My meeting with photographer Paul Buijs begins at Moviemento Kino in Kreuzberg, home of this year’s Film Porn Festival. I find him talking to a beautiful woman who is introduced as an ‘actress’, and my mind races as to what her job entails. Moving to a quiet spot to start the interview he starts to passionately regale me with an anecdote about the previous night, when he gave a lecture as part of the festival. It went terribly because the transgender woman Deleyla who he based one of his series on, and also his lecture, arrived too late to take part in the discussion, which culminated in him being screamed at by American Transgender activists.
BAPS: What inspired you to base a large amount of your photography on the gay sex scene?
PB: My main question when I graduated was wanting to know what was behind the mask of the people involved in this scene. I started photographing these types of people on a main party street in Amsterdam and it struck me that they all seemed very fashionable. This related to an article I had read in gay lifestyle magazine Wink, called ‘Life When The party is over’. It was written by a psychologist who had dealt with a lot of gay men in their late 30s early 40s. He found a lot of these people were oppressed by family in regards to coming out, so a lot of people don’t have the same teenage years straight people do. This means you haven’t had your time to experiment so then your party lifestyle starts later. People go to London, Miami, Gay pride in Italy, Barcelona, Paris, everywhere. They love it because they’ve never had any party life before and then this gets out of control and it affects their career…they are left with just a simple job and no real relationship. I found that really interesting because that’s the point of view I also had for the kind of people hanging around Reguliersdwarsstraat, the disco area of Amsterdam.
BAPS: Ok, and what does Disney have to do with this? Disney masks are an integral part of your sex party/scene series.
PB: I include Disney culture because what I photograph is not only about sex but entertainment. All Disney films are drawn in the same way – Disney has really special lines, all the films are very similar in style. I thought when I went to these main gay hangouts in Amsterdam that all the gays are the same..the same Fred Perry t-shirt, the same hair the same shoes…everything the same. It made me think why don’t you express yourself, because thats what gay men try to do. Disney tries to create a fantasy world too but all the films are also the same. Originally I photographed people wearing whole Disney masks but then realised I needed to cut them down to show more of the expressions of the people under the mask, and reveal the real person underneath. Deleyla, one of the subjects I photographed has a lot of Disney stuff at her flat – it’s like she’s living in a movie set.
BAPS: So how did you meet Deleyla, this woman who you based some of your most famous photographs on?
PB: A friend of mine has a profile on Chat-girl in Holland (a transgender and transvestite website), I was looking at profiles with him and saw her and thought she would really be good to Photograph. I made a profile on Chat-girl and pretended to be bisexual and arranged a meeting. Within 5 mins she responded and I met her the next day. She asked if her friend could join us and within ten mins I had one of my most iconic images.