Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Real, live men

Photographer Adam Moco captures gay men in their own spaces

Credit: Adam Moco

Attention, gay boys: photographer Adam Moco wants to hook up with you.

After a brief online introduction, the lithe former model (he was actually big in Tokyo) offers his muse(s) a personal, intimate moment and then leaves. No promises, no future. And then he blogs about the whole thing on his website, trystpic.com.

Sound familiar? Before drawing similarities to last weekend or the plethora of sex-tape scandals on BuzzFeed at the moment, be advised that a key component is markedly absent: Moco is looking for people, not sex. He couldn’t care less if pants and shoes are thrown into a rubble of careless abandon. And that camera-and-human-in-your-face reality is a whole lot more intimate.

I should know. I went through it myself.

With Tryst Pic, Moco is curating and elucidating real human beings before cozying them into a digital frame and sharing them on the internet. He posts more than one image of each person he encounters and writes a charming paragraph or two of the circumstances of the rendezvous and how and why the person was included. The resulting body of work — though aesthetically similar to many hook-up apps — shows some serious heart.

My hookup is planned for an overcast Saturday afternoon. We negotiate on the phone the day before. “Let’s do early,” he says.

“How’s 2:30pm?”

I ask him what I should serve. “I’m not much for coffee, if you don’t mind,” so I lay out tea.

At 2:29pm, standing in the kitchen, I do what any gay boy does before inviting a random over: I clean feverishly and try on different outfits. A strange man wants to spend some time with me, get to know me a bit, snap some pictures of me in my space. He is here for way more than a quickie.

And then, in flops the photographer, oblivious to my nerves, and sits down at the table. It is as if we are lost friends seeing each other for the first time in decades.

I ask where Tryst Pic (recently profiled in The Advocate) came from. “I am actually kinda terrified of sex,” Moco volunteers, dipping the demitasse spoon I offer into the artisanal honey before stirring it into his teacup. “I find Grindr and Scruff a little intimidating.”

“Has anyone ever tried to interview you the way you try to interview others?” I ask.

“No. Stay there . . . that’s nice light.” Snap, snap.

There’s a stereotype in the photographic world that pegs the figures behind the lens as silent observers — preferring to watch, capture and immortalize the world they see rather than risk engaging it until it becomes something else entirely. Like breaking the surface tension on a waveless lake.

Moco is as fascinated by the control of his involvement as he is in the subject himself. I can imagine him obsessing over the selection process, establishing artistic confines from which to work: “I only shoot people in their own space. Sure, I’ll photoshop a big zit or play with contrast a bit but won’t add any light or direct you. I want to see you.”

And so there we are, two adults and a camera, sharing an intimate, personal afternoon. Clothes on, tea to drink and creating a relationship together. Just like that. And with photographic evidence.

“What don’t you like about sex?” I have to come back to it. As a self-professed “find-sex-now-app” addict, I am lured by the uncertainty, the vulgarity and the risk that the next person to appear online could be a future husband, raunchy bedfellow and everything in between.

There’s something hypnotic about swiping a finger left or right to deny or accept a stranger’s request to enter one’s life. It’s like flipping through an endless male-order catalogue (yes I did) and trying before buying. But now that smartphones are acting as an eligibility lens for gays everywhere, a whole section of, dare I say, “old-fashioned” romantics are left out of the fray. Not everyone walks into a room junk first.

“I just like to get to know someone, you know? What makes them tick. Who they are. Sex is much more than just . . . mechanical.” Moco shrugs. I want to agree. “It’s not that I haven’t used those apps before,” he says. “But when I have met people, they know it’s not for — wait, tilt your head like that again. Yeah.” Snap, snap.

After three hours of posing and counter-interviewing, shy Moco says I am “one of his longest.” In another context, I would have relished the comment. We laughed, we cried — it really was better than sex.

The catalogue style of gay male dating looks like it’s here to stay. But with crusaders like Adam Moco refining, humanizing and investigating the humans behind the liquid crystal display, the future is, indeed, friendly.