Any aficionado of the male form will have savored a photograph taken by Dylan Rosser. Many of the images - beautiful men frolicking unabashedly nude - have entered the realm of gay iconography, a distillation of who we are or want to be. His influence can be seen in everything from glossy advertising to Grindr photos that make one pause. Perusing his portfolio, I was astounded to realize how many of the photos were familiar, lodged in my subconscious, I just wasn't aware they were all the work of one man.
On the eve of the release of his latest book Wet, Rosser is forthcoming and a charming mash-up of questing artist, erotic adventurer and baffled businessman. He is also deceptively coy, when asked what makes a photograph erotic, he responds, "I have no idea." His response is the same for what makes a photograph a work of art. He may claim to be operating on instinct, on his own desires fuelled by a keen eye, but a Rosser photography is usually emphatically both erotic and art.
Drew Rowsome: How do you get your models to be so apparently comfortable when posing nude?
Dylan Rosser: They know what I shoot and nudity has been discussed so they usually are already comfortable. If not, it usually only takes five minutes of them being naked and they kind of forget about it.
How do you choose your models?
Sometimes they choose me. I don't often message models because I hate rejection and since I usually require nudity, many male models (or their agents) are not interested. But I like guys that are athletic and not too big. I mostly use Instagram these days to find models and hopefully after I shoot one guy, it leads to other connections.
What makes for a good model?
Someone who is not self conscious about how they look, is willing to try things and experiment, and who likes to show off. Dancers are good to work with as they have an understanding of movement and how their bodies work. But I do love a good face too.
Many of your photographs are familiar from Tumblr and social media but I was mainly unaware, and rarely told, that they are your work. Copyright is rarely effective in this day and age, is that a frustration for you? It has destroyed the music business and is well on its way to dismantling the film and television business – is photography in danger as well?
That's why the books are so important to me. I usually do not release more than five to ten percent of the images from inside a book. I try keep the full frontal images exclusive to the books. It's also why I will not do digital versions of my books as it makes it too easy to screen grab and share online. Yes, someone could buy my book and take photos of the pics inside but they will never be the same quality as an original digital file. It's also why I try and come up with some limited edition products, for example the collectors edition of Naked Ibiza that comes in a slipcase. These are the sort of things that people can't just copy and that collectors like to have.
How have you made photography a viable career choice?
With difficulty. I rarely have paid gigs because I have no interest in shooting fashion. Some guys pay me to shoot them, I do my books, and I also run two websites, TheMaleForm.net and galleryMALE.com. The latter one is to sell Limited Edition prints from me and other photographers. I wish I could just focus on books and make a living that way but they take a lot of time and money to make happen.
TheMaleForm.net blurs the lines between portrait photography and porn. When you published X-Posed in 2008, you (or your publicist) wrote, "This book focuses on the purity and sensuality of the male form, often showing not much more than a smooth, sexy male body using light and shadow to accentuate the athletic curves and shapes of the models. And sometimes I show much more than that but hope to always keep it tasteful, timeless and classic." Do you think there is a difference between porn and erotica and fine art photography or are those arbitrary puritanical divisions?
What is to say porn cannot be art too? It's a grey area and it really depends on the viewer and how open minded they are. For me it also has to do with a certain taste level. For me personally I like to photograph erections, but not in a sexual way. But for some, an erection is porn. If you look at my work there is rarely a strong sexual element. Yes, it's a naked guy, but he is not grabbing his crotch or looking suggestively at the camera.
We - both myself and MyGayToronto.com - are always debating what is acceptable to publish and my personal choices do not always match what is deemed prudent to publish. Do you make similar choices and if so, how do you decide?
I have some images that are much more sexual in nature and I do hesitate using them because that is not my usually "style" and I want, in a way, to control my brand. Having said that I have been working on a project focused on close-up images of the penis. I am still not sure if/when/how I will publish this but there are some beautiful images. Just nothing that I could show on Facebook or Instagram.
The MaleForm.net includes many adult film stars. Is it different working with a performer than with an amateur model or a fashion model?
I personally rarely shoot for TheMaleForm anymore. I just run the site and get content from other photographers. I have shot some porn stars but I prefer to shoot guys that do not have loads of dick pics out there already. For me it makes my books more special if I can have models that are a bit more exclusive and not all over the web already. Ideally I would like to shoot fashion models because they usually know how to pose with no direction and I love beauty. It also feels less expected to see the fashion model type full frontal.
You ran afoul of Instagram and Facebook's ambiguous and inconsistent guidelines on what is "acceptable" in a public forum. Why are penises so frightening to some people? Were you able to get your social media forums reinstated?
To be clear I never post any penises on Facebook or Instagram. I have no problem with that rule. The problem is the unclear rules about nudity. Bums are allowed but not close up. So at what point does an image become a close-up? I got my account back and a short message from them saying it was their fault, but I know there are various haters out there that spend their days just randomly reporting my pics hoping that eventually something will click and I get banned.
You have had many books published and now Wet is coming out in September. Many of the previous print runs sold out and Amazon has some of them available second hand for extravagant sums. Which book were you most satisfied with and why?
Naked Ibiza is my favourite to date just because it was a big jump in size from my other books and it had taken so many years to put together. It was my first Kickstarter campaign and to get the support from so many to make it a reality makes it that more special. I also really like my RED book because it had a definite theme and I like the way it printed, but it did not do as well as my other books so I guess what I like is not necessarily what the public likes. I never want to presume what will sell and what won't. FYI, do not pay those crazy Amazon prices for my out of print books. I usually have some stock left and you can order via my website, DylanRosser.com
Issue #48 of MGT on the go .pdf is available for download.