Internet personal ads are truly the wave of the future. We're partial to Londonist's personal ads over there to the right, but any number of sites now promise to help you find... y'know... a mature relationship built on mutual trust and respect... or whatever.
Anyway, all you need to do is come up with something witty to say about yourself, and an attractive picture. But here's where things seem to get tricky for many people. Somehow, it is just not as obvious as it should be that if the only picture on your ad appears to have been taken with a mobile phone, or is set in a pub with all your mates next to you, then you shouldn't be surprised if your inbox isn't flooded with responses. As you may recall, this situation led us to run a personal ad photo contest, an attempt (somewhat successful, if we do say so ourselves) to raise the bar.
In the realm of internet personals, as in so many other areas of culture, gay men have, for better or for worse, taken the lead. Research found that that 52% gay men questioned in a London gym use an internet ad, most commonly on the ol' standby Gaydar. Perhaps needless to say, the vast majority of these profiles are not exactly looking for the same thing as the typical Londonist personal ad is — to put it bluntly, Gaydar.com is mostly about ordering sex, delivered to your door like pizza. (For any number of practical and ideological reasons, we personally would prefer to get our anonymous sex the old-fashioned way, but there comes a point when you have to accept modernity...)
You might assume, given how central Gaydar and like have become to gay men, that they might have figured out how to avoid the dreaded taken-with-mobile-phone, with-mates-in-pub, just-plain-unflattering photographs. You would be painfully disappointed.
Enter the Image Pimp, Alexander Huber (that's a self portrait below). If you've picked up a copy of London's venerable free gay glossy weekly, Boyz, in the last few weeks, you've surely noticed a large ad in the back (past the pages of ads for whores), reading simply "Sort out your shit pics, and get more attention!" (See above. Note that Gaydar has become so pervasive that no other explanation is needed.) For a reasonable fee, Huber will do a 1-2 hour photo shoot with you, with the specific aim sprucing up your online personal ad.
The Image Pimp is not the only photographer offering this service, but he is currently one of the most visible. We had a lot of questions about his experience in this rather specialised realm of portraiture, so we caught up with him recently, via email.
How did you get into to the business of sexing up people's ads?
I was bored of the ugly pics people dare to put up on their profiles.
How's business? Has the ad in Boyz and elsewhere been getting a large response?
I can't complain. I was the first photographer to advertise in Boyz. Now I have a few followers as I found out. I'm working on a new ad at the moment.
Do you share the opinion that Londoners aren't quite as adept at crafting good online profiles as those of other big cities?
I don't think there is a big difference to other cities but the Londoners are definitely kinkier.
If we were to book the 1-2 hour session advertised, what exactly would happen?
You tell me what you want and if you want an outdoor or indoor session. A selection of clothes helps. But it's up to you what you wear, a thong or jeans.
It is ever an issue for you that by minimizing your subjects' flaws, you're actually making pictures that won't attract men for whom those flaws — pale skin, bellies or what-not — are actually fetishes?
I don't worry about these things. That's their personal business. I take the photos the customer wants me to take.
Have you ever had to argue with a client about what they think looks good — an outfit or a facial expression or whatever?
Not really. I think I have a natural talent to get the best out of each model.
Are you worried about going to the other extreme and making your clients look too polished?
I'm not concerned with that. I think I adapt the appropriate style for each individual model. In general I don't like photos which are airbrushed to death but a slick style can be cool and when it's suitable for the model, why not?
What's the most unusual request you've had from a client?
Cum shots, but I wasn't surprised really.
Cum shots? Like, the actual spurting? Isn't really really hard to get the timing just right?
I haven't done it yet. You gotta be quick I suppose.
You have to admit: the photo shoot which turns into sex between the model and the photographer is something of a classic conventional set-up in porno films both gay and straight — it's right up there with the plumber and the pizza delivery guy. I do NOT want to ask if it's ever happened to you (I'm sure you wouldn't want tell us either way, anyway)... and yet, I DO want to ask if you've ever had a client (perhaps after seeing one too many of these pornos) who came into a photo shoot with an expectation that it might happen?
It hasn't happened yet I'm afraid. I'll let you know when.
Photos by Huber himself. His website can be found here.