Below is the introduction I wrote for the book Self Exposure - The Male Nude Self Portait...
I think everyone secretly wants to take nude self-portraits. To be able to see ourselves as others see us - either passive or in the throws of passion – is always illuminating, but isn’t it also erotic just to have in our possession an image that captured a moment in our lives when we were at our barest?
Baring it all has many connotations, of course. Sometimes the look in an eye is more revealing than an entire naked body. And sometimes a close-up of an erection speaks volumes about the subject, and what he wants us to think and/or think of him.
I have taken my clothes off for many photographers over the years, several times for some of those you will see in these pages. But I have never allowed (or indeed been asked) for a nude self-portrait to be published before.
Actors are asked to reveal a lot about ourselves all the time (if, like me, you believe letting parts of yourself be revealed through a character is what acting is all about). But when I am asked to pose nude for a photo I realize that I am allowing myself to be revealed in a more titillating way: here is Alan Cumming, that actor, with his arse out; here he is again, oops, we can nearly see his cock etc. In a way, the more I show in a photograph, the more I am throwing you off the scent.
These photographers are all choosing to see what it feels like being on the other side. The hunters are becoming the hunted - or at least pretending to be willing to be hunted. What I find fascinating is trying to guess how much they too are really revealing, or how much they – intentionally - are trying to throw us off the scent. It’s harder, of course, because we don’t know them, we haven’t seen their films or heard them on talk shows. We do not know the mask they are dropping. We only have these images to glean a very complex series of attributes, desires and foibles.
Unlike the nudes of me that have been published, my self-portraits are not beautifully lit, there is no powder brushed across my buttocks, and I am certainly showing a lot more than I would ever feel comfortable showing in a studio with a whole slew of crew present.
If I weren’t famous I think I would have shown you an altogether different picture. I initially cursed the internet and the gossip industry for denying me artistic freedom and complete inhibition. But then I looked through the artists’ work again and realized that what this book is really about is intimacy – and just like baring it all, intimacy can come in many forms.
This is a very intimate self-portrait, and I hope the route it took me to decide upon it will serve as a good prism for your enjoyment of the rest of this collection.