We’re entering the homestretch of the summer so what better time to recommend a fabulous read than right now. I started this book late last Saturday night and was finished by the wee hours early Monday morning — I could not put it down. Gay Cuban author and “counterrevolutionary” Reinaldo Arenas’ memoir Before Night Falls is by far one of the most intoxicating memoirs I have ever read, and I love memoirs. The book charts Arenas’ early years in Cuba (that involves tons and tons of steamy hot sex) his horrific time in prison, failed attempts to escape the island of Cuba and his successful departure to the U.S. in the Mariel Boatlift of 1980. You may know the brilliant film of the same name that Julian Schnabel directed staring Javier Bardem as Arenas, not to worry, it will not dilute the power and intimacy of the book. Don’t skip the introduction, it’s a poignant set-up for the story as Arenas writes in the delicate state AIDS has left him in. I wish I knew this man and am eager to read his works, I’ll start with his novel Singing from the Well and take it from there.
The 21-year-old photographer on portraits, limitations and James Dean
Self-portraits in the 21st century are something of a glossed-over art. When anyone with access to a smart phone can snap a selfie, it’s second-nature to dismiss photos people take of themselves, no matter the artistry that may or may not have gone into creating them. When it comes to 21-year-old photographer Freddy Krave, however, whose candid, sometimes explicit self-portraits you’ve probably already seen splashed across your Tumblr dash, the art of self-portraiture is given a distinctly digital-age twist. The Bologna, Italy based artists’ self-portraits are often simple and forthright in their presentation, relying on little more than a plain, white backdrop to emphasize Freddy’s unconventional ideas for what a self-portrait can be. There are ones with props, wherein everything from spilled milk, handcuffs, and syringes are fair game. There are digitally manipulated ones, wherein body parts are warped, colors edge into the surreal, and limits of perception are tossed aside. No matter which one you’re looking at, however, what binds them together is the overwhelming sense you get that Freddy’s tongue is pressed firmly in cheek, ready for you to interpret his surreal, erotic portraits in whatever way you see fit.
Now living and working out of Bologna, Italy, Freddy’s work isn’t just limited to self-portraits. His Tumblr is filled with stylish portraits of models, bringing to mind a less skeezy, more homo-friendly version of Terry Richardson. On top of that, he’s also recently begun working in film as well, posting some phantasmagorical, NSFW clips to his new YouTube channel. There’s no question about it: the boy has a knack for quality, fashion-forward aesthetics.
We reached out to Freddy to ask him a few questions about his origins in photography, working without limits, and his fantasy of taking portraits of James Dean in his home studio (don’t we all wish for that sometimes?).
How long have you been taking photographs? What was your first experience with a camera? I started when I was just a kid. Think I was six or seven years old. My grandma bought me a disposable camera and I started taking pictures of everything around me. It was an obsession. Photography became a strong interest for me. Two years ago I decided to use a white background and photograph people trying to communicate something without a hard makeup or expensive and bulky dresses. Just using their body and doing crazy and provocative things.
What’s the typical set-up for one of your shoots? Do you use your own home or a studio? I only use a white background. I’m lucky to have white walls at home so I take advantage of that. I don’t have any accessories, I can’t afford them at the moment. I use my camera and a mountable flash. The rest of my work is post-produced using Photoshop (lights, colors, imperfections).
What is it about self-portraits that appeals to your artistic sensibilities most? I have to admit that self-portraits helped me a lot. I discovered so many sides of my personality and it gave me a lot of confidence. Using myself also helped improve my techniques and I applied what I learned on other people I took pictures of. And this is what I’m still doing. I feel like I’m evolving everyday, learning a lot about my person and learning so much more about how I can approach photography.
How do you approach making a film compared to taking a photo? Is it a similar method? Well, I never did videos so I said to myself that I could try. So I’m experimenting. I love doing new stuff and I can’t wait to show my works to the world. I have this hunger inside that sometimes I think could consume me, but I don’t give a fuck, I just wanna do what I wanna do. And I actually do it. It’s awesome, the feeling of freedom. And about the comparison between a video and a pic… it’s pretty different. In a video you must concentrate for a longer time and everything has to seem natural and true. I think this is the secret to communicate something.
What makes you decide to add digital elements to a portrait? Do you begin with an idea in mind for what the end result will be, or do you work more spontaneously? I add digital elements because in this way I can model the picture and I can leave my “mark”. I really wanna create something different from the original shot and using computer programs I can do that. Actually it’s one of the things I like more. For the most part my work is spontaneous. I love to improvise.
Where are you happiest? When I hold my camera in my hands. I feel complete and secure. It’s the best feeling ever.
Many of your photos take the basics of formal portraiture and willfully distort them through erotic or surreal elements. Can you speak on this subversion? I like eroticism and I like to shock. I love when people say “What the fuck is he doing? What is this? Oh my god!”. Every idea I have I put into practice. I don’t want to have limits or barriers. I just wanna express myself and what I feel. And I don’t pretend to be understood, I don’t want to be understood.
If you could showcase your work anywhere in the world with money as no object, where would it be? I think I would love to see my works in New York. Those big screens in the city. I’d wish that all that people could see who Freddy Krave is and what he is trying to do, expressing what he has inside. I want my art to be for all.
If you could shoot any model, living or dead, who would it be? There are so many people that I wanna photograph, I could write a book with their names. But one that I regret I’ll never have the possibility is James Dean. He is so fascinating still, now that he isn’t alive. I would love to photograph my sister too. We live in two different countries and it’s been a long time since I saw her last. I hope to have the possibility one day.
Images from the outdoor dance party at Place Émilie-Gamelin
The visual and performance artist, One Half Nelson told me that his Sunday night party is the first step in his plan for “world domination...” If anyone can take over the world it’s this wonderful androgynous boy — I’ve seen Nelson serving looks since I was going to college (FIT). I used to see him in the hallways — throwing! As dramatic as this event sounds it’s pretty simple, it’s hosted by Sloan Morgan, it’s taking place at Eastern Bloc (one of our favorite local bars!) and more importantly it’s the official premier for the DJ duo Object Permanences’ “musical marriage” with William Francis. “We came together and realized there are many facets of ourselves (specifically musically and visually) that exists within all of us that we often don’t pursue or perfect” says O.H.N.“Object permanence hopes to transcend this barrier and bring a full scale and ever expanding experience to everyone who takes part...the beats will be hard, the carry will be fierce.” That’s deep! I won’t pretend I understand all that, just make sure there’s a hard, cold drink waiting for me when I show up.
Blood Orange dresses like a supporting character in a mid 90’s Robin Williams film (sorry for the topical and sad reference). That isn’t a read, it’s just a fact. He loves a pair of faded 90’s moms jeans and a leather cap. He could have been the 4th dad in Full House. I just mention it, because it’s something I’ve always noticed. He brings me back to my childhood, which both comforts and confuses me. His music on the other hand ALWAYS excites me. Let’s be real, Solange’s last album was all Blood Orange. I know she tried to come for him on Twitter acting like she made that album all on her own, but please girl, we know what’s up. Dev is a brilliant producer and wonderful musician. This Saturday he’s playing at the Summer Stage in Central Park. If you’ve never seen a show there, you absolutely must go — it’s so pretty and peaceful. It’s like a mini Bonnaroo or Coachella — there’s so much nature and good vibes. Joining him on stage are guests Moses Sumney and Sean Nicholas Savage. Best of all it’s FREEEEE!!!
Hi Gio! It has been a while since we hung out and now we get to do it on “the longest night of year.” Gio’s show this Friday sounds very ambitious, as Yann Perol explains it: “The colorful and defiant universe of Gio Black Peter’s videos, songs, drawings and paintings, seep with humour, absurdity and fantasy, where misappropriations rule. Black Peter incarnates various fantasies, he is able to embody a multitude of characters, each a facet of the artist’s personality. His work remains anchored in reality, while diverting into satire and parody of politics and today’s world.” The opening reception will have performances by Brian Kenny, Gage of the Boone, Max Steele, Jordan Hall and of course Gio Black Peter himself, with music by Gordon Beeferman. The show will run for three days and the Bureau will be offer “an exclusive limited edition C-type print (only available in person).” Each 8”x5” print will be signed, dated and numbered on site by the artist. There’s more, on August 16 & 17 Gio is going to be doing “a live photo shoot with his Communion portraits.” Anyone is welcome to be part of it, if you do, you’ll receive a print. All I can say is that you are probably going to have to show your peen, but he’s probably going to be naked so that should put you at ease.
I never do this but I’m breaking stride just this once. I’m writing the Netflix description for this french/belgian film called Come Undone because it’s just too perfect. “Brooding 18-year-old Mathieu meets Cedric, an attractive carefree boy his own age and is swept away by the first stirrings of homosexual passion.” That puts it mildly — the two boys fuck like bunnies all summer long in a beach town in Brittany, France. They cavort naked in the surf, passionately hump in the dunes and stroll around arm in arm as if they are in the Castro! The boys are painfully cute, their love immediate and heartwarming and once the summer comes to an end they must chose what to do with their mutual feelings. Director Sebastian Lifshitz keeps the camera moving in the most striking fashion, making for some very interesting and intimate storytelling. Not to worry, it’s not all smooth sailing, there is a strong psychiatric element to the plot that commences at the onset and keeps you on your toes ‘til the end. It almost had me coming undone, but in the best possible sense of the word.
Jordan is 29-years-old and originally from Southern California. He grew up in Los Angeles in a city called Rancho Cuacamonga. He is now living in Brooklyn, NY. He came to NYC almost 10 years ago to go to performance art school. He describes himself as a vocalist and performance artist. He realized he liked boys when he was in High School… “I had a really good friend, who is straight and was like a brother to me. I never felt anything romantic towards him but one night we went out for fast food and he acted like he was my boyfriend and pretended to pick a fight with me. I was so embarrassed and wouldn’t play along. I went home that night and was like, oh….” Sounds sweet.
For those of you that want a piece of Jordan, he’s not single, he has been dating a guy for a few months — they don’t live together, but they see each other often since they live close by. Jordan is a romantic boy when it comes to the perfect date, “I like romantics — Not sorry about that — sunsets, walks around the city and conversations… But the perfect date is probably a trip somewhere. Camping or maybe Montreal…that place is incredible. It’s only 6 or 7 hours from NYC on a bus and there’s a million things to do from art, to nature, to nightlife, to extreme nightlife.” His go-to cocktail is whiskey on the rocks. He keeps in good shape by doing cardio, lots of dancing, “never lifting too heavy…”
His favorite part of a man is his face, “a good face is a good face.” When it comes to his body he likes his height, “It’s not at all average,” and his lips “I like that my lips are a bit thin. I used to wish I had more pronounced lips but then I had my first real kiss and realized that they’re just fine.” He told us that one of the things that really turns him on in a boy is a good sense of humor, “make me laugh and I’m bound to want to know more about you.” Things that make him happy “laughing with friends — like, laughing to tears, pop concerts, good story telling…” When it’s time for Jordan to go to sleep he told us, “I actually prefer briefs but every now and then I like how my comforter feels wearing nothing.”
We asked Jordan to take a few selfies wearing our GAYLETTER Classic T-shirt, below is what he sent to us from Brooklyn — We are really into that hair!
We just discovered this newish (it came earlier this year, but is having a moment) App called Secret. Similar to it’s rival Whisper it allows anyone to post an anonymous “secret” (I put that in quotes because most posts are less secrets than bitchy thoughts one should probably keep to oneself) and share it with Facebook friends or phone contacts. People can then comment on the post, all without anyone knowing who anyone else is. The makers of the app say it allows users to “find out what [their] friends are really thinking and feeling.” That may be true, but it doesn’t take much to get extremely personal. I posted a stupid comment about Abi on the app: “Abi Benitez from GAYLETTER just passed me on the street. So Crazy.” to see what would happen. Within a few hours a bunch of anonymous comments had popped up. Some nice “He’s hot” while others were borderline racist: “Run. What barrio are you in?” There’s something liberating about knowing what people really think of you — once it’s all out in the open it has less chance of hurting you — however there’s some things, like our looks or our race, that we can’t (and shouldn’t have to) change. To have someone go after those things anonymously is not only cowardly, it’s just cruel. So approach the app with caution, keep it light, keep it about yourself, and leave names out of it (unless you want to compliment me on my nice cock).