At 12 years old, Dangerously Dolly, as photographer Jane Queen is most commonly known, began her work in the visual arts by teaching herself how to do digital image manipulation long before she ever picked up a camera. She considers January 2009 to be the start date of her life as a professional photographer, and yet less than two years later, her brash, seductive imagery could be seen in a variety of popular tattoo magazines, including a number of cover shots. With more than 20,000 Likes on her official Facebook page, Queen’s work is immensely popular online and elsewhere. You can find scores of interviews and reposts of her imagery across countless blogs, image Tumblrs and pinup sites, and she even has discovered her images being sold on bootleg T-shirts overseas. She also receives so much fan art that she has dedicated an entire gallery page to it on her website—all of this at only 24 years old. Dangerously Dolly may sound fanciful, but Jane Queen is anything but.
It takes a lot of work to make something look easy, and after speaking with Queen it becomes obvious that she’s determined to be a success at a very young age and willing to put in the effort to get there. Queen says she considers marketing to be "everything" in photography, and she heavily maintains her social-media profiles (Facebook, Model Mayhem, Myspace, Twitter, Tumblr and now Google+) despite her intensely busy schedule of traveling, shooting and editing. (She plans her schedule ahead for the full year in order to save on travel expenses and to keep potential models organized by location.) Each social-media venue serves to update her tremendous fan base with her schedule, new images and projects.
The images themselves skirt the alt edge of fetish and fashion while still staying strictly within tasteful bounds.
Her own website, which she constructed and updates herself, acts as the digital marketing hub for all of her endeavors, with each portal blending seamlessly back to dangerouslydolly.com. For instance, she uses her own Tumblr blog (WhatYourEyesCouldEat.com) to engage her fans not only with new imagery, but also with question-and-answer sessions. A lot of her fan mail comes from the oodles of potential pinup models who are dying to work with her, while many other queries are from budding photographers asking for technical and practical advice from the young ingénue. Tough life, right? The truth of the matter is that none of her success comes from luck or chance. It seems as if Queen is a true workaholic, but when asked if she considers herself to be one, Queen explains in true workaholic fashion that it’s not a term she would use. "When you have a strong desire to learn something," Queen explains, "the work and effort put into it becomes enjoyable."
There are quite a few photographers working in the "alt edge" space, a world comprised of piercings, tattoos, fetishism and hyper-sexuality, but Queen’s work transcends the typical Model Mayhem shot thanks to her unique conceptualism, a keen eye for detail, exceptional lighting abilities and a subtly surrealist approach to her work. The images themselves skirt the alt edge of fetish and fashion while still staying strictly within tasteful bounds. There’s certainly plenty of suggestion, but very little actual nudity. Queen embraces the pop sentimentality of vivid colors, a core pinup characteristic, not only with backgrounds and props, but also with the models themselves who often will sport any variety of Technicolor hairstyles to match their plentiful ink.
Queen notes that she’s mostly attracted to retro imagery and to the beauty of the female form, in particular, the voluptuous cheesecake innocence of master illustrators like Gil Elvgren, Alberto Vargas and Olivia De Berardinis. Ironically, when she first started taking pinups, it was criticism from other pinup photographers that inspired her to push her style further rather than rehashing the staid pinup. She explains that she would reference an image from the halcyon days of cheesecake only to find that other photographers would accuse her of taking their "ideas," which is laughable, of course, since they were based off of the same source material as Queen’s. So she decided that rather than emulate the well-established style of pinup photography, she would push herself to create her own. After only a few short years, Queen has set herself apart from the pack with a style that’s already instantly recognizable.
Queen says her direct influences are Ellen von Unwerth, Mert and Marcus (Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott), David LaChapelle and Annie Leibovitz, but she says she has learned more from traditional art than photography, particularly from her grandfather, who was a painter.
"My mom is also a very big influence on me," says Queen. "She raised me well and did all she could for my sister and I. So I’m a strong believer that achievement comes from hard work."
Queen says the name Dangerously Dolly is designed to cater to the market of 17- to 25-year-old females who make up a large part of her fan base, but there’s so much more that she would like to accomplish outside of that market.
"The name Dangerously Dolly was thought up in a matter of 10 minutes," explains Queen. "I had already been photographing things for a year under a different photography name that described me, but found that a lot of people had trouble pronouncing or searching for it. So because some of my pictures portrayed a strange and fierce, but still girly-like quality to them, Dangerously Dolly just popped in my head and it rang a bell. Marketing is crucial when you’re freelancing. There’s a lot more serious conceptual work I’d love to do, as well as commercial work, whether it’s portrait, fashion, beauty or advertising. The Dangerously Dolly project is based around an alternative pinup style. It’s all about the tattoos, retro and fetish-inspired concepts. I’m definitely interested in exploring other areas, which is why I’m expanding work onto the name Jane Queen."
Learning to edit on the original Jasc Software Paint Shop Pro and later Adobe Photoshop at such a young age was a great training ground for playing with the potential of digital imaging. Queen’s groundwork has helped her to understand what’s most important to capture in the camera and what can be done later.
After only a few short years, Queen has set herself apart from the pack with a style that’s already instantly recognizable.
"My mind is my favorite piece of gear," she laughs. "Until a computer or another object does what my mind can do, I’ll always have use for it. Aside from my mind, I use my trusty Canon, AlienBees, a range of modifiers and Photoshop to buff it up and make it shine."
Queen considers her team indispensable to her shooting process, as well. "My make-up artist Molly Walsh does a phenomenal job when she’s on set, as well as hairstylist Ginger Rowland. Also, designers like Abigail Greydanus, House of Harlot and Eve Liszczyk have created custom outfits for some of my concepts. I’m grateful for the effort they put into their work."
Her work is still evolving, says Queen, no surprise for someone so young. She has begun to work under both the Dangerously Dolly moniker and her own Jane Queen name, considering them alter egos, but both an aspect of the same person behind the lens. She notes that Dangerously Dolly is only her first serious project, and she’s anxious to move on to bigger and better things that hopefully will include more commercial work, product photography, fashion photography and perhaps even more mainstream portraiture. ("I love animals," she says. "I’m anxious to do pet portraits!")
Regardless, she’s very satisfied with how her life has turned out.
"Photography is difficult to make a living with," admits Queen. "If it’s in your heart, you’ll be committed even though you might not be making money off of it. That’s just the way I’ve always viewed it. I went through a very long period before I saw any income coming from it, but it’s not about the money; it’s about creative expression. If you’re looking to jump into photography expecting to make a fortune overnight, it’s definitely not a career option you should consider."
Adds Queen, "I had several ambitions when I was younger. I loved music and graphic/digital arts. I still do! Photography kind of fell on my lap, though. I was on and off being broke, but finally had about $800 in my bank account, so I decided to buy a camera. There I am, broke again, but this time I was happy and broke! It’s been a long road of trial and error since, but I’m pretty happy I decided to spend that money on a camera. Photography has changed my life for the better and has opened all kinds of windows of opportunity. I know half of it’s talent, but the other half must be believing I can do anything."
To see more of Jane Queen’s photography, go to dangerouslydolly.com.