I wanted to make myself visible. I had to do it in order not to feel imprisoned in the shadows, away from all that happened in the world. I needed to feel alive and wanted. So I started taking pictures using the few notions I knew of photography. At first, they were only pictures I had taken for assignments. They could be qualified as casual but also as artistic. I didn’t wanted them to be just pictures but also proof of what my life was like. So everywhere I went, I carried the camera. My father had bought me one and the moment I got it in my hands I started shooting. Every interesting plant, every nice sunset, every park or animal. I would take pictures of everyone of those and more.
But at one moment I needed to do something else, something others were not doing and by others I meant the people around me. And the answer was obvious: nude pictures. No one was daring to do them. Was it maybe because I was twenty years old? Or was it that people are generally afraid of their own body? Who knows? But what I did know was that I needed a way out, a way to feel like myself, even if I had to do it all alone. I had tried dying my hair blue, changing my clothes, just being different from who I had been the past years, the last ones of school and first ones of college. I needed something to be only mine.
So the first picture I took naked was of my legs. I wasn’t actually naked but it was the beginning of that time for me. I tried different tricks with lights and editing in various ways. I also took some shirtless pictures, never revealing my face. After all, everything that goes into the Internet may never be truly erased. People were going to see me and, even as much as I wanted to be out there, I wasn’t ready to show my face.
With those first pictures, friends and other acquaintances praised my attempts for a more personal photography. They liked the way I edited my pictures and how I posed in them. After all, they were very personal and did tell tales about me to people. I was very happy to see that they were liked. Not universally but, after all, I was just learning. I didn’t wanted to be a photographer and did not pretended to be one. But I was learning so much about it that I immediately felt fascinated for an art that I had never truly reflected about.
Back then; I liked it because it was something I could do alone. I love cinema but that needs a team to become a reality. I’ve never cared about the making of music so that wasn’t really an option and my hands are not made for the subtle and gentle work of a painter or a sculptor. No, it had to be photography. How the camera felt, the various shots to get the one I loved, the experiments I did based on what I was learning. It was all so attractive to me and, to some extent, it still is.
I took the following step almost a year after opening a public Internet account to show my pictures. I had put on flowers, landscapes, sites, and my headless body. So the next step was showing more. I decided to show my face but not my penis. I didn’t want it to be the center of attention, not that it is anything special. But human nature is always governed by the animal feelings and it is obvious that people looking at a naked picture will always stare first at the genitals and then see the whole picture. We all do it and there’s nothing wrong with it but I wanted that distraction out so I took all pictures covering it or cropping the picture just right or even just turning around and showing my butt instead.
Comments started pouring on the website. They were all very kind and many even racy, which I appreciated too. Friends and others were not as enthusiastic, rather focusing on the fact that I was naked and not so much on the pictures as such. They asked me if I wasn’t afraid of showing my face naked in public but I answered that there was nothing people could do with those pictures to me. They couldn’t threaten me because I had taken the first step. I’m not ashamed of my decision and I stood by it. And if someone sent one of them to my parents, as improbable as that would be, I would acknowledge my art and leave it at that.
I have to clarify myself, though. The pictures were also an experiment for something else. They were not just about experimenting photography and having an artistic outlet that I had lacked for a long time. It was also, nudity to be more specific, a way to make people see me and judge me. I wanted to put myself out there and be bombarded with comments, good or bad. For a long time, a very long time, I had dealt with insecurity issues and I felt nudity would help me with those problems. And it did.
With those pictures, and seeing so many more taken by a variety of men, I realized I wasn’t hideous or awful. I understood that the wide range of body types is what makes the human body beautiful. Of course, being gay, there is a beauty standard as there is one for straight men too. But homosexuality is more focused on how you look and any gay man who says they had never had an issue with that is lying. We judge each other harder. Maybe it’s because of the stereotypes that had been imposed for years but there is a certain idea of how a homosexual man has to look like and just be. And that was why I needed those pictures. I needed to prove myself and others that I could be who I am and people would like that.
Yes, I did to receive approval. And that was the rotten seed that I never really paid attention to. It slowly grew for all those years, more than six to be exact, in silence. Meanwhile, I was successful with my experiment. People liked the way I got naked. At one point, I decided to post one picture fully naked and it was clearly one of the more successful ones in the account. After that, I just kept experimenting: shadows, lights, colors, places… It was all about the body. I still uploaded some other types of pictures that I liked but people seemed to be not very interested in them. Back then, I started to notice mostly men were adding me as their friend and the number grew a lot during the years. I have no idea how many contacts I had in there but I know they were thousands. Yes, thousands.
Then, people got bold and started to ask for types of pictures, even more revealing ones. I said no to all of that. I was going to make a porno picture just because people wanted it. It wasn’t what I was looking for, to arouse anyone. My goal of helping myself with the pictures was, I believed, successful. Oddly enough, it was a time I had no one to share my new securities with. That was when I realized there was something wrong. Why were they thousands of man complimenting me online but in real life not even one dared to say anything to me? I tried giving the first step and that was always a failure. I cannot remember how many failed dates I’ve had. All of the crumbling fast after just a few words have been exchanged.
Then came the people that denounced my pictures on the site where I had them. Each time I uploaded a picture, I left it without any safety advice on in order for more people to see it. After all, it was a picture of the human body, not from a corpse, or sexual or a violent act. But no. People started pouring saying my pictures were not adequate for the website. A website that had thousands of users pouring in only to check out naked men and women. If there’s something that I hate is hypocrisy and that was just the best example of it I had ever seen.
I finished college and the rotten seed then activated, still silently. My old worries came back. Every picture I took was mediocre next to the other older ones but I decided to ignore that and do something else with my life. I traveled, I did other stuff and I even did some new things with my pictures and people liked them but less than before. And the opponents were still there, trying to push me off the edge.
When I came back home one day, I realized they had succeeded. My account had been erased. The details are not important but I then suffered a very great depression. The rotten seed had finally won, all because I had made the wrong decision years ago. I kept failing in life, the future looked pitch black and now, what had been my only creative outlet for years, had been erased permanently. I was angry and outraged but also sad and vulnerable. A failed attempt to have a relationship pushed me to an abyss, from which I barely came out.
Eventually I found out photography had lost most of its appeal to me. I still like to look at them and appreciate them but I haven’t held my camera in some time. Selfies, sure. Artistic photos, not really. I also found myself another outlet, one you are witnessing right now. And, to be honest, I hope I never have to leave this one, as it keeps me going, as photography never did. It was a stage in my life but that is the past. The present is this and the future… Well, let’s hope it’s there.