Charlie Engman

Editorial by Charlie Engman for issue #9.
Model: Kathleen McCain Engman
Interview by Mark Peckmezian 


Charlie Engman is 26 years old and from Chicago. He studied Japanese at Oxford, and then kinda just fell into photography. Now he mostly does fashion photography, mostly in Europe. He started to use his mother as a model in editorial shoots a year ago or so, and she’s since become something of a muse.

 So. You photograph your mother a lot.

Yes, she takes a good picture.

 Often naked.

I photographed myself naked, why not Mom.

 Has your family always been comfortable with nudity?

Sure. It’s not such a big deal.



How did the photos of your mother begin?

I lived on my parent’s couch for a few months after finishing university, as one does, and during that time I took a few pictures of my mom, mostly because there was little else to photograph. It worked out.

What attracts you to photographing her?

Some people clam up in front of the camera, some people glamorize, some people don’t change at all, but my mom really does something else.



What do you have planned for the future with this work?

To quote a text message I recently received from my mother, “No crystal ball can forecast how things will go.”

Tell me about other modeling work your mother has done.

Yes, this is the fun part! As a result of a fashion editorial I made featuring her, Mom was cast in a series of TV commercials alongside Courtney Love. Next up, she’s going to be in a music video. She’s made it.



Does your mother like your photos of her?

Yes and no. I know that she’s not exactly flattered by some of the images I’ve made of her. But she’s my mother, so she likes what I do regardless. And she gets it.

What does your mom think about your photography in general?

I asked her to give her own answer to this, and she spent about 20 minutes saying all sorts of things and finally ended by going into the bathroom saying “I think you’re a rebel, I have to poop.”



  Do you find your mother beautiful?

Of course!

Is your dad jealous?

I definitely think he’s jealous that she’s met Courtney Love.

 What sort of feedback have you received on your mother photos? What are some of the most common remarks?

Everyone is obsessed with breasts! I’m really learning how strange everyone’s relationship with their mother is. “My mom would never do this” and/or “I would never do this” are common remarks.

What do your mother’s friends think about your photos of her?

In general, they are shocked. She’s told me that some of them think I’m exploiting her, but I guess that’s the nature of photography.

 Your mother is to your photography what blank is to blank?

A chapter is to a book.

 You’re fluent in Japanese. This doesn’t really relate to your mother but I think it’s pretty interesting.


How does this interview compare to other interviews you’ve had?

You didn’t want to ask me why I became a photographer.


Charlie and Kathleen, photo by Mark Peckmezian

Charlie and Kathleen, photo by Mark Peckmezian

1. Is it true what they say about you??
All true, but I’m really nice!

2. What’s it like being you?

3. What is it like being you, really?
Really anxious.

4. Have you ever been arrested?

5. Do you have any nicknames?
Chuck, Chazborino, and Slut.

6. What do you think of being called “Chuckles”?
Only if someone over the age of 50 is calling me that.

7. How you been feeling lately?

8. Did you cry a lot as a child?
No, I’ve been told.

9. Where were you on 9/11?
At school.

10. Were you a good student?

11. If your name was a verb, as in “to Charlie Engman,” what would it mean?
It’s probably a pretty gay dance move.

12. Which question was your favourite from the interview? Which was your least favourite?
Which interview?