Photographer Begum Yetis and stylist Matt King present a new series inspired by bodybuilder magazines and punk posters, which celebrates people’s bodies
The age of Instagram has made us strangely accustomed to people presenting – or even advertising – their bodies online, in varying states of undress. It is now a common and socially acceptable occurance. A new exhibition, which is titled Bare With Me and is the result of a collaboration between photographer Begum Yetis and stylist Matt King (of SORT Zine), explores this premise: it presents and celebrates people in the nude, or in underwear, but in a different way to Instagram.
“Strong, confident and honest,” are three words Yetis uses to describe her portrayals, while King cites inspirations for these works in 1970s bodybuilder magazines and punk and sex posters. These images – as the exhibition’s title suggests – lay their subjects bare, creating a sense of eroticism that harkens back to the 1970s, yes, but also feels new, modern and tongue-in-cheek.
On display at Doomed Gallery, Dalston, for one night only, these pictures will be presented to their subjects at the end of the evening, but reunite later this year for another exhibition – this time at the punk festival We Are Loud Fest in Istanbul, Turkey.
Ahead of tomorrow’s exhibition, and alongside a preview of the show, Yetis and King open up about this series and they ways they think Instagram has influenced the way we present our bodies.
Can you introduce the exhibition to us?
Matt King: This is Begum’s baby – her first solo show. She wanted to photograph people – diverse in age, gender and race – and explore their bodies; present them as they are, without any retouching, and celebrate them. Begum approached me to work with her on this and I thought it was such a fun thing to style. It started as this camel toes and wedgies thing, and though we’ve adapted it slightly, it’s still tongue-in-cheek: cramming people into tight underwear and revealing more than you’d necessarily do in a fashion editorial.
Begum Yetis: I thought it would be interesting to give underwear and undergarments a starring role, as opposed to clothes. What you wear under your clothes reveals a different side to your character and I thought it would be interesting to explore that in a variety of people.
Can you tell us about the people you photographed?
BY: Matt and I knew some of the people separately and others we cast through social media. We were mainly interested in people who were truly interesting to us – we weren’t looking for a specific look.
MK: But yeah, it definitely came from the heart rather than the head. There wasn’t a specific look at all, we wanted to explore all sorts of things.
Matt, you’re interested in London’s underground subcultures – does this series reflect that interest at all?
MK: Yeah, I like to think so. It’s a vulnerable project. It made me show some people who are part of that underground/artist/performance artist world and personally I like to think that shows in all of the work I do with SORT Zine and SORT Studio and all of that. That’s super important, definitely.
Can you tell me about the actual shooting of the project?
BY: We selected a couple of places we could shoot and shot the people who couldn’t make those dates in my apartment. They came as they were and we worked with the chemistry we got. It was all very organic.
MK: And of course with a project like this there are some people who are more confident with their bodies than others and that was a real challenge actually, to tackle different levels of confidence in people. We were really pushing people – for some of them, to a level they haven’t been photographed before. We also had a couple of older people in there too – I’d say they were in their mid to late 60s – which was interesting as well; a completely new generation that I certainly hadn’t worked with before. And I think we both learned a lot from studying different generations of people. Nowadays the generation is very much like “look at my bum!” and it’s socially acceptable to explore your own body and advertise it online, which I think is another reason we wanted to focus on a show like this – because it seemed so relevant for now.
BY: And I think you see more bums than anything else because of what Instagram allows. Everyone was much more comfortable showing their bums than other private parts.
How do you think your images compare to ones that might have taken themselves, for Instagram for example?
BY: I think they are my perspective of the people we shot. I went for what I thought was interesting when I was photographing them. Also, I like to see people comfortable and confident and showing the strongest version of themselves in my photography. So I think I pushed that as well. But I don’t think any of the people we shot look soft or vulnerable, they look very strong, confident and honest.
Is there a message you’re trying to communicate through this series?
BY: It’s more about having a fun approach and these fun experiences than trying to say something.
MK: Everyone takes their bodies so seriously these days. We wanted this to feel a bit tongue in cheek from the beginning. The references were Physique, bodybuilder magazines, old punk and sex posters, bands in the 70s that would have used that strong sexual imagery to promote their shows, which is where the flyer design comes in and the inspiration and the look of that. We wanted it to feel reminiscent of a 70s era – the pin-up vibe, all of that – but do our own modern version of that eroticism.
The flyers for this exhibition, as seen on the Another Man Instagram, were created by Omer Agustoslu.