Remember a past where advertisements, TV commercials, films and other mainstream media channels were focused on only using Caucasian men to represent ‘sexy’? Well, gone are those days as we say hello to a new generation of hot, sexy Asian men who are equally (if not more) able to coin the term ‘sexy’ with their own means. Working with over 100 models from over 10 countries for his latest book, Asian Male Portraits, Element goes behind the lens as we speak to renowned male model photographer, West Phillips to understand the workings behind male model photography.
Element: Tell us more about West Phillips.
West: I stumbled into photography a few years ago, somewhat unintentionally. I have always been a sort of visually-driven person, but never really had the direction or motivation to turn the ideas in my head into reality. Since I picked up a camera and started trying things out, I find inspiration and art in far flung adventures and the people I meet along the way.
Element: Which one amongst your beautiful works holds the closest to your heart and why?
West: That is a difficult question! Many of my portraits have a story or a memory behind them. Some of the guys I photographed have shaped me or affected me in some way and in some instances, quite personally. While I have done many photoshoots where the interaction between the model and me is strictly professional, some of my subjects have been close friends and some I have had more intimate relationships with. When I am capturing someone who is close and significant to me, naturally those are the closest to my heart because there is a lot more going on behind the photo.
Element: What does your typical day look like?
West: One thing I love about being a photographer is that there really is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day for me. I guess if I were a wedding photographer or a photographer with an actual studio, then it would be more like a routine. Since I started this career 8 years ago, I have lived in different cities and countries, chasing different adventures and such. At the moment, we are in the U.S. doing a promotional book tour – we are in San Francisco for a week and the following week in LA and then Washington, DC. After that, I will be back in London for a month or so before I go to Scotland. The lack of a ‘typical day’ can be fun and exciting but understandably, it can also be exhausting!
Element: Complete the sentence- As a child I wanted to…
West: Be a park ranger and live in the woods! Ha! Admittedly, aspects of that are still quite appealing to me.
Element: What is your secret behind the “perfect” shot?
West: I think that the ‘perfect’ shot can be open to interpretation, depending who is viewing the subject matter and what their own tastes or preferences are. Composition, lighting and subject matter are the ingredients to make it all happen, but there are other factors that can make or break the photo as well, which sometimes get overlooked. For me, location is always a big part and once I have a location in mind, I then need to find the right model to use there. Once you have the right model and location, the rest is up to timing and the collaboration between the photographer and the model. If both are on the same page and into the photoshoot – I think that is when the magic happens and you will get the best shots.
Element: Describe your favourite male pose in words.
West: I think that guys usually look best when they are more natural or at ease. Some minimal flexing does not hurt but nothing too posed or contrived. I am usually conflicted with the tough, cocky or bad boy look and the more playful and boyish look – it depends so much on the subject. Not every male model can pull off the sort of ‘Adonis’ or hero pose and stance, so it is key to have the subject pose in a way that makes sense for them and their body type, otherwise the photo won’t work and it will just look ridiculous!
Element: What advice would you give to readers out there who aspire to look better in pictures?
West: Angles, angles, angles! Know what the most flattering angles are for you and use them. Also, take a break from all the heavy filters and Photoshop. If Photoshop is applied minimally or done well, it can look natural. If edited poorly, it will look super fake and terrible. In this day and age of Instagram, Snapchat and all these photo apps like Meitu, people are really going crazy with horrible filters and stupid stickers to hide how they really look. I never agree to photograph someone if the only photos I see of them are filtered or obviously Photoshopped. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve received such photos from interested guys and I just have to delete the message.
Element: Tell us something exciting about your upcoming trip to Taiwan Pride in Taipei.
West: Yes! I am excited to return to Taipei in October to promote my new book, Asian Male Portraits (asianmaleportraits.org) and my brand-new 2019 AMP calendar as well! I am also looking forward to taking part in the pride festivities and of course, I will be on the lookout for new models!
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