Berlin has something of a reputation for its feeling of sexual liberation, as a space where sexual boundaries can be crossed freely and openly without judgment. The city is known worldwide for its open attitude towards sex and sexuality, and has become home to thousands of artists and filmmakers looking to capture its vibrant, and sometimes shocking, nature.
Filmmaker and photographer Matt Lambert is one of these people. Originally from Los Angeles, he says that moving to Berlin has had a profound impact on his life and art. “It changed everything,” he says. “It allowed me a place to create work much more freely and in turn connected me with friends, lovers and muses who supported the work I wanted to make. The open-mindedness of the people in this city is a large part of the semi-autobiographical ecosystem the work is made in.”
Lambert’s photography is at once arresting and confrontational, with the young Berliners in his portraits often photographed nude and sometimes participating in sex acts. Despite this, Lambert insists that his work is never made with the intention to shock. “I’m trying to normalize and humanize sexual moments that can be confronting to some people,” he explains. “The work always aims to be honest, authentic, narrative and character-driven. By doing so, I hope that people see past a sexual moment and see a person behind it.”
While shocking his audience may not be Lambert’s intention, it’s inevitable that those with more sensitive dispositions will be taken aback by some of his more sexual images, such as those that show close-ups of ejaculation. “Some of my work is quite overtly sexual,” Lambert admits. “However, the majority of the photos shot for KEIM were meant more as a celebration of intimacy and coming of age in Berlin.”
KEIM (meaning ‘seed’ or ‘germ’ in German) is the name of Lambert’s latest book, the second edition of which is currently being printed. The book is packed with photos like the ones you see here, full of young men in a variety of poses that range from the confrontational to the vulnerable.
I ask Lambert how he finds so many boys willing to be photographed naked. “The majority are friends, but I also sometimes meet people online or through mutual friends,” he explains. Shooting people he knows adds an autobiographical element to Lambert’s work, allowing the viewer to gaze at the objects of his affections, primarily his lovers and friends, though he also shoots people he doesn’t know, usually met through PlanetRomeo. “Lately I’ve been most interested in youth and/or people who are coming-of-age or transitioning in their lives,” he adds. “There’s a magical moment of discovery to be mutually shared between myself and whoever I’m shooting during these times.”
Youth and transitioning into adulthood are key themes in Lambert’s work. He often frames his young models in dream-like settings, surrounded by hazy colours or shot using disorienting camera angles. The world he creates for his models is one of sexual liberation, he explains, and one where there is no shame in being naked. “The images celebrate a certain ideal world where people are comfortable in their own skin and experience sexuality in tandem with friendship that lacks the judgment of current social systems,” he says. In Lambert’s world, boundaries between sex and friendship are blurred, and the freedom to express one’s sexuality is a common theme that runs through his work.
Though he often chooses to photograph his friends, Lambert is currently on the lookout for models willing to feature in an upcoming project. If you’re aged 18–25 and are feeling adventurous, you can contact him at email@example.com for the chance to be featured (but be quick – the deadline is Friday 20th November 2015). In the meantime though, you can take a look at more of Lambert’s work on his website, and lose yourself in his intoxicating world of sex, nudity and liberation.