An Exclusive with inkedKenny, A Man Seen Through Our Lens

Always pushing the envelope between suggestion and the obvious, inkedKenny collaborates on our latest Kinkster NYC story boards

If you haven’t seen our new Kinkster NYC storyboard photos yet, you’re in for a huge treat! We recently collaborated with inkedKenny Photography to share our latest visual stories through his specific vision and what’s been called by some as his “hyper masculine” aesthetic.

You’ve likely already seen some of his other internationally renowned work. inkedKenny is definitely not afraid of the dark. His moody, bruised-looking images explore every shade of black from aggressive to submissive. His models have shared how he explores their fantasies before a shoot so he can push them deeper into their risky desires.

Like anyone, our background, upbringing, and experiences in life help shape the person we eventually become and we’re always learning and developing. inkedKenny was found abandoned in Macau at the age of 6 months. He was adopted and brought to Vancouver, Canada where he grew up. In the eighth grade he discovered both barbering and photography. Barbering won — for the time being. His career started when he was shaving the heads of his fellow rugby team members. That led to cutting mohawks and cutting class.

His barbering tendencies evolved into a career in hair and makeup design for fashion and advertising clients. After the loss of his father and his lover, he found it too difficult to return to his old work. Acting on the suggestion of several friends he picked up a camera, and his next career was born.

After numerous publications in anthologies such as TurnOn: Sneax, Hair, and Raunch, his first monograph, The Men of inkedKenny was published by Bruno Gmünder, the company that also produces the international travel guide Spartacus (first published in 1969) which is still the best-selling gay travel book in the world! The Men of inkedKenny packs a load of steaming testosterone into a beautiful 128 pages of slickly produced, quality photo book.

In talking with inkedKenny about our collaboration, I was inspired by his drive that was palpable as we spoke. He shared his early entry into photography when he shot a successful project consisting of people in Venetian masks. Over time he became more inspired by the look and style of fight clubs, jocks, and anything edgey. He quickly found his photos going viral and they eventually were picked up for printing.

By 2011 he had his second show in Montreal, Canada which he says was a huge success with 60% of the show selling at the end of the run, 5 pieces were sold before opening. He gives his curator big kudos for doing such a great job. In 2012 Kenny was featured in a short 17 minute documentary film produced by HFF München Production as part of a special project of the exchange program Portraits croisés in which he shares his background, life experiences and talks openly about the aesthetic he has focussed so heavily on. Throughout our conversation the only time I sensed that if inkedKenny had ever contemplated a time when he might like a do-over, it might have been to revisit some of his opinions stated in the film, for which he received a lot of negative feedback. But such is life, sometimes we don’t get do-overs, so what seems apparent throughout his life, he kept on truckin’. The film ended up winning several awards for education particularly around HIV and AIDS.

Sometime after the release of The Men of inkedKenny on his birthday in 2014 and til today, inkedKenny has been somewhat of a traveling man with no specific destination in mind. He cleared out his Toronto and Montreal studios and headed first to a place he ended up loving, Australia, where he did what he describes as one of his best jobs ever.

inkedKenny and I talked about the state of advertising, media, and marketing specifically to the LGBTQ community. I asked if he believes it’s lacking in any area and whether more could be done to visually represent the LGBTQ community. Although he doesn’t see much missing, he does think it’s gotten better over time. He says the images we see these days are much more broad, inclusive, and representative. He specifically gives credit to drag queens, the success and reach of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the trans community, and those who are non-conforming and willing to take risk for moving the world forward. In fact he took a break from his hyper masculine genre while on his trip to Australia and entered the world of photographing drag queens, bearded queens, and members of the trans community.

In 2007 he attempted to open the minds of others to new experiences but he thinks he may have pushed the envelope a bit too far for that time. As co-director, he helped secure Buck Angel to headline Northbound Leather’s annual party, billed as a world class fetish fashion show and party.

inkedKenny’s work has been credited as depicting not some idealized notion of what someone should look like or what they should be but rather as showing what’s actually going on at this particular moment in time. He has always tried to depict guys who are masculine (obviously) and guys who would not immediately be perceived as being gay. In fact when the Kinkster Brands NYC team shared some of our new photos with our more straight readers, they were like “OH!?” I think sometimes we, as gay people, think we have arrived. The reality, however, is some people still have notions about what being gay looks like, another reason for our choosing inkedKenny for a collaboration.

Always open to exploring, developing and keeping the brain cells sparking, inkedKenny ventured into photographing women in his signature “style” in July 2016 with his first women’s exhibit held at the Center on Halsted in Chicago, called SNATCHED.

When we agreed to our collaboration, as any alpha would do, inkedKenny grabbed the reins with this project which was simply to explore his vision of the Kinkster NYC brand. I learned that his creative process and photo shoots are primarily based on being in and of the moment vs. overthinking and over planning. For our new storyboards he was inspired by 70’s cruising films which definitely comes through as we see a scene unfolding with the masculine guys and younger boy on the prowl. As a New York City based company he also captured the edgy, underground feeling of the city.

As we explored the future, it’s non-stop for inkedKenny. He has been selected to be the photographer for the 2018 Bare Chest Calendar, a fundraising organization. He also has another book in the works with a release planned in May 2017.

And, it wouldn’t be a Kinkster MAG interview if we didn’t ask our signature question, “What is something you’ve done that others would consider edgy, unconventional, or tight-lipped?” Having done my research, I was curious to see how he answered but wasn’t planning to be surprised. He said his first published work, “Fight Club,” quickly picked up by Instigator Magazine garnered a LOT of “attention.” And in what I would describe as true inkedKenny fashion, he’s always ready for the appropriate time to push the envelope. He loves walking on the edge and exploring fantasy and reality. I’m sure it won’t be long before the world sees even more from inkedKenny.

Connect with inkedKenny: inkedKenny.com | Instagram |Facebook

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Co-owner & VP of Operations, John is a thinker and a doer. He’s a whiz at working through policies and procedures but loves taking time to explore the urban environment in which he lives and calls home. He also appreciates getting his fancy tickled.

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