Matt Spike, based in London, is an internationally renown and award-winning fetish photographer. He is the winner of the 2018 MorePIXX? International Gay Fetish Photo Competition and a contributor to Advocate.com (See his portfolio on our site here.)
As the 2018 winner of the MorePIXX? competition, it seemed fitting to ask Matt a few questions about his craft. We were delighted at his responses and generous, uncensored nature.
And for you budding photographers as well as seasoned professionals, the contest is open and accepting submissions now. The MOREPIXX? International Gay Fetish Photo Competition is open to all professional and non-professional photographers. Photos can be submitted through Sunday 31, December, at MorePIXX.com.
Once submissions are, in as of Sunday January, 7, 2019, visitors to the website can vote for their favorite two photos. Closing date is midnight on Wednesday February, 7, 2019.
I don’t think that dangerous and transgressive subjects are necessarily a turn on solely in the fetish world, although we certainly play with those themes. I think it’s just a difference between sexual orientation; some people when it comes to sex are purely vanilla, others more kinky. When it comes to danger, fetish people often use things like safe words, to ensure that consent is there, and they often experiment with danger in a safe environment to minimise risk. But at the base level, when we experiment with danger, and are transgressive by nature, it is because we are kinky. Although I still believe, that although we like to play with danger, we probably play the safest of all types! Because we are aware of safety and the need of consent. Years ago, when I was vanilla, I used to go home with guys who forced sex upon me. Looking back, it was probably rape. But because it was vanilla, and we were both drunk, and there wasn’t a sling or a CP bench in sight, it was just accepted. When you stop playing with heavy equipment and engaging dangerous sex, things actually probably become a lot safer!
Most of the work I do is portraiture, however I have photographed a number of scenes where discomfort and pain have been involved. And you are right in assuming that consent is always there! I have photographed suffocation, strangulation, whipping, torture of various kinds, and it’s all real. But never without consent.
I often encourage the pain. But again, with consent. I do so because it makes the photograph look realistic. I want to see real BDSM play captured in the photograph. So, if the situation is right, I will encourage pain during the photo shoot.
Ha ha. That’s J-Lube! It’s made for fisting, and comes in a powder that you mix with water. In this shot, the rubber guy has a fetish for ‘gunge’ - Which is a real thing! Some guys love nothing more than wading around in gunk; whether it be formulations like lubricant, mud, jelly, or anything slimy to roll around in. The shot you are looking at was a photo shoot commission, in which I photographed someone’s fantasy.
Sometimes! I guess it depends on the model. You know, some models get really nervous before the photo shoot and would not be able to crack up, other models approach the shoots very much with a sense of fun, and an entire shoot can unfold with a lot of laughter! But then there are other times, like when you have somebody fully dressed in lycra standing on a rooftop high above the streets of London, clinging to a chimney, where it simply would not be safe to laugh. But yes, in general, we usually end up having fun and it can be quite amusing at times.
With increasing difficulty. Like many cities around the world, London is becoming gentrified and the little dark corners are starting to become cleaner. However, there are still plenty of spots available to take a grungy photo. I tend to spot them when I am not shooting, and going about my usual business. So I’ll go to the bank or the supermarket, and on the way I will pass a small alleyway or an interesting piece of graffiti, and I’ll shoot it on my iPhone, which then geolocates it. I then add it to a list of locations that I can refer to when planning another photo shoot. Of course, I have also shot in front of famous structures before, both here in London and in other cities. For grungier locations overseas in these situations I will depend on a local persons knowledge of the area. Just recently I did shoot in Paris, and the model recommended a very colourful street in the Bastille, so colourful in fact that the light reflection from all the painted buildings gave the images a Caribbean feel to them. It felt like I was shooting in Havana! I would never have been able to find a location like that without the model’s local knowledge.
I guess it depends on the degree to which we disagree. Sometimes a model can come up with a better idea than I can. In that case I would happily reconsider my plans and integrate their ideas. Shoot ideas are usually conceived long before the shoot happens, so disagreements are ironed out long before the session. I recently got an American guy to climb onto the roof of my building, which would have placed him at about 200 feet above the ground in the middle of the city. He was not at all comfortable with the idea, but I did manage to convince him that it would be worth it. And when he posted the photo to Instagram, he did say that despite his hesitation it was worth it in the end. But at the end of the day, I like to be in control of my art, so if there really is no hope for some kind of collaboration then I would probably back out of the photo shoot. I do have my style which I am proud of and sometimes you just have to accept that some models are not suitable.
Absolutely. They are partners with open relationships usually, although sometimes they have closed relationships and just want a set of kinky photos for their own enjoyment. In these situations there is usually an instigator in the relationship, and a partner who follows willingly. I have also done many shoots with real life partners who have purchased a photo shoot with me as a gift for their partner's birthday.
I have always enjoyed photos by William Klein, and he often put supermodels in very dangerous situations high above the ground. He would have them wearing fashion whilst clinging onto a church spire, with absolutely no safety precautions — although this was in the late '60s. And to this day I still love to use height. In the last year I have done 3 to 4 sheets where I have precariously placed guys on ledges, rooftops, cranes, anywhere. A year ago, I sneaked into a church, with a couple of guys in goth fetish gear. I got into the church by persuading one of the volunteers handing leaflets outside that we just wanted to have a look around. Once in, I set up my tripod and managed to get about 23 exposures before I was thrown out of the church by the scruff of my neck by the priest. I moved fast, and kept hold of the 23 photos.
I never got it published, because it was probably illegal. I did a photo shoot around five years ago where somebody got their scrotum nailed to a block of wood. There was so much blood, and screaming, but plenty of consent! Hopefully one day there will be an outlet for these photos because they are gruesome. They are very, very interesting.
I would never let them. I do all the set up, I like control over the outcome of the photo shoot. I like my models to feel relaxed, and focus only on being wonderful subjects in the photograph... having said that, whenever I’m shooting a lot of my models offered to help if I need assistance.
Absolutely! I have lots of gear here at the studio, and many a time I have dressed someone up in an outfit, in leather or rubber, and they have stared at themselves in the mirror, unable to believe how great they look. I have also had a lot of guys come to me because they want me to help them release their long-suppressed gear fetishes. Photography seems an excellent way of doing this.
Yes, they do. I sometimes embellish what they bring with items of my own, but it depends on the type of the shoot. If I get commissioned by someone to take portraits of them for their own use, then it’s most likely that they will bring their own gear. If however I’m doing a commercial shoot, or I’m shooting for a fetish store or a fetish club, I have lots of contacts who are willing to lend gear for a photo shoot. And if there is no other way of doing it, I’ll simply get them to wear my stuff!
Never whilst actually doing the shoot. I’m very adaptable and flexible and I like risk, and although I can be a little awkward at times, I like to push things as far as I can. I usually feel like the shoot is over my head before it begins, but once it’s begun, I go with it. If I’ve ever felt like I was shooting something over my head then it would’ve been during the Chemsex series of images that I did. Taking photos of people injecting crystal meth was a little frightening at times.
Yes I think so. In the summer I did a photo shoot with a couple and I asked them before the shoot what the limits were. The limits seemed pretty reasonable so I suggested a scene where the dom placed several pegs across the back of his sub, wove a shoelace through each peg, and then pulled both ends of the shoelace so all the pegs came off at once leaving wonderful marks. He was also the same guy who I recreated a “Pulp Fiction“ gimp scene with — he was willing to put his head into a noose and support himself just by his knees on a stool, whilst I took a picture of his master stood proudly next to him, arms folded smiling to camera. He consented to it, of course, but I think it was a step out of his comfort zone. I also think he enjoyed it a lot!
I don’t want to go into too much detail about this, but it varies. I’ve been shocked by how much amazing talent I’ve been able to photograph for free, and also surprised at the amount of money that some models want. Personally, I prefer shoots with no money exchange whatsoever. I get to carry out my photography desires, and they get to be a model in an edgy photo shoot.
Very few are inhibited. Probably because by now I have earned a reputation for myself. For example, somebody contacted me lately on Instagram and asked if I would shoot with them. We had a mutual friend. I was later told that a few hours before the photo shoot, the model contacted the mutual friend for some reassurance about the shoot he was going to do with me that day. The response from the mutual friend was “go with an open mind, he will have something up your sleeve for you”. I think there might be an expectation when having a shoot with me, that there is going to be some kind of strange element and a sense of stepping out of the comfort zone.
I’ve always liked Mr B Leather, and Langlitz Leathers. But similarly, I have created fantastic looks in photographs using gear that comes from various locations, sometimes thrift stores, and sometimes expensive wear. I generally think that so long as the grain in the leather is good, and it has a good shine, fits well and is sexy, then I will like it. It’s out of my price range, but I would love to own some Lewis Leathers one day.
Rarely but sometimes. I’m quite a patient person, with quite a strong will, and I would just push through if their attitude was bad. At the end of the day I am focused on the final results, so I will do everything possible to make it happen, even if they are rude to me. But mostly my shoots are fun and enjoyable. I don’t really have any disaster stories to tell.
Mostly! But not always. I’ve plenty of ideas up my sleeve, but a lot of my commissions, whether they are private commissions from individuals or commissions from fetish stores or clubs, do come with some kind of art brief. Usually this is just an outline and then they rely on my skill to make it happen.
Shooting in public is always risky. But you always tend to assume that it’s going to be some kind of conservative minded person who is going to object. So you can imagine my surprise when I was photographing Rogan Richards wearing just a pair of leather chaps in the street last summer — and we got a family-friendly lecture from a homeless guy! He came, carrying 25 bags full of rubbish, hadn’t showered for what looked like weeks, screaming “think of the children walking around here!" — even though it was around 10 p.m. in London’s former red light district. But then there are the conservative types, too. I think we nearly got arrested in Paris last weekend when I got I got a guy to climb up the fence outside a block of apartments. A lady came outside with her seven miniature dogs wanting to know what we were doing and threatening to call the police. I had to get my French friends to placate her.
Not really. I think there is beauty in everything, so I don’t have preferences in that sense. But you have to understand that such a lot of my work is commissioned, and fetish shops and sex clubs only want typically desirable people on their flyers. To be honest, it would be nice if the situation would change. When given a photo brief, I’m often told to go and find some “hot guys". Now, it’s quite open to interpretation about what ‘hot’ is — but I think at the end the day we all know what they’re saying. Tiny waist, large shoulders, gym body. I do like to photograph chunkier guys, and I prefer chest hair to smooth chest. I am also interested in body mods as well, and tattoos, crazy hairstyles, and alternative looks appeal to me a great deal.
I can answer both of these. Regarding the age range, I cover all places on the spectrum. I love photographing with older men, and I love photographing young guys. Probably the best age range is between 25 and 55. Recently I have been thinking about doing a series of images where I juxtapose a man, perhaps in his 60s, next to a very young guy, perhaps 18. As for the other part of this question, I have become friends with so many of my models. I have so many invites to places all around the world that I can accept any time I want. I feel really lucky here; I photograph people who live in Australia, America, Canada, all across Europe, Asia, and Africa. I keep in touch with them all the time, constantly exchanging WhatsApp messages. If I meet them in London, they’ll invite me to the hometown. If I meet them in their hometown, and New York is a city where I made a lot of friends, they’ve often reciprocated and made a visit to my studio when in London. Becoming friends with Samuel Colt was wonderful. I met him when he came to London and he commissioned me for a photo shoot. We remain friends and whenever I go to New York I will always contact him to go out for drink. Paris is another city where I have many friends. I photographed up to 10 people from Paris now, and when I go there I don’t even feel like I’m in a foreign city anymore. I know where everything is, and I have constant invites to places.