“Kinky, sexy boys; dirty pigs; geared-up jocks; powerful, twisted men.”
So promises the poster announcing the latest exhibit of Toronto photography sensation Kenny “InkedKenny” Lee. His new show, titled New York Pigs, opens July 1 at the Black Eagle.
It’s just one of four high-profile exhibits of Lee’s work in Canada this summer, complementing his showing as part of the 10×10 portrait series and upcoming exhibits at the 519 Church Street Community Centre and Galerie Dentaire in Montreal.
“The Black Eagle’s been wanting me to do it for the past year, and I suggested Pride is the perfect time to open an exhibit up,” Lee says.
Not bad for a guy who took up photography only three years ago.
As InkedKenny, Lee has turned his lens on what he calls powerful, confident men. He shoots with available light, heavy contrast and twisted fantasies to make photos that are sexy, grimy, raunchy, erotic, rough and undeniably beautiful.
If that sounds like an unexpected turn for a former makeup artist who specialized in creating glamorous looks for commercial photographers, Lee says it was a natural progression.
“After 24 years of being in the fashion industry, I was just done with it. I was over pretty, overly made-up guys. I needed to do something with a different aesthetic to it,” he says. “All that touching up and making skin look not like skin anymore… that’s not what I want to do.”
That he’s a relative neophyte to photography has also contributed to his unique voice as an artist.
“I’m self-taught. I have no background in photography at all,” Lee says. “I’m just learning as I go, so I’m creating my own feel and look. I’m learning what light is all about and using ambient natural light, shooting in darker situations and making it work. My biggest pet peeve is looking at flat images, with no shadows, lit from the front and flawless. I understand that if I’m selling clothing or something, but for a bit more masculine edge, I want to show shadows and lines in the face. Realness.”
Lee’s unique approach to shooting models and his sexy photos have earned him a huge following online — so much so that he sometimes has to turn down models who solicit him to shoot them.
When asked what it is that turns him on about a potential model, Lee is unequivocal.
“Confident men. Confidence, confidence, confidence,” he says. “I’ve gotten guys who hit me up who have hard bodies but no personality to it, so I’m not interested. There’s got to be a certain connection to whoever I’m shooting. If we can’t connect on a social level, I can’t pull anything out of them. Sometimes it’s a challenge, too, to pull something out that they don’t think they have but I think they have.”