“Was I a voyeur? Yes. But who wouldn’t be, given the chance” says the Danish-born photographer Magnus Arrevad about ‘Boy Story’, a project that took him years and saw him crossing the Atlantic again and again, in order to document the international, subterranean world of male performers, burlesque, go-go dancers, cabaret singers and porn stars. The journey would take him to New York, Berlin, Paris, London, Copenhagen as well as County Sligo in Ireland and a trailer park in Tacoma. On his journey, he encountered performers such as Go- go Harder, EvilHateMonkey, The Luminous Pariah and a litany of others.
‘Boy Story” has been turned into a book and will be launched with an exhibition curated by Michael Diemar, at 5 Willoughby Street, just around the corner from The British Museum.
Arrevad explains. “The series features performers from eighteen countries, living in places you’d probably least expect, but with a sense of community and mutual respect unlike anything I’ve ever known before” Adding, “I had no intrinsic link to this world when I embarked on the project. It all started quite by accident, in a basement in Copenhagen, on the night of a Gay Pride parade, which I was photographing in a completely different context”
‘Boy Story” was shot on black and white film. “I’m a traditionalist in the sense that I believe in the quality and beauty of film. The prints are handmade on the very best quality fiber paper. Digital just doesn’t look as good” Arrevad decided against photographing his subjects’ performances, choosing instead to focus on the performers off-stage, often in their most vulnerable moments, trying out a new act, applying make-up or getting into costume. “I was fascinated by the processes and preparations through which the performers visibly liberated themselves from the roles they observed through the daylight hours. They had invented a world in their own image, with their own gods and their own ceremonies. It wasn’t just about sexuality, though of course this was a large part. It was about being. The application of makeup each night was one in which a mask was taken off, not put on. I wanted to document this process of liberation”
Once the masks were off, the stage awaited, “The performances are debauched, magical and often hilarious, but underpinning it all is grave sense of purpose; to bring the dream of oneself into being. A million times I’ve heard people saying, just be yourself, To which the only sensible answer is, which one? We act different selves to our parents, our friends, our lovers and to ourselves. The self we act to ourselves is the most interesting, because in most cases, the sense we have is that we’re too scared to express it, to explore it in public. Figuring out oneself is a process. What the subjects of ‘Boy Story’ have allowed me to do is to watch them constructing their inner selves”
Boy Story by Magnus Arrevad
11 November – 8 December
5 Willoughby Street
London WC1A 1JD
Publisher : Red Room Books