raw meat collective's queer zines capture cruising culture
Kyle Quinn, founder of Raw Meat Collective, is removing the stigma around queer smut by publishing 'piss painting' zines.
Photography Kyle Quinn
I’m a sucker for anything nude and nasty. So I was all smiles when I passed by Kyle Quinn’s zine Raw Meat Collective at the Chicago Art Book Fair in November. Their table at the fair was doused in images of limbs, bellys, folds of flesh, and crotch shots. Themes of intimacy, erotica, and BDSM were displayed through bound booklets, polaroids, and also objects (like condoms) designed by Kyle and Caroline Paquita. I immediately asked Kyle for a card to the Raw Meat website, which they wrote down for me on a Rx prescription pad.
Kyle moved to Brooklyn almost a year and a half ago, where they are currently set to release three new titles in the spring. In the city, Kyle collaborates with other artists, attends sex parties, drag shows, and art openings weekly. They tell me that they feel like all types of “new work is about to come bursting out” after a tiresome and depressing winter. “I want more fags in the streets, ripping this place apart!” says Kyle about his collaborative vision of the future.
Their personal work can be viewed on their Tumblr — where you’ll find yourself endlessly scrolling through polaroids and illustrations of an unapologetic ass-down-face-up homoerotic paradise.
Your work is rich with BDSM, queer culture, and eroticism. What has influenced your understanding of these themes? And how has it related to your identity?
Living in various places around the country has shown me what I really enjoy and hate as far as my body and sexuality goes. Different parts of the U.S. have different turn-ons and the further east I moved the better sex I was having and with all types of people. In some of these places, I’ve had to hide my sexual identity and I won’t ever do that again because it did affect the way I was making art. My concepts and ideas shift depending on my mood and where I am living. My photography is a look into the worlds I consider heaven and most, or at least some, consider hell. I thrive within isolated, dark, and masochistic settings and in these places I find beautiful people and terrifyingly hot situations. These people and places deserve to be seen and respected. I just want to portray their beauty. There is no difference between a shadowy dominatrix destroying the identity of a closeted straight man and a stunning landscape painting of the Dead Sea at sunset. That’s all the same to me and so if I’m photographing someone, or that place, or this still life, I have to have a connection to it.
When did you begin photographing cruising culture? Did you have any hesitations?
It took me a long time to be comfortable with photographing these settings because my biggest attractions are my best-kept secrets. I’ve been cruising since I was 19 and my first sexual experience was in a bathroom stall next to a Dillard’s on my lunch break, so I have great appreciation for what cruise culture is to closeted queers and it should always be something that exists. I hope the viewer can see the attraction and beauty that I’m trying to show in these settings of ecstasy. I do hold a lot of emotion with these photographs that people often overlook. It’s not easy to be in some of the situations I’ve encountered and you just have to embrace it. I want to show a headspace that you dream of in the back of your mind.
What is your relationship to the models in your photos? How do you build a form of trust with them?
These people are my muses; lovers, friends, or complete strangers I will never see again. And that’s okay, because we both got what we wanted and that might be a part of the deal. I try to take photos every day and often don’t show some for months. If a person finds me online, I show them my work, we discuss what kind of photo they are looking for, and I’ll decide during the conversation or in person if I want to photograph them. I enjoy traveling to someone because the setting is always different and those make for the best surprises as far as settings go. I don’t cruise or hook up online just to take photos, I’m there to have sex, and the photos are the intimacies of the interaction after the fact.
I’m a private person and the photos make me talk about these situations when I normally wouldn’t. Some deserve to be discussed just on the nature or story behind them. But from these encounters, I’ve gained friends and lovers I still talk to whether we’re on a sexual level or not. Every model sees the photo and approves everything because I often shoot people who don’t want to show their face, are married, or closeted. And it’s been like that for as long as I’ve been taking photos, so I’ve adapted my practice to that. That’s my only real main rule with a model most of the time: no face. I'm not here to make someone a model; I enjoy using the body as a study and figure for specific shots. Most of the time the men I photograph will use my photos on their sex profiles and that makes me the happiest. I just want someone to feel the way they really do in a photo. In some situations, I’ve sold photos privately to the person directly, so that they’re the only person that sees that photo ever.
Many of your photographs are shot on Polaroids, what is behind this decision?
My aunt in Iowa was cleaning out her basement and found a brand new Polaroid Job Pro still in the box and original film inside. At the time, I was working on a publication called Season Of Bliss, which contained landscape photographs of graveyards shot all over the country from 2012-2016. I had been taking some landscape photos of natural settings, so she thought I’d enjoy using the camera for that. In the middle of shooting graveyards, death, and sorrow, I shifted to more erotic work mostly shot in dark places. It made me practice indoor/outdoor lighting a lot, how film develops in different temperatures, and what Polaroid cameras can really handle. They aren’t much but they are convenient and fun to use and offer a lot of variation. I like the film because often my models want to see what they look like right away. If someone is serving it and giving it they’re all, I don’t really have to edit much. I use multiple cameras at once and not just Polaroid. I shoot 35mm, digital, and have recently enjoyed shooting with a Fuji Wide 300.
Let's talk about Raw Meat Collective. It's a publishing artist collective that involve zines, apparel, sexual objects, and prints. When did Raw Meat begin? What goes into running a zine collective?
I’ve always made zines or publications for my fine artworks or shows, so it’s been something I’ve incorporated into my practice. Art books have very few rules; they’re a great way to show a body of work or process without restrictions. My boyfriend and I were throwing a sex cruise party in Minneapolis called Poppers and I self-released a zine called HANK #1-3 and applied to be in the Printed Matter Art Book Fair in Los Angeles. At that time, Shannon Michael Cane was the curator and he got me to be part of their LA book fair. It just sort of snowballed from there and I’ve participated in fairs since then. Shannon liked what I was doing and also was my hardest critic. I owe everything to him. He got me in the Artist–In-Residency at The Ace Hotel, tried getting me to model for a Richard Prince project, and would tell me when my work sucked and how it could be better. Two years into the fair he asked why I wasn’t under a publishing label for queers to submit more work to and publish more artists. So I came up with Raw Meat and branched out and started publishing books and zines for other artists and collaborating with close friends on things I envisioned but didn't know how to create.
I want to curate Raw Meat with aggressive, emotional, and unapologetic works that have something to say.
Can you talk about the zine, Inferno , and the idea behind it?
During the New York Queer Zine Fair a couple years ago at the LGBTQ Center someone approached my table and said he enjoyed my Polaroids. He asked me about the photographs and the models and I told him they are various people I sleep with or pose for me. He said he was starting a sex party called Inferno and that he wanted me to take photos there. I didn’t live here at the time, so I didn’t think too much of it, but as it turned out, I moved to New York a couple months later and he asked me to go to the second party at that time.
He asked if I wanted to run a photo booth the at the next party. I was hesitant at first because I've never photographed a lot of people within such an intimate setting, but everyone within this space was so nice and welcoming that I said yes. The club has history and I think any person who enjoys sex should go there once if you live in New York or even if you’re only visiting. The first party I photographed went just okay. I don’t think people enjoyed me being there taking photos — brand new to New York. I only took nine photos that night, and they were mostly of my friends and people who work Inferno. Then I did a second, a third, and a fourth and people started getting into it and asking me if I'd be there, or if they could set up shoots on the side, or would specifically come early to get their photo taken. It’s a hard thing to want to get in front of a camera and flash your penis, tits, vag, or asshole, but to pose and embrace yourself is even harder. That party has challenged me because it’s mostly shot in dark lighting and on a sex bed or bench. I liked having cute dramatic backgrounds and people want to be directed and I enjoy telling them what to do, so it works out great. I shot enough of the party that the promoter asked me if I’d be interested in releasing a zine of the photographs on Raw Meat and that’s how the idea was born.
We released it at PS1 Art Book Fair last year. I had a person featured in the book lying on my table completely naked on the preview night and it went great. We are currently in the beginning stages of designing the second edition.
Any important future releases or news you want to share?
Raw Meat is headed to LA at the beginning of April for the Independent Art Book Fair presented by Ed Varie Gallery. We’ll have four new releases available then. An awesome new zine by Virgil B.G. Taylor (Fagtips) called Burn This Zine that is meant to be burned and comes with a sexy set of matches to light a fire. Vincent Tiley has been in collaboration with Bryson Rand working on a series of piss pantings and we’ve worked together on a publication for their upcoming show. The book is called The Origins of Color and Bryson has photographed and documented Vincent’s entire process. Mickey Aloisio is a Queens photographer who has shot a series called “Milkyway.” It is a still-life series of shots of him ejaculating into an empty abyss. A number of fun short-run items will be produced like patches, a new tee, and a new second installment of my zine Seasonal Depression that I just finished shooting. We will be having and hosting various parties around New York this spring.
As far as myself, I will be curating my first gallery show at Yellow Peril in Providence, RI featuring a number current queer artists from all over. I will also be spending time focusing on a solo body of paintings that will be presented next fall.