We got a preview of photographer Michael Alago's new book of pictures - "The Brutal Truth" - and we agree; pictures of muscular tattooed men with equally muscular erections are our kind of truth!
The energetic and good-natured Mister Alago, a Puerto Rican by way of New York City with a very interesting musical background, has produced a follow-up to his successful first book of pictures, "Rough Gods," (under the famed Bruno Gmunder label, no less), and has brought along repeated jolts of a certain kind of high-octane fuel that allows the images in his 260-page compendium to convey a "swagger," in publicist Andy Reynolds' own words, that men of a certain size and attitude carry, be it hirsute, smooth, tattooed or otherwise; which is to say, his images remain long after you've stopped looking at the photographs.
And that's a distinction, you would have to agree, you'd want in a photographer of this order.
Michael took a few minutes to answer some of my questions about his models, his motivations and the connection he feels to and with them with exactly the level of candor you'd expect from someone who can make a can of beer perched in a motel room - wood-lacquered furniture and all - look hotter than the sun's core.
Victor H: Michael, congratulations on your new book of photographs, "Brutal Truth." You clearly had a lot of fun matching those gladiatorial-y men to their appropriate settings and more than enough skill to pull off the images that make your book a fetishists' delight. How do you capture "size" and make it sexy?
Michael: My pictures are sexy by nature because the men are hot and you usually see skin. The images work when I have made a connection with the subject and there is a rapport, so within the session there is some kind of give and take of energy. In the images, I am always asking for a seductive pose and looking for the man to be strong in the chest and, if nudes are involved, to just feel comfortable with his body and to focus on himself and enjoy the experience of being photographed so that all parts of his body become erect and inviting. If we achieve all that, then we did our job so that then when the images go out in to the world, the audience now feels a connection with the man and the images are a total turn on. What I also like about my images is that no matter how strong and serious some of the men look there is always a bit of vulnerability in them so that the audience once again feels like they can meet this person and become intimate with them.
Victor H: "Brutal Truth" makes two. Your first book, "Rough Gods," was a huge success and we want to know how much of "Brutal Truth" you hope to recreate in terms of its originality? In what ways?
Michael: What made the book "Rough Gods" unique was that it was not perfect and glossy. Although the front and back covers may have had a bit of gloss to them, the images inside were strong powerful snapshots of men that were big and sexy and rough around the edges. Those are the men of my dreams. I never wanted to photograph models per se from agencies. I always gravitated to the tattooed man. The bodybuilder. The man with the scars. The men I felt some kind of life story and emotion from. It usually helped if they were over 200 pounds with big nipples and chests and, if nudes were involved, that they were exhibitionists so that they gave their all to my camera.
"Rough Gods" is a slim 65-page volume of work. I have had over 55,000 thousand followers on Rough Gods fan page on Facebook and I have two Tumblr pages (one of which is truly fuckin' explicit!). I am so grateful for the extraordinary response to the photographs. The sold-out success of that book led the publisher Bruno Gmunder to my door to finally publish a hard cover edition of my work. The result is "Brutal Truth." Five years of photographs in a beautiful 260-page provocative book that allowed me to use a variety of types of men in the book. The images are an extension of the "Rough Gods" book but more...I got better over the years taking pictures and what I love is the grit that remains in my work; nothing glossy but full of love and lust and sometimes downright pornography. So, for me, the variety is what I feel makes all my friends and fans love the work that much more.
Victor H:Who are you, Michael Alago, and why is what you're doing important?
Michael: I am a New Yorker through and through. I live for the city and all it has to offer: music, art, theater, galleries, hockey, boxing, museums, great restaurants and the variety of types of people that you can run in to in this great city. I am of Hispanic descent and going to be 52 on October 13. I am a kind person and always ready to help my fellow brothers and sisters [but] I am also very sensitive and hurt easily. I have a blessed life. (When I was in the music business I got to work with extraordinary artists from Metallica to Nina Simone, White Zombie to Johnny Rotten and Cyndi Lauper to name a few.)
Victor H: You seem, I don't know, Sicilian, Hawaiian? Am I close? Am I even tepid?
Michael: Puerto Rican-born and raised in NYC, baby!
Victor H: How can we purchase one of your books?
Michael: You can purchase my books, "Rough gods," "Faggot Zine" and "Brutal Truth" by checking out my website www.roughgods.com.