Entertainment » Books

Beautiful Imperfections

by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Sep 20, 2013
Beautiful Imperfections

Michael Alago likes men, and it shows in his carefully crafted photos. He also likes flowers, found objects (a discarded condom on a sidewalk, graffiti, a skateboard), and classical statuary and architecture.

Beautiful Imperfections shows how remarkably Alago is progressing as a serious photographer who brings a thoroughly grounded artistic sensibility to male physique photography. The closest comparison would be Robert Mapplethorpe, whose provocative photos brought S/M into the mainstream and moved homoerotic photography from the corny pre-Stonewall physique magazines and post-Stonewall Colt fetish underground to the mainstream art world (with, in his case at least, mainstream art world success).

  (Source:All photos from Beautiful Imperfections)

Alago alternates black-and-white photos with color. This photo is one of the relatively few in a clear light, focus and exact color palettes. Most of the color photos have a slightly sepia effect that gives the look of New York City on a damp mid-fall day.

Like the vast majority of other men in the book, the model has an amazing massive muscular body. Unlike many (but not all) others, he’s smooth skinned and clean cut.

They grainy quality of most of the photos comes from Alago’s having shot all of them on his iPhone Hipstomatic app -- the first such photo book. Far more than a gimmick, the results have give a gritty street feel, befitting the subject matter.

I suspect other photographers will be imitating Alago’s initiative. Who knows? The iPhone may become the Polaroid of the ’10s!

This photo of a statue of the Archangel St. Michael taken in New Orleans, shows how skillfully Alago has fused the aesthetics of classical and even religious sculpture with his living models. The two subject matters inform each other on his pages.

Most of the photos were taken on the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, with a smattering of others from New Orleans, Provincetown and cities farther afield.

This one, taken in Los Angeles, shows Alago’s fascination with tattoos, the more and bigger the better. While I’m not going to presume that any of the sitters are gang members, some of them definitely give off a gangsta vibe, which can be hot or threatening -- or maybe a little of both.

This man is representative of the ideal Alago sitter: mature; some body hair; real, real big; and giving off attitude. If you’re looking for hairless twinks in repose, or sculpted runway types in romantic locales, look elsewhere.

Alago revels in and celebrates the grittiness of street life in our big cities (or what’s left of it, anyway). His favorite backdrop is a brick wall; his favorite costume, jeans and a just-visible jockstrap.

Alago has a real eye for posters, graffiti or just a few words on paper. This is about as far away from precise Jenny Holzer-type word-as-propaganda as you can get. Alago rejects such a gallery-friendly presentation in favor of an in-your-face directness in which the words don’t flow so much as spit at the reader.

Photographer & Music Industry Legend Michael Alago will sign copies of his new (3rd) coffee table photo book, Beautiful Imperfections available at Hat Rac Fine Art Gallery. The even takes place the same weekend as the Folsom Street Fair.

September 26
(Folsom Street Fair Weekend)
6:00 - 10:00 p.m.<
Hat Rac Fine Art Gallery
1714 Franklin Street<
Oakland, CA 94612<

10% of proceeds will go to The Wellness Project (Health Information for Women with HIV and AIDS)

Beautiful Imperfections
120 pages, thick-stock hardcover
Published by Bruno Gmünder

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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