The publication’s founder and creative director shares an exclusive preview of the upcoming issue, "Retro Erotico."
Let's talk about sex, baby. As much as fighting for representation and visibility are integral parts of queerness, let's remember what the basis of these identities is: sexual attraction. And, to be honest, there's not much variety in the types of guys mainstream media gives queer males to lust over. There's that infamous, and much written about, Sean Cody stock character: bro-y, masculine, and all-American. A quick scroll through all those clean-cut boys makes gay porn's idolization of whiteness, youth, and hypermasculinity readily apparent.
That's why a digital publication like FACTORY Fanzine is important. With its boys dressed in fishnet stockings, thigh-high boots, and chokers, it's helping to reshape the queer male gaze. It's the brainchild of photographer Baldovino Barani, who was inspired to create an ode to hot, gender-bending boys after finding a muse in Turkish model Taner Sigirtmac. "He reminded me of those great male models of the 90s like Marcus Schenkenberg and Mark Vanderloo," says Barani. "He's a great contrast to the fashion industry's current obsession with the post-grunge, pre-pubescent showboy."
In line with the times, Barani's main form of getting FACTORY Fanzine to the masses is through its Instagram. The account is full of delightfully succulent pictures of boys dancing en pointe (a ballet technique traditionally only performed by women), wearing Joanne the Scammer-esque furs, and rocking a lot of jockstraps. It all feels like a personally curated gender aesthetic —extracting the femininity hidden within masculinity. For issue eight, Barani has cranked the bawdiness up to 100 with his theme, "Retro Erotico," using his male models to pay homage to pin-up vixens like Bettie Page.
In an exclusive preview, Barani shares some of his favorite photos from the issue with i-D and explains why putting a boy in a skirt is still one of the most subversive things you can do.
How did FACTORY Fanzine first come about?
I got really interested in Andy Warhol's Factory — the way it worked and how ahead of his time Andy was with his concept of 15 minutes of fame (which is basically what Instagram is today). I always liked the idea of something true and honest coming from such a fabricated medium like Instagram.
But at its core, I would say the goal of FACTORY Fanzine is to create these homemade editorials that say something about our moment in time while playing with codes and archetypes of the past.
You frequently work with the same models. How have they influenced what FACTORY Fanzine is?
It's sort of processing an aesthetic obsession I have with these male muses (Taner, Wilfred, Milan, Matt, and Onnys) that shows them in a different light — hopefully as characters they never imagined they would be playing. None of this would be possible without those great guys.
Are you the zine's only editor?
Yes. From the production to the styling, photography, retouching, promotion of the issues, etc. I know how this comes off — and I always feel bad about turning down contributors — but this is really the only way that I can keep the message undiluted… the only way I can say something personal and uncompromising…
Your photoshoots are pretty left-field. How do your themes come to you?
Each issue comes about in a slightly different way. Sometimes it is centered around one of the guys (like the the Matt Corrias Issue) or around a specific theme. For example, the last issue was based on movie wardrobes and continuity test pictures. And I have this bucket list of photoshoot ideas that I write down in a little red journal.
How do you attempt to expand or subvert representations of masculinity with the publication?
I think it does it by itself. I mean, in 2017, putting a man in a skirt is still one of the most subversive thing you can do — I just nudge the whole thing along.
Representation is important, though. It's important to show there are different gender-validating images to look up to and aspire to. But I think, ultimately, it's the people that actually wear these gender-bending clothes in their daily lives, out in the streets, who are really being subversive and pushing things to progress. They are the brave ones.
There are some great BDSM pieces in this issue. What roles does sex play in your aesthetic?
I call it the Tom of Finland dichotomy: the duality of a man wearing a sharp Ralph Lauren three-piece suit with a dog collar and a leather jockstrap over it, a surfer wearing a harness over his wetsuit, or a priest securing his rosary to a cutout Rufskin swim brief.
I always look back at those great trailblazers of post-WWII erotica (Bettie Page, Tom of Finland, Bob Mizer, etc.) as their work always seems to have a freshness that our Instagram generation desperately lacks.
How do you hope to see the publication grow?
I'd really like to take it on the road and do a city-specific issue — maybe starting with San Francisco. "FACTORY Fanzine does SAN FRAN" does have a nice ring to it. And a print run is always endgame for me. I could even see it as a supplement to another publication. A sort of keepsake souvenir. And, finally, merch! I'd love to make FACTORY Fanzine apparel and mugs. That would be fun.
Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Photography Baldovino Barani