“How did it go with your family?” asked Sandra, handing Kellen a mug of tea. “Did she like the earrings?”
“Yes – total winner!” nodded Kellen. “We had the birthday drinks at a new cocktail bar in town. I had a Joe Calzaghe – delicious. It was a good couple of days, although we had to work hard not to talk about politics.”
“You watched the no-confidence vote?” asked Sandra.
“Obviously…” confirmed Kellen. “But, you know how Wales voted for Leave.”
“Don’t tell me that your family voted to Leave!” gasped Sandra.
“We’ve adopted a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy on it…” explained Kellen. “We had to agree a safe-word. Anytime that Brexit started to rear its head in a conversation, shouting out – Gaga! – meant that we had to change the subject and talk about something else.”
“Why is your safe-word always Gaga!” laughed Sandra. “You’re so gay!”
“I’m going to take that as a compliment…” dismissed Kellen.
“Anyway, you’re lucky that you weren’t run over by Prince Philip!” said Sandra. “That was out your way, wasn’t it?”
“You do realise that Sandringham is not in Wales…” replied Kellen. “In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite side of the country to where I was.”
“Is it?” asked Sandra. “Are you sure? I kind of thought it was all in the same general direction. To be honest, anything beyond the M25 is a bit of a mystery to me. In my head, the UK is pretty much made up of London and then there’s not-London.”
“I’m pretty sure this is why 52 percent of the country voted to Leave the EU…” sighed Kellen. “Just to remind everyone in London that they still exist.”
“Anyway, what is Prince Philip doing driving around in the middle of nowhere?” asked Sandra. “Doesn’t he have a driver? If I was a prince I’d definitely have a driver. Is Kate Middleton driving herself around? Is Meghan Markle driving herself around? Well, Meghan probably is, but you get my point. Prince Philip is 97 years old!”
“I guess he just wanted to be a bit independent…” shrugged Kellen. “But this probably will put an end to his driving days. What are your plans for the weekend? Are you seeing flower-market-guy?”
“He’s taking me away for a romantic mini-break…” grinned Sandra. “Just me and him… romantic… mini-break.”
“Shut up!” exclaimed Kellen. “That’s awesome! Where’s he taking you?”
“It’s a surprise…” replied Sandra. “Although I’m pretty sure it’s going to be Paris. I’ve never been to Paris, and I keep dropping hints about Paris, and how romantic it would be to go to Paris.”
“How have you never been to Paris?” asked Kellen.
“This morning he sent me a text, saying – Bonjour…” continued Sandra, ignoring Kellen’s question. “So, at lunchtime, I went out and bought a beret.”
“Where did you find a beret?” asked Kellen.
“Strangely enough, they had some at Poundland…” shrugged Sandra. “I guess they’re clearing out anything that’s vaguely European.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how Brexit is going to work…” said Kellen. “It’s not going to become illegal to wear a beret.”
“You say that, but no one really knows for sure…” insisted Sandra. “Iceland have got packets of French Onion Soup on sale.”
“Gaga!” said Kellen firmly. “This is definitely a safe-word scenario. I call Gaga!”
This is the latest episode of the serial, Hoxton Street.
We want to hear your opinion
Photography that embraces naked men
“Stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet…”
I caught up with photographer Anthony Patrick Manieri to talk about his ongoing series of work known as Arrested Movement.
Why do you think this project has captured the imagination of gay men around the world?
Because we’re all the same really, except we don’t all look alike. We usually just see what society deems to be the ‘perfect’ body types, flashed across TV and social media all the time.
This project encompasses a wide variety of men that are photographed equally and beautifully. I feel that the variety of men and body shapes being highlighted are recognisable to most men. We need to see diversity represented more in the media. That, and also the idea of male body positivity is refreshing in a world where the media seems to only push female body positivity. In this day and age, where depression and anxiety are extremely commonplace, it’s nice to know that we’re not alone in the struggle.
Why are men so keen to be photographed by you for this project?
Because we all want to fit in. We all want to be accepted, and here is a photographic series celebrating all men, all body types, and showcasing them artistically. I think men look at this and can relate and identify with some of the participating models, because they see themselves in the photos.
Most of the men you’ve photographed for this project appear to be first-time models, most likely being professionally photographed naked for the first time. Was that experience confronting for many of your models?
From what I’ve seen, and from what some of my assistants mentioned to me, for most of the men that participate there’s a definite shift in their overall energy levels from when they first arrive at the studio to when they’re done. One assistant asked me — “What is going on in the studio? Because when they arrive they’re quite scared, some even shake with nerves, but when they leave they glow and have this sense of empowerment.”
I make sure that the studio is private and a safe space for them to try and feel as comfortable as possible. I brief them, and coach them with suggestions of possible body movement. I also stop periodically to show the gentlemen their progression so far in the shoot.
Most men, after seeing themselves on the screen during the shoot, are delightfully impressed by how they look. They look at themselves in a positive light artistically, and not what they usually expect to see. I talk to them about how their hands are positioned, their facial expressions, pointing of their feet, and the overall lines of their bodies in the frame.
When you’re not quite happy with your body, putting yourself out there is brave. I watch some men almost lose themselves in the moment and in the music. I’m grateful that I get to witness such a personal moment of self-evolution. For others, they’re determined to take an amazing photo, so they push themselves so that their final image is strong and unique.
Should everyone tackle a naked photo shoot at some point in their lives?
I don’t know if that’s the answer. What people should do is take time to appreciate and accept themselves, to put themselves first. Fill their own cups before extinguishing their energy with others. Uniqueness is special. It’s okay to look different on the outside, because we’re all the same on the inside.
How is the project continuing to evolve?
I’m currently working on the design of the book — I’ll be releasing a Kickstarter page this Fall. I’m also looking at gallery spaces to have the first of many shows.
Are you still actively shooting guys for this project?
I’m still actively photographing men. If it were up to me, I’d be in a different city every weekend photographing.
Since I’m funding this myself, I need to take breaks between cities. Travelling, studio costs, and hotels add up quickly. There are a few cities in the US, Canada, and Mexico that I’d like to do before heading back to Europe. Beyond that, there’s talk of Australia, and possibly some cities in South America for 2019.
How can we help each other feel better about our bodies?
I think we really need to be kind to ourselves, and each other — daily. Judgement and self-judgement is such a human flaw, it’s like a vibrational plague. We should be detaching ourselves from our smart-phones and social media regularly. Yoga and meditation are great ways to feel centred and grounded, to be in tune with our higher self. Eating right always makes for a happier body and mind. We need to encourage and validate each other to be the best we can be.
What do the images that you’ve captured through this project tell us about gay men and their relationship with their bodies?
Gay culture is meant to be inclusive, and we celebrate that inclusiveness. Though within the gay community, there’s such a divide between men. We’re labelled and put in categories, therefore creating almost a hierarchy of what’s acceptable.
Body-image and self-esteem start in your own mind, not on Instagram. We need to literally stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet. We need to make mental health a priority in the gay community.
I hope that when people see this project, they know their worth, they know that they’re beautiful, and that it’s okay to be different.
Meet the participants
Isaiah Shade is gay for slay
Model Watch: Matt K from Perth
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