Client is a brand new magazine that describes itself as being ‘a magazine about lads, men and menswear’. And it takes its particular vision in a direction that is dripping with vintage boy cheesecake imagery in its debut issue. It’s all Athletic Model Guild style visuals in a street rumble with bad boy chavs.
In amongst its extensive coverage of men’s’ fashion with a strong sense of homoretrorotica is one story that leaps out immediately, not because it’s at odds with the overall vintage sensibility – on the contrary what could be more vintage than the bizarre title ‘Antwerp, Dec ‘47’? – but because it seems to be taking the overarching vintage feeling of the issue in other interesting directions.
Yves De Brabander’s fashion story is something that takes the opportunity to shoot men’s underwear and other skimpy outfits in a way that is entirely in keeping with the classic male body culture feeling permeating this new title. But, it’s the location of the shoot in locations that integrate vintage modernist design that give it a special twist and flirt with the idea of the archival that seems to be prevalent in so many creative disciplines at the moment.
Shot in black and white and featuring vintage from the usual suspects of Belgian design – Dries Van Noten, Maison Martin Margiela, Raf Simons and Ann Demeulermeester- it’s a strange and enigmatic meeting of uncanny interiors bedecked with classic mid-century design and fey boys posing in their undies. There is something immediately charming and memorable about it, perhaps because this kind of play with architectural space and fashion in environments that are fundamentally domestic is usually taken in different directions; faux documentary or anti-glamour. Yet, in the hands of Yves De Brabander we are offered something that remains clean and sleek, creating composition and using lighting in a way that is not the normative presentation of a fashion image right now.
And that probably has something to do with the fact that Yves De Brabander is not primarily a fashion photographer. Rather, he has been building a steady reputation for the niche area of photography that sometimes gets called ‘male photography’. Once relegated to a substratum of upmarket erotica spawning lucrative coffee-table books pretending not to be about titillation, recent decades have seen the form undergo something of a revision with some of the hottest contemporary artists reworking the genre.
Like them, Yves De Brabander is known for his images of scantily clad twinky boy waifs. And, like them, he has a few tricks up his sleeve that command attention. For a start, there is something entirely devoid of the erotic about many of his images as can be amply seen from the shoot for Client. Or more accurately, that the erotic has to coexist side-by-side with its own self-conscious reflection. In the particular staging and through odd domestic or other elements introduced into his images there is something that seems to be pointing us in the direction of recognising that the erotic fundamentally remains an unrealisable idea; that in trying to realise the ultimate image of the erotic, there is always some element of the realisation that will forever draw the reality back into the realm of Readers Wives. Sexuality may be normative and normalised and yet, simultaneously, this is what divorces it from the entirely cerebral form of excitement that seemingly simple images can produce.