Harley Weir’s latest book Father is delving deep into the male body via a concoction of erotica – striking portraits, tasteful nudes, super saturated full body monograms, and a hot pink rendering of ejaculation (peep the front cover, screen printed with metallic foiled text).
Sick of the way in which desire is, more often than not, framed by a male perspective, the photography heavyweight is using her book to explore attraction on her own terms. 192 pages of erotica – the majority of which has been shot purely for this project – printed in Italy on 100% recycled “I always wanted to make the kind of things that I found sex, so I could feel that desire was mine too,” explains Weir.
Having collaborated with casting director Julia Lange and stylists Benjamin Kirchhoff, Emile Kareh and Raphael Hirsch, amongst others, the photo anthology looks at diverse variants of masculinity and beauty, across all cultures, with the intention of provoking not just a conversation, but ‘feeling’. Capturing subjects at their most intimate – from cis and trans men, to Japanese hosts that play boyfriend for a night – Weir is probing traditional gender confines whilst establishing a dynamic platform, one that worships the male physique in an all new viewpoint.
What was the initial starting point for Father?
I’d been working on a collaborative project with my real father and initially wanted this book to be a part of that. In the end he doesn’t feature in the book, not in mind or in body... yet some of the themes still felt relevant so I decided to keep the title. The father is often the first male figure in peoples lives. The image of the archetypal male passed down from father to father... for most, your first hero.
So it was more of an intuitive process?
Always intuitive with me. I start something wanting to learn about it. After leaving the project with my dad to follow its own journey, I decided with IDEA Books that I would do a series of male nudes (the term male is used very loosely as the book actually covers a whole spectrum of genders, including cisgender women). The project quickly became a lot more meaningful than just a series of nudes, so many important threads appeared. One slither of them was desire – my own. Growing up there was a real lack of sexual imagery of men, especially in the straight realm, so I often turned to gay porn. With so much exposure to what a man thinks is sexy I was left wanting to explore my own desires and this book is a taster of that.
How did you go about selecting your subjects?
I was looking for a real range of people, to show different variants of masculinity and beauty. I collaborated with casting director Julia Lange and with stylists and friends who brought on their own opinions of beauty. Benjamin Kirchhoff, Emile Kareh and Raphael Hirsch, to name a few.
Which images stand out most for you now that the book is complete?
I don’t think anyone stands out more. But I did find photographing the hosts from Japan very fascinating. These men work in clubs that cater to women. The ladies pay them to be their boyfriend for the night, it’s not sexual, more flirty and conversational. I found this outlet for women to be really interesting. In the West, we really don’t have a similar culture for ladies. I can’t say that it’s the healthiest trade but I did visit as a customer before the photoshoot and found it surprisingly fun and refreshing to be on the other end of this exchange.
What was the decision behind the mixed media approach?
I’ve always been very hands on, it’s in my nature and the reason I still shoot film. The other reason is that I’ve had a little more time to myself as have been taking a break from editorial work. It’s meant I could look back at things from the past and also have a bit of a play with new images.
What conversations do you want to spark via Father?
So many! I’d like to talk about accepting ’s bodies – men’s and women’s, making genders less confined. Female desire, male desire, they desire, all desire! It was certainly a journey making the book, and still is, lots to think of from here. I would like to continue the discussion.