The action of doing something that is different from the usual or common way of behaving…
Different, no more, no less.
When many photo books have taken an inquisitive look into the private world of kinks and fetishes, it has usually been from a distance, and in themselves the photographers have presented by definition a voyeuristic document, making -it could be argued - the photographer in many ways as "kinky" as those they are recording.
For example Japanese photographers Kohei Yoshiuki (The Park), Ikko Kagari (Subway document) and American, Merry Alpern (Dirty Windows) have all produced volumes that prove (or at least suggest) that they are in some way complicit with those that they are observing and recording. Social document they may be, but without consent of the participating subjects, well......?
Add to that the fact that these books are extremely scarce and desirable in their own right and that they all but have disappeared into collections (such as mine) AND that when offered up for reference on social media, generally prove to be amongst the most viewed, well it turns out that maybe we all (vicariously or otherwise) have something of a furtive kink lurking inside of us.
"What is Jesus to think of you sick people?".
Sessions is Florian Mueller's ongoing study of those mysterious and subversive activities that occur behind closed doors, or rather the demystification of said subjects when observed by someone who is actually invited into these worlds.
Taken in his native Germany, these brave souls, or maybe exhibitionists, or (given the nature of the subject), maybe both have offered themselves up willingly to Mueller’s scrutiny, allowing him to tell their stories without the need for night vision cameras or telephoto lenses.
From such benign pastimes as cosplay to the (admittedly) rather more disturbing world of S+M, the one overriding constant that can be derived from Meuller's unobtrusive, "fly on the wall" documentary study, is the clear mutual respect by and for all participants.
By being invited to document theirs lives, he has been appointed custodian of an intimate opportunity to understand and impart a little about what make his subject's secretive worlds spin and in doing so, in himself become a tenuous part of this fantasy existence.
"You have to imagine human desires as a sea of
multicoloured marbles. Impossible to count them all, and you keep finding one that you did not know before."
The images themselves stop short of crossing any lines that may truly upset any overly sensitive viewers, but in most cases there is little ambiguity to be found here.
Mueller has broken the book up into a series of chapters, each of which looks at a different individual and their personal fetish or kink and with the exception of a short introductory quote (some of which are reproduced here) the images are text free. There is however a wonderful essay by Nora Gantenbrink which impartially but sympathetically explores the subject.
The fetishes are almost rendered secondary to the fetishists, nameless people who in effect are reaching out to us, imploring us to recognise the normalcy that sits alongside their desire to achieve a pleasure by means almost universally labelled abnormal.
A man whose fantasy is to imagine he is a horse. Dressed in a black latex bodysuit, complete with head, mane and tail, whose commitment to his fantasy includes being harnessed to a trap and pulling it along country roads.
Or another being encased in a rubber body bag which is then vacuum sealed.
No light, no air, completely restricted and denied movement.
Where the more radical and physical desires are enacted, the spectrum of “playrooms” run from makeshift apparatus strung up in lounges to bespoke “treatment” rooms, which undoubtedly appear more sinister in their clinical design.
Participants fastidiously going about their appointed duties.
Roles being assigned and thirsts being quenched.
So is this normal?
As a gay man I have come to realise that normal is a sliding scale, a huge societal see-saw.
As numbers migrate from one view point to another, so does the perception and definition of normal.
Am I normal? Well I’m just me and I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember.
Most seem to have come around to the idea of my difference, others no doubt tolerate the concept and outwardly accept whilst swallowing their disgust and smiling through gritted teeth.
Different is and no doubt always will be scary to many people, but different is not necessarily wrong and more to the point, is it really any of our business any way.
Sessions by Florian Mueller is published in a signed and numbered edition of 1000 copies by Editions Lammerhuber.