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Photography that embraces naked men

“Stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet…”

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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?

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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

Follow Arrested Movement on Instagram

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Arts & Culture

A modern guy’s guide to man-on-man cruising

The risk of being caught is the ultimate turn-on

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Public toilets, private affairs — image courtesy of Schwules Museum

Perhaps surprisingly, the proud tradition of man-on-man cruising is still going strong. Wherever you are in the world, you’re not going to be too far from a spot where you’ll easily find other men who want to hook up with men. There are plenty of apps and websites dedicated to helping you out if you want to have sex in a public place.

Tom of Finland and the gay culture

As a young gay guy, I learnt pretty much everything I knew about sex from Tom of Finland cartoons. This was a world before the internet.

Tom of Finland created a hyper-masculine world in which sex between men generally seemed to happen spontaneously — at work, in a bar, at a swimming pool, hanging out in a park, or in a public toilet somewhere. These men were constantly hot and horny, constantly on the lookout for sex, constantly cruising.

The sexual landscape drawn by Tom of Finland represented a time not only before location-based dating apps, but also a time when being gay was either illegal or socially unacceptable — a time when there wasn’t ready access to safe spaces for gay men to meet, a time when every sexual encounter had an edge of danger and the thrill of the unknown.

The encounters celebrated by Tom of Finland are still very real for the gay men of today.

Cruising as part of UK’s gay history

In the UK (and many other countries around the world) police used to actively patrol known cruising areas, actively arresting men, even using decoy officers to entrap people. This type of arrest routinely destroyed people’s careers and their lives.

Given the technological and social changes we’ve seen in most Western countries in recent decades, you could imagine that the need for gay men to go cruising for sex has become a bit redundant. If you want a quick, anonymous sexual encounter (or something more) then you can simply put your smart-phone to work, or head to your nearest sauna or sex-on-premises venue. Right?

Contrary to the approach of a few decades ago, police in the UK will generally only turn their attention to guy-on-guy cruising if they receive some sort of formal complaint that needs to be investigated. There is specific legislation that makes it illegal to have sex in a public toilet, but any sort of sex in a public place could be an offence if it’s shown that your actions are likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress to others.

No matter how discrete you are, having sex in a public place clearly comes with some risks. You’re always pretty vulnerable mid-fuck. Homophobic thugs will often target known cruising spots. There are numerous cases of men being mugged or robbed while cruising. Also, the men who frequent cruising spots may pose a greater sexual health risk — they could be closeted, and possibly less-educated about HIV and other STDs.

But all of those risks somehow add to the thrill of it all. There’s entire websites, Tumblr feeds, and Twitter accounts dedicated to recording the exploits of guys getting it on in places where they probably shouldn’t, places where they could be caught or discovered at any moment, places where other anonymous guys might turn up and who might want to join in the action.

Public toilets, Private affairs

Berlin’s Schwules Museum has hosted an exhibition by photographer Marc Martin. His series titled Public toilets, Private affairs celebrates guy-on-guy cruising in public toilets.

Martin’s photos, staged with models and using disused train station toilets as locations, are beautifully observed, and celebrate the anticipation, the sexual tension, and the fraternity that can be experienced in public toilets around the world.

The proud tradition of cruising lives on.

Read more from Gareth Johnson

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