When people ask why straight fetish magazines and websites don’t show more hot-looking fetish men, there’s often a presumption on the part of the questioner that it’s because the people in control of these media only want to publish pictures that turn them on — which means pictures of women.
There is undoubtedly some truth in this, but it’s not the whole truth. From an editor’s point of view, one of the biggest hurdles to publishing more pictures of hot boys in latex is finding suitable images. When 99 percent of the fetish photographers you deal with only every photograph women, you don’t get offered a lot of male imagery. And when you do, it often has a very different visual style — a style separated from the kind of imagery we’re accustomed to publishing by much more than just the gender of the participants.
So when we find a creator of gay fetish imagery whose style does crossover into our territory, you better believe we’re going to publish his work. Thus we’re very happy to be presenting this portfolio by Ulli Richter.
This German-born commercial lifestyle and advertising has been London-based for some 12 years now, and has lately become known to the London fetish community as the curator of photography and art exhibits at Covent Garden’s legendary perv haven, Coffee Cake & Kink. But his kink credentials were established well before this, as anyone aware of his advertising campaigns for gay fetish/BDSM stores RoB London and Spexter Munich will know.
Richter presents his artistic mission statement as a purveyor of pervy pictures with great clarity and eloquence. At a time, he says, when actors get paid millions to emerge almost incestuously in different pairings again and again for our ‘entertainment’, and when a campaign of globalised dumbing-down driven by a high-tech- and image-obsessed fast-food-pop-culture is in the process of successfully devaluing everything, it is the artist’s duty to step back, refocus and return to essentials.
“Beneath the surface of a first glance my work is not pornographic but, on the contrary, Fine Art Photography in a documentary context,” he says. “I feel that on many levels the gay male fetish scene has shown me a degree of community, integrity, respect and most of all reality that I greatly miss in today’s society.”
He is aware that this is in itself a contradiction, as fetish and fetish play are often associated with dressing up and changing roles. “However, in a society where everyday disaster, violence and warfare are commonplace, I juxtapose the deceptive threat of a fetish scene, where in actual fact everyone finds safe and consensual ground to live out his fantasies, against the real madness and absurdity of modern everyday life.“
‘I find the people who are considered society’s margin-walkers much saner and more sincere than the ‘good people’ who disapprove of them’
In other words, he says, “I find the people who are considered society’s margin-walkers much saner and more sincere than the ‘good people’ who disapprove of them.
”Coming from a family of alternative practitioners and energy therapists, he considers himself privileged to have experienced “the power of spirituality and self-belief” at first hand. “Anyone who has ever participated in an SM play scene, felt the relief of total submission, the handing over of control to someone he can trust as well as the intensity of the power play and the energy exchange between two people, will understand that this is a form of spiritual healing and must never be compared to the truly traumatic experience of violent crime and torture,” he believes.
Richter says he draws much of his artistic inspiration from the greats of still and moving images. His first contact with this particular style of documentary photography came when a friend introduced him to the work of Diane Arbus. This was then closely followed by seeing Richard Avedon’s “haunting” images from a mental institution and in more recent times the work of Ellen von Unwerth (her Revenge series is, he says “simply sublime”) and the “starkly beautiful and perfectly executed” work of Annie Leibovitz.
“Most of my work is influenced by surrealism and its preoccupation with dreams, sex and demise,” Ulli explains. “Federico Fellini’s movies continue to inspire me greatly and in particular 8 1/2 which is dark but beautiful, disturbing yet light and almost frivolous at the same time. I am also fascinated by the work of Terry Gilliam and his masterpiece Brazil, which fits this very concept of contradiction perfectly.
“There are many parallels to the social structure and workings within the organised gay male fetish scene, a scene that exists because an ever-increasing number of dedicated people contribute to it. The people I have photographed are complex individuals who may appear threatening and even dangerous but are in fact kind, caring and full of passion.”
Richter recalls that his hero Richard Avedon once said that all of his images “are brought to me by the real people and events of my time”. Richter says he too strives to capture the particular world around him — “a world I am so privileged to have become part of” — and to work in a new style of Fine Art Photography that has been referred to as ‘Artcore’.
Asked to summarise his style, he says: “I combine the kinky reality of a subculture with a poetic-symbolic and sometimes humorous approach, thereby capturing and preserving the moment for the future.”