Friday, July 10

AK Souffle: The naked truth

- March 19, 2018


I’ve talked about porn here, a few times, its relevance in modern society, the fact that for many men it is the ‘sex’ in ‘sex education’. But strangely I have never talked about erotic art or even erotica, which I sometimes think is a lame way of qualifying the validity of pornography.

My guest on the show in a week’s time is the photographer Manel Ortega. Manel grew up in Granada, a place he described as having absolutely no gay presence in his childhood, and he moved to Barcelona where he satisfied his desire to be a photographer by taking the route of an apprenticeship rather than art school.

For the last 15 years he has lived in Brighton and focused his work on capturing the beauty of men, naked men. I first saw his work at the launch of Matthew Callow’s new album Neon Moon. Matt had chosen some of Manel’s imagery to project as part of his show and I was not only impressed but amazed. And why? Well unlike so much naked photography, where we are presented by the conventional images of ripped young men, pretty men with perfect bodies, groomed to within an inch of their lives, male imagery that perpetuates the myth and tyranny of youth and conventional good looks, Manel photographs real men. There are hairy men, older men, chubby men and bald men. Yes there are the finely tuned bodies in that conventional sense, but they are only a part of Manel’s body of work.

You can probably see more intrusive images of the male nude in the Victoria and Albert Museum

Manel produces an amazing volume of work too, called Manolo. He describes it as a magazine but the production values far exceed those that you usually find on the newsagent’s shelf, and to be honest you will not find it there. I see it far more as a catalogue or a book even. The first issue was only his work but in the second he invited other artists to contribute# and the release of number three has seen not only an increase in the size but also in the print run, and as well as the imagery there are words, artists and writers collaborating. I was impressed. This is a self publishing venture that has an open heart.

Manel is charming, gentle and in no way invasive. There is a real sense of modesty and it manifests itself in his images. They are celebratory rather than voyeuristic, and whilst some are incredibly intimate many are simply sculptural. You can probably see more intrusive images of the male nude in the Victoria and Albert Museum – and I think that Manel’s work should be seen there!

You can buy Manel’s book Manolo at Magazine Brighton in Trafalgar Street, Tate Modern in London and online at

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