What is incredible about the work that Studio P-P creates is that it is pure, brutal, and beautiful. Pär and Philipp create photographs that tear off the facade of commercial photography geared at the gay community by providing a sincere glimpse into the romantic, kinky queer scene that truly exists. It's at one moment debilitatingly devastating and in the next humorous...words like "Don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining" or "faggot" are emblazoned in black smears of ink while big banana blow-ups, toilets, and tennis shoes are used as clever props. There's a didactic quality to their photographs that begs to be honestly heard, to be made viscerally visible.
Studio P-P taps into poetic perversity with a devotion that is unswerving and in this interview, they talk about the intentional philosophy behind their work, as well as how tattoos, and tattoo collecting, often take a place within their creative and personal lives.
Can you introduce yourselves? Who you are, what do you do and how did you get into making such cool photographs?
Hi, we’re Pär and Philipp, we’re a German-Swedish artist and real-life couple working with photographic self-portraits. With base in Berlin and Stockholm, we make work about queer identity, visualizing expressions outside of heteronormativity. Using mostly ourselves as the subjects of our pictures, we’re examining our kinks as well as our vulnerabilities with a raw, personal and unapologetic approach.
Living and working together is the perfect symbiosis both creatively and romantically. Studio P–P becomes so much more than a job or a project, it’s who we are. We do what feels right, both in our own projects and in collaborations with people who share our values. We want to stay curious and explore, we’re so grateful to be doing this together and can’t wait for what’s to come.
Do you have a philosophy behind your artistic output? What do you hope to say to the world?
Our main mission is to question cis-heteronormativity with work that examines ideas around queer identity as well as body- and sex-positivity. We live in challenging times, although things have gotten better for a lot of people from the LGBTQ-community we still have a long way to go when it comes to the rights of trans and gender non-conforming folks. We’re experiencing a lot of push back even from within our own community where people (especially white cis gay men) feel like they have reached their goals now that they are allowed to marry and adopt kids in most of the democratic countries of the West.
But for the rest of us, it’s not enough to be merely tolerated by society. Also, why can’t people just mind their own business. Why does it matter so much to conservatives what we do, what gender and pronouns we choose, with who and in what way we live out our sexuality? Sine about a year back we are experiencing major censorship issues on Social Media, Instagram, Facebook actively tries to shame us into invisibility and has threatened several times to erase our presence on their channels, it’s really frustrating and we have had a lot of setbacks and missed opportunities like collaborations, exhibitions as well in running a business. And other queer artists from within our community have experienced the exact same. It’s a pretty dark prospect if you think about where this is going.
We don’t really have any other medium than Instagram to network and showcase our work. Locally maybe, but not to such an extent as the opportunities that Instagram offers other preferably non-queer people whose work caters to a straight male audience.
During pride month every other company slaps a rainbow on their products, but let’s be honest companies don’t really give a shit about LGBTQ+ folks when at the same time queer voices and bodies are being censored, silenced and shamed on social media. Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube are policing our community, we’re being pushed into the closet again by a pseudo-puritan tech elite’s “sex panic” across the internet causing the erasure of spaces once thought to be queer safe havens.
This situation highlights the need for our work to continue to be seen and shared online as well as in the physical world — uncensored. We intend to be part of a larger community and support each other in the fight against censorship and erasure and celebrate each other and hold those accountable who appropriate our spaces without doing anything for us. We don’t need to change to fit into some bullshit “community guidelines”, we’re the community and we have the same right as anyone else to be visible and connect and to opportunities for making a living with our work.
Do you have tattoos, and if so: how do you choose the tattoo artists that tattoo you, and the pieces that you get? And if you don’t, why not?
Pär: Yes, I’m starting to get pretty covered up by now having around 50-ish tattoos. But I’m far from done yet! When I choose a tattoo artist I tend to use the same approach as when creating art. Going for the non-norm. I mostly have female or queer artists doing work on me.
Philipp: I have almost finished the sleeve on my left arm and have started the right arm about a year ago. With a large back piece, I would say about 20 pieces in total. We have our favorite queer tattoo artists here in Berlin, Philippe Fernandez and Hannes at AKA Berlin, as well as Jess Koala at Castro Tattoo in San Francisco and Joel Soos at Sanctum Tattoo Stockholm.
Tattoos obviously change the body that you are photographing...does this play into some of your projects? How do you feel tattoos may change how a photograph/composition is perceived?
It’s funny we think about this a lot, we find the image of an image idea quite appealing, or an image of text or both. Also, the more tattoos we get, the more the individual tattoo melts into the composition. Whereas we sometimes work with close-ups the individual tattoo can become a central element of the picture (see “Crown Jewels”) While for some pictures I’d prefer a clean slate. For example, when we were working with text (see: “Manspreading”). But even this is possible since we both have untattooed parts of our bodies and to be honest I like to work with that kind of limitation. Almost all our images are self-portraits and we only shoot in our own domestic environment not in a studio so we generally take what we have and try to make it work, so sometimes the tattoos add an extra layer (see: “Schwul”) or and the picture totally wouldn’t work without them, sometimes it’s the other way around.
I think what I love most about your photographs is that they are so unapologetic. What advice do you have for all the queer kids out there trying to find their voice and their community?
Oh, thanks so much, we intend to make work that is honest, personal and unapologetic. That’s the way we want to live and that’s the advice we can give. Be honest, and kind to yourself and others, be fierce and unapologetic, get involved in your community and try to listen and hold space for those who do not have a voice.
What is it about Berlin that makes it such a perfect place for artists to flourish? Who are some of your favorite people working in that city (or Stockholm too! Any city will do!)
Philipp: I guess Berlin is still (even though this has changed a lot since I last lived here about 12 years ago) a city that has room for all kinds of creative expressions. For me, as a German queer, it is the most significant city for my community’s history and it is a very weird and wonderful mix of creative perverts and old and new ideas of what it means to be LGBTQIA and the feeling that you can actively be a part of that is very exciting to me. The list of people who inspire us who have some sort of connection to Berlin I would say in no particular order is Peaches, Wolfgang Tillmans, Slava Mogutin, Nina Hagen, Klaus Nomi, David Bowie.
Beyond photography, what are you both really passionate about?
We have a shared interest in thrift shopping, we are trying to create an archive of 19th Century vintage queer porn, Philipp loves old maps and typewriters while Pär likes weird furniture and kinky nicknacks. And we love road trips preferably to the middle of nowhere in the US or Canada.
If you could only listen to one record, read one book, play with one toy, and watch one movie
for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Pär Record: Hole – Live Through This
Pär Book: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Pär Toy: Do we consider Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup a toy?
Pär Movie: Shortbus by John Cameron Mitchell.
Philipp Record: The Knife – Silent Shout
Philipp Book: Rebecca Solnit – A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Philipp Toy: My merman swim tail
Philipp Movie: Pedro Almodóvar – All About My Mother
Do you have any projects, collabs, events, shows, travel plans, model calls, etc. that you’d like to share?
Right now we are preparing the Queer X-mas Market which will take place on November 30 in Berlin. After that, we will chill out for the rest of the year in Stockholm and take some well deserved time off to celebrate Christmas, Pär’s birthday and New Year’s. For 2020 we are planning an interdisciplinary fashion project where we print our images on repurposed sustainable sportswear. Also, we are continuously looking for participants for our “1 Hour In Our Bed Project”, especially BIPOC, trans, nonbinary and gender-fluid folks, so if you’re in Berlin and want to participate give us a shout!