All Bodies Welcome: The Photography Of Kurt Banks

By Samuel Leighton-Dore

If you’re into frequenting attractive naked dudes on Instagram, there’s a good chance you’ve already stumbled upon the work of Sydney-based photographer Kurt Banks. Since he started posting intimate photographs on his social media accounts over a year ago, the student’s following has grown to over 10,000; most of whom are incredibly vocal of their appreciation for Banks’ understated-sexy aesthetic.

Having previously posed for Kurt, I can attest to the unassuming authenticity of his process. Setup in the living room of his St Peters sharehouse, there is no lighting, makeup or backdrop. He pays no mind to flattering angles. Commuters walking along the street can sneak a peak at their leisure. It’s uncomfortable and a little confronting, but in the best possible way.

It’s this “raw” approach to photography that sets Banks apart from the carefully composed nude selfies and glossy body-boasting shots commonly found on Instagram and Grindr. Whether intended or not, his photography suggests there is no right or wrong way to be a sexually empowered gay man.

All bodies are welcome and all bodies are celebrated.


So you’ve made a pretty big name for yourself on Instagram by shooting super gorgeous snaps of predominantly undressed men. Was this running theme coincidental or intentional?

I don’t ever think there were any questions about it. I was given a second or third-hand camera from someone I used to sleep with, and from there I always said I was going to photograph the body. I don’t really know why, but I just saw that as something I wanted to do for myself. So, technically, it was intentional, but I don’t know why, exactly.

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You shoot an eclectic group of people. How do you meet the majority of your models?

Well, most of my models can be found on Grindr, actually. As I said before, I wanted to photograph the body, but I didn’t have anyone to photograph, so I just started asking strangers on Grindr to let me photograph them at their house or mine. It’s actually a funny thought that the first person I photographed only did it because I promised him that he’d get a new Grindr display picture out of it.


Would I be right in saying that most of your models are LGBTQI? How closely do you identify your work with your sexuality?

That’s true, yes, for the most part they are LGBTQI, however, if not, they are in full support of the LGBTQI community. I think my work is in many ways a look at my own sexuality, as well as the sexuality of other people. I wouldn’t say it’s because I photograph ‘regulation hotties’ therefore my work is about my sexuality. I’d say it’s about current and previous partners, lovers, friends, one night stands and strangers. They all make up the different facets of what I believe my sexuality is.

Do you have current plans to explore mediums beyond social media?

I have actually been doing a bit of printing, trying to create a divide between social media and actual hard copies, which has been sort of a validation to myself seeing a physical photograph rather than a computer, mobile phone or camera screen. But, I think I’ve reached a stage where I can validate why I’m putting the effort in to printing a photograph and I can say that I am ready to separate myself from social media.


I love the subtlety of eroticism you evoke with your work. What do you think differentiates your photographs from the pin-ups found in glossy gay mags?

Uh, well, I have actually sent my photographs to a bunch of glossy gay magazines to which the response was something along the lines of “learn how to photograph and then get back to us.” However, I think the eroticism comes from the emotions of whoever it is that I’m photographing, I encourage people to just be themselves, and express whatever it is that they are feeling at the time. I don’t like the idea of photographing someone who is too comfortable in their own skin, because there would be nothing about them to expose and without that exposure it’s just another pretty photograph on the internet.


Are there any photographers who inspire your work/aesthetic?

I really draw a lot from other artists and photographers, whether or not that shows in my own work, I’m not too sure. But, I also draw a lot from people’s personal social media accounts, seeing how they choose to represent themselves in contrast with how I represent them is really an odd thing.


Some of your photos feel pretty up-close and intimate – like we’ve stumbled into a super private moment between photographer and subject. Does this intimacy ever translate into real life?

Well, when I’m not photographing strangers from the internet, which is an act of intimacy in itself, I’m normally focusing on my private life, I guess I’ve been quite privileged to have people around me who understand what I’m trying to convey. But, that hasn’t always been easy, I can recall having screaming fights with my ex partner and just when he’d be on the verge of tears I’d whip out my camera and photograph him, or doing exactly the same thing when he was crying naked on my bed. I guess, this idea of my private life going on display needs to be looked at as my own exploration as much as an exploration for the viewer.


Where can we find you? What do you hope to do next?

You can find me on instagram. But, what I hope to be doing next is to start showing my work in a more formal setting, be that peddling my prints on the street to having an exhibition. As long as I start to separate social media from what I feel is deserving of a wall and possibly a picture frame.


Follow Kurt Banks on Instagram to see more of his work.

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