Exploring the male form has always been extremely challenging. Much because there has always been a stereotype mindset with how the men should be seen, cold, brutal and masculine. And as most artist swerve towards the females, there are always a few masters with the eye and the brilliance to see beyond the blunt spartan machismo. There was Michelangelo’s David, Bharat Sikka’s environmental male portraits and now I am proud to present to you Gregor with his brilliant portraits, again exploring the hidden side of men.
Gregor’s work, to me is iconic in the way it presents men. For it displays the femininity and sensuality in men with such lucidity and sophistication that it makes you want to be photographed by him. I spoke to him about his work and his ideas in a Saturday night conversation.
Q. Tell us Gregor, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get introduced to photography?
A. I have always photographed. As long as I can remember I had a point and shoot 35mm camera. I got it from my mother. I pictured my friends from school with it. I wanted the photos look like the cast photos of the soap operas I liked. When I became 18, my mother gave me my first SLR, a Canon 5000. She photographed herself, not professionally, but enthusiastic. I liked to watch her slides and negatives. So it was really her who introduced me to photography.
Q. What inspires your work? What have been your influences which have shaped your current viewpoint towards photography?
A. I remember being fascinated by the work of Wolfgang Tillmans when I first saw it. The less staged and “HQ” pictures look, the more authentic they are. So called “professional looking” pictures don’t make you feel something. They are good work, but they don’t make you dream. I like Mario Testino’s photos of celebrities a lot. Grainy candid snapshots of a moment. My first photo book was by Pierre et Gilles however. Their work had a big impact on me too. They deal with male sensuality, on a homo erotic level, whilst often maintaining a quirky and funny spin on things. Very self confident. That impresses me.
Q. Your study of the male form has been utterly fantastic. Tell us, why did you choose to work primarily with male models and how has the work developed over time?
A. Thank you, you are way too kind. I like men (not that that would be a surprise), I find them beautiful; I run into beautiful men everywhere, I can’t walk down the street without noticing a beautiful man. They all look so very different, it can be a short blond one, or a tall dark haired one, they come in all shapes and sizes, and when I see one of them, I want to create an image of him, of the way I see him, to show the world how much beauty there is out there. Maybe make people appreciate a little more the enjoyable sights that surround us. Of course, women are beautiful too; when I was younger I was in love with woman’s appearance more than with men’s. Yet I feel that there’s still something to add to the portraiture of male beauty that hasn’t been done already, which I want to do.
How my work developed – it’s hard to analyze ones self. I have done much more with nudity lately than before. I had pictured so many portraits and head shots of nice looking men with nice shirts on or the occasional shirt off – I wanted to to something else. Portraying a whole body instead of only the upper half is much harder and requires much more practice, which is what I’m gathering now.
Q. Most of your work has been in portraits, do you take your shots in a premeditated mood to only shoot portraits or is it that you are attracted towards only portraits and don’t indulge in anything else?
A. I used to go on landscape/nature shootings when I experimented more with different analogue techniques. Not so much anymore these days. I admire architecture photographers. I have never tried it myself though. Maybe I think that I could picture a certain landscape or a certain building still in a few years, whilst a person I want to picture now, because people change much faster, and that’s why I always end up picturing people.
Q. Working with people, do you think there is a stereotype mindset in the audience as in only what kind of models should be photographed and presented?
A. I realize most models have that stereotype in their minds themselves. An audience looking for an intriguing picture is much more open to new ways to picture a person than the portrayed person himself. He wants to be recognized well, no distortions, clean, sharp picture, and of course the muscles must be presented in their best light and photo shopping the skin so that no pores can be seen anymore doesn’t hurt either. I don’t do this kind of photography. It doesn’t intrigue me when i see it in portfolios of other photographers or models, and i don’t want to do it myself. When you find yourself in an intimate situation with a person, there are no stylish clothes to cover unflattering body parts, no color correction curve, and no skin treatment. There is just you with the other person and you will see then for yourself if you like what you see. My photos show people the way they are – hopefully.
Q. There is a deep undertone of softness and femininity in your work, a sense of drama fused with romance. Even though you work with men, there is no machismo or rashness in your images. Do you feel this style is created because of your exposures in life and comes naturally or is it induced on purpose, very consciously?
A. My favorite question, thank you. I have often been asked about the softness of my pictures. I photograph people as I see them. Everyone has a sensual side. I think men have that as much as women do, they’re normally just more used to hide it (and that is part of what makes pictures interesting that manage to uncover that side). Yes, there is that type of image where a man acts very man-ish and rude and shows off his masculine side. I think they don’t look like that on my pictures because the person behind the camera, the person they are communicating with through the lens in the moment of the picture, is not at all compatible with that kind of behavior. Even the toughest guy realizes instantly I’m not a “high five” kind of guy. Sometimes it takes my breath away when I see how quickly and deeply a man lets himself fall for my camera with no boundaries. I could cry in these moments.
Q. You’ve been known to mostly use manual lenses, how come?
A. I believe the less automatic the process of taking a picture is, the more natural it is. The use of manual lenses in combination with a digital camera results in many many blurry pictures. It’s still worth it. Manual lenses are wonderful. They make you work for the picture. Driving an automatic car is obviously more practical, but is it really BETTER?
Q. For all those technical strobists, tell us, do you work mostly in natural light?
A. 95% of my work it purely natural light. Or, let’s say available light. Because that includes entering a room with existing artificial light and use it the way it is. But yes, daylight is the best, and I use it whenever i can. Some of my basement pictures are taken with help of a photographic light I found on a flea market for 1 euro. I never use flash for portraits (except for rare occasions), it’s the opposite of an intimate atmosphere I think to suddenly have a bright light coming out of nowhere. I feel like the model would try to not look frightened all the time. Not very relaxing.
Q. Are you currently working on any projects / commercial work / exhibitions?
A. I’m currently very busy with my main job (which is not photography) and can’t really think of much else. I’d love to create a photo book with my work some day, so that is a project I will hopefully start working on one day soon. Commercial I am not. And an exhibition – apart from a thing like that being very expensive, I probably wouldn’t survive a room full of people whispering in each other’s ear what they really think of my pictures. Or worse – an empty room.
Q. Any tips for amateur photographers out there?
A. Picture what you love. The way you love it. Make a “style” out of your pictures. One picture of a washing machine will probably not look very interesting, ten pictures of ten washing machines will make people wonder “why is he picturing all those washing machines?” and they will be intrigued and keep looking if they find the answer in your pictures.
Thank you Gregor for speaking to me and for that amazing interview. And to all his fans (I’m sure now after reading this, there are many), you can visit him on Flickr OR his Personal Website for more pictures.