Diederik Comte, is a Fine Art Gonzo Photographer based in LA. I’ve been published by Nakid a few times. This Shoot is part of an ongoing project called Room 202 the premise being that whomever walks into Room 202 starts to dissolve into their own madness while transforming into a different fully realized new version of themselves.
Photographer: Diederik Comte (@diederik_comte)
Models: Pine Polan (@pinescentedgirl) / Chloe Baeza (@sapphic_toro)
Nails: Tracy Sutter (@tlsutter)
Bondagewear: Creepyyeha (@creepyyeha)
Interview with Pine Polan on Diederik Comte’s Room 202 series.
Interview by Iphigenia
How did your energy collide with Diederik’s when working?
Diederik and I are now great friends after working together in Los Angeles,
though our energies are quite different. Diederik’s energy is intense, and he
approaches his practice with a serious attitude. Sure, there were lots of laughs
on set but when the camera was in his hands he wanted strict focus from
everyone in the room. My energy is much more calm and light-hearted, work
and laughter often go hand in hand. Photoshoots that I have done previously
often rely on puns or humour in the premise, as do my paintings, sculptures,
performances or whatever else I’m doing. So for me the energy of the shoot was
entirely different than what I’m used to when I’m working. But Diederik and I
balance each other out nicely.
How do you see your collaborative work evolving?
Diederik and I have another shoot planned for the next time I’m in LA. This one
will be messier, and less pretty.
Sharing and collaborating has actually become an important part of my work. I
collaborate more in my primary work as a painter now that I’ve opened myself
up to that in modelling. I appreciate the exchange that happens when working
with others, especially when my art practice can be quite solitary at times. I
started working a lot with my partner, Adam, in my most recent series. It’s a
collaborative process with him from the beginning to end; we brainstorm ideas
together over drinks, take photos together for reference photos, and he brings
me food after I haven’t left the studio for days. And I’m starting a new painting
series soon using a wide variety of people that I look up to. I always try to work
with people that I really admire.
How did you form the idea that was played out?
Diederik’s concept behind his Room 202 series is that when someone enters the
room they slowly succumb to madness. I enter the room, undergo an emotional
transformation, and madness overtakes me. He asked me to contribute my own
interpretation of what drove me to madness. When I arrived in LA we spent
some time together hitting up grocery stores, and dollar stores searching for
things for the shoot. The rest came together organically.
What drove you to madness? Why did the props have the roles they did?
For me it was a pretty easy decision that food would drive me to madness. Food
is a growing theme in my work, for many reasons. We have developed rituals
and culture around food to make it a social experience. In childhood food is
influenced by reward and punishment systems. Food can increase the libido, or
have physiological effects (like how spicy foods can increase heart rate, or
chocolate can enhance mood). Food to me is quite sexual, and in fact all the
props were sexual in nature. I begin the series empowered but as madness takes
over me in the end I am partly empowered by my sexuality, partly punished by
it. Which (sadly) I think is reflective of the way things really are.
Later the food became the source of an amusing memory. I didn’t notice that
the papaya got stuck in the nooks and crannies of my knee-high boots. Days
went by, then I woke up one morning and my suitcase was filled with ants. I’m
not talking a couple of ants; it was so bad I couldn’t even see my clothes in the
bag. I spent hours vacuuming the bag and washing out my clothes. My friend
and I only remembered a couple weeks ago that the ants have by now made
themselves an elaborate home in his vacuum bag. You could say the food drove
me to madness even after the photoshoot (laughs).
What does being photographed do for your soul? And what does it do on the
I have to be honest with you I’m not a very spiritual person so talking about the
soul is difficult for me. But I’m finding photography to be a really fun creative
outlet for myself. I have roots in performance. I danced ballet for 15 years, I
enjoy theatre/acting, I love to sing, and I play the flute. These practices have
influenced my interests in using myself, and my body as a vehicle of articulation
in my work. Being photographed feels just like another performance, and
performing has always done wonders for both my physical and mental health.
Being the subject in photography is still new to me. I don’t really consider myself
a model as my painting practice comes first. But I’m always learning and trying
new things. I’m constantly taking classes in subjects that I know nothing about,
even after finishing my undergrad. I am a very curious person. I think putting
myself in situations that make me learn something new is good for my soul, so
to speak. Even if constantly feeling like a beginner again can be stressful at
What keeps you alive and motivated to stay alive?
I’ve always been happiest when I’m working on my art practice. Art making and
painting keeps me alive. My incredible family, friends, and underwater snails
keep me alive. The thought of Jerry Seinfeld directing a new Seinfeld comeback
show set in present times keeps me alive. The hope to make a difference in
someone’s life one day keeps me alive.
Thinking of a better future keeps me motivated. A future that not only holds
opportunities for myself but also a future that is a better place for people of all
ethnicities, genders, and bodies. This drive for social change motivates me in a
lot of things that I do. Art making for me is about creating something that’s not
there. I think that as an artist you have to be able to imagine something that
doesn’t exist. This comes from queer theorist Jose Munoz’ idea of Queer World
Making, where LGBTQ+ people who aren’t happy with existing power structures
in society have to be able to make their own worlds. Feminists also have a long
history of trying to imagine a world unlike it is now through Feminist Utopia
Making. So my work often tries to create a world, a space, that I feel is different
from the way things are now. And while I am interested in addressing social
issues, I try to address them in a light-hearted, non-threatening, palatable way. I
use humour to maintain an optimism for the future. And it’s having this
optimistic approach to art making and the future that keeps me alive.
Who is your ideal audience?
For my visual artwork (my paintings, sculptures, prints, etc.) my ideal audience
would be of a wide variety of people across gender spectrum, ethnicity, and
sexual orientation. My desire would be to communicate to the largest possible
audience. I have had a wide audience engage with the work, and I love that.
Although I use myself in a lot of my work, and I’m not diverse in appearance,
there is always an inclusiveness to the thought processes behind the work.
What will drive your further from this point?
The desire to keep learning drives me further. I hope that through further
research and art making I will continue to arrive at new ideas and discoveries. I’d
like to go back to school to pursue an MFA or MVS next year, which will
hopefully push me in all sorts of new directions.