The Native Creative


Abigail Ekue blog - events, musings, travel announcement, exhibits, photography

My Relationship to Bare Men and the Men I Work With

Bare Men photography book

The world of internet and indie media is a fickle bitch. Publications don't get past the start-up stage, editors quit, stories get killed. Here's an interview I granted in December 2016 to a bi-annual print publication.



Can you tell me about how the concept for Bare Men developed? Did any other projects or personal experiences lead you to the series?

I did a photo shoot with the photographer Tom Spianti almost 10 years ago. I loved his style and approach to the shoot - do what you want and I'll capture it. Interact with me and I'll shoot that too. He was the first photographer I'd worked with who had that style. Other photographers were more conceptual in their shoots and had more input in how I posed etc. I loved the idea of editorial photography and the images telling the story of the shoot, if that makes sense. I'd never seen any work like that done with men. I was also tired of seeing male nudes that awkwardly left out penis and male nudes that didn't have any personality. So I decided to shoot male nudes and capture nude, naked men.


Has your approach to these portraits changed over time? Are you still working on the series? 

I am still working on the series. I'm jumping in and will travel for shoots. I was limiting myself and the scope of the series by not traveling but since everything was coming out of pocket for the past 4 years travel really wasn't feasible. My approach to the portraits is still the same however -- at-home full-frontal nude portraits. 'Home' for a man can be his actual residence, his favorite park where he loves to hike or meditate, his office, anywhere he feels comfortable. I still don't work with assistants for this series because I want a man to be as natural as possible. An audience would change his behavior and the dynamic between him and I. 


Have you received any negative responses to your work? 

I haven't received any negative responses! I've received positive feedback or silence. I don't know if the silence is from stunned amazement or a case of 'if you have nothing nice to say..."


How have positive and negative responses changed your relationship to your photography?

The positive responses haven't changed my relationship to my photography per se. They do keep me motivated to keep working on Bare Men when I feel like stopping or focusing on my other photography. I'm becoming known as a 'naked man photographer'. So I think the quicker I accept that title (or accept it as one of my titles), I won't waiver as much in my relationship to that genre of my photography. The positive responses from the men in the Bare Men series once they see their images still thrills me. They can't believe that the man in the images is them.


Through what channels do you find your subjects? 

In the beginning I asked men I knew personally and I found subjects on Craigslist. I've also reached out to men I've seen on Instagram or Twitter. Bare Men has reached a point that men are contacting me expressing interest so that simplifies the process a lot more - they've already seen the project, know what it entails and want to pose in it. I'll still dip into my personal network and CL every once in a while.


Do you look for anything in particular when choosing to work with someone? 

I look for someone who is respectful - a man who respects the process, the Bare Men project and me. When I first started shooting I was simply looking for men who were willing to pose. That was the hard part. Then I shifted focus to finding Black men or non-whites because the men I was working with were starting to blend together. I wanted a series to represent a wide cross section of men. That 'campaign' for men of color wasn't very successful. I'll try again in the future. Now, I choose men who don't try to turn the photo shoot into a date. 


In what ways, if any, do you try to incorporate the subjects’ self image? 

I incorporate the man's self image by shooting at home. That helps tremendously, I believe. Before we shoot, I try to learn if the man has any particular quirks or habits that I can capture during the shoot. I don't shy away from sensual or erotic images because some men express their erotic and sexual sides more readily. That's who they are so I incorporate that part of their personalities. 


What do you feel you bring to each photograph? How do you see yourself and your perspective on body image and sexuality shine through?

I think I bring a freedom to each photograph. Some men want to show off and the Bare Men shoots give them that opportunity. It's different than snapping dick pics or selfies for their partner. I also pull people out of their shells I've noticed. It's not only about making a shy, reserved guy some in your face kinda person, it's also having that man who's a little shy and anxious willing to show how anxious he is. I don't Photoshop my images. My stance on body image is a big reason for that. The photo should look like the person. As for sexuality, well, I'm comfortable with my sexuality. Many of the men I've worked with have never worked with a photographer before and trust me for the shoot. So when they give me the permission to 'shoot whatever I want' I do draw out their sexuality. Also because I'm comfortable with other people's sexuality, I give the men a platform to express it. 



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