„I started to take photos by accident” – thrilled to publish this exclusive interview and feature almost 50 pictures by one of our most admired photographer, Florian Hetz.
How are you doing?
I’m great, I’m in LA right since a month. the Tom of Finland Foundation has invited me to be their artist in residence for three months. It’s fantastic to live and work in the beautiful house where Tom of Finland actually used to live. the first three nights I even stayed in Tom’s room. Waking up being surrounded with his personal artefacts was a crazy experience. Everyone visiting LA should go and get a guided tour. The guys who are running the foundation do a fantastic job keeping Tom’s work alive and relevant.
Can you tell a bit more about Tom’s House? What will you be doing there for three months?
I’ve been invited by the Tom of Finland Foundation to stay with them in LA for three months and be their artist in residence, to live in the house and create a body of work. The invitation alone was an absolute honour. I grew up with Tom’s imagery and seeing his way of portraying gay life and sexuality as something positive and happy helped me a lot in my teenage years in Bavaria. Half of my time is already over and so far it has been an absolutely great experience. The guys of the foundation are very supportive and the house itself is so inspiring. The first month I mainly spent time in the archives, studying Tom’s and other gay artists’ works. It would take me years to go through everything in the archive. I feel so inspired here.
Right now i’m shooting a lot more than I ever shot in Berlin, and one big new element is the daylight of LA. As a little challenge, I am not allowing myself to use any form of artificial light which gives my work a new quality. The results from the residency will be seen in Hamburg in May in an exhibition. But there will be a presentation here in LA before I have to go back to Berlin. Ideally I would love to do a little book, but for that i will need a sponsor I think. feel free to contact me! 🙂
Could you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get interested photography?
My background is in theatre and opera and as a teenager I was drawing a lot, mostly photorealistic. I never really wanted to be a photographer. as a child my parents moved me from Frankfurt to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere in Germany and my way of escaping this place was by reading a lot and studying photo books, so I guess I trained my eyes from an early age. I started to take photos by accident more or less by taking over the camera of a friend of mine, taking photos of my friends at parties and after hours, but that was more like a private little visual diary. At one point I started to take photos of my lovers during and/or after sex, and that’s how it really started.
Do you remember to your first planned photoshoot? If yes, how was it?
For my first planned photoshoot I used my lover back then. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to shoot and the result surprised me. It made me really happy to see how I could easily translate the images in my head into a photo.
Why exactly do focus on body details?
I like the little details that we all see, but hardly ever register. It gets interesting when a detail of a body becomes nearly abstract and you don’t know straight away which part of the body you are looking at. Ideally I make you look very closely at something and make you see things for the first time properly. Are there any areas of the body that you have not explored in photography yet, but you wish to? I guess i have covered all of the male the body pretty intensely, but lately I get more and more interested in legs. Sometimes you shoot very kinky stuff, but even that registers as sexy and beautiful in your pictures. How would you describe beauty? Beauty is such a personal thing. I guess my concept of beauty differs from the regular concept of beauty in some ways and I often find beauty in unexpected places.
Are you as kinky as your pictures are?
Probably even more.
As I know not too long time ago you released your HIV status on instagram . Why did you decide to share this info with your audience?
I don´t take instagram too seriously, but I figured I could use it to raise awareness about the HIV stigma. I’m privileged enough to live in Berlin where being HIV+ is not as stigmatised as in other places and countries. Because of the HIV treatment my viral load is undetectable since over ten years now, which means I can not pass the virus on. It’s time that people realise that being HIV+ (in countries with affordable access to the treatment) doesn’t mean you are a victim, doesn’t mean that you are dying of the virus any time soon. It’s a chronic disease that is treatable. Besides taking two pills once a day my life is the same as the life of any HIV- person. If you don´t know your HIV status, get tested! if the result is positive, get treatment. It’s way more dangerous not to know your status and potentially pass it on, unknowingly.
What was your first reaction when the doctor gave you the ’news’ and how did you deal with it after?
I grew up during the AIDS epidemic, but when I got diagnosed the treatment was already so advanced that being HIV+ wasn’t a death sentence anymore. I had many friends living with the virus for a long time. So it wasn’t a big deal. I had many role models showing me every day, that being HIV+ wasn´t the end of the world.
If something, than what changed in your life after the diagnosis?
I started to take care more of myself and my priorities changed a lot. Also after the diagnosis I felt an even stronger responsibility for my sex partners. My nightmare would have been to pass it on. That’s why it’s so incredible that with the treatment you can’t pass the virus on anymore.
Currently obsessed for…
My new camera, I just bought it two days ago. I’m aslo absolutely obsessed with the taco trucks in LA.
Do you have any big plan for 2018?
In May I have a solo show in Hamburg and hopefully I will do another book with the work I am creating at the Tom of Finland foundation right now.