Pinups Puts Real People in the Centerfold


Hailed as part of a new generation of NY-based gay zines, Pinups is the project of photographer Christopher Schulz, who’s cut all the boring bits out of dead-tree publications and created a magazine that’s nothing but centerfold. Both subversive and sexy, Pinups is the antithesis of the polished, plucked and bronzed images that dominate traditional gay magazines. Instead, the guys featured are engagingly accessible, while still being sexy and erotic.

It’s one of our favorite zines here at Queerty, and on the occasion of the release of the magazine’s eighth issue, we talked to Schulz about what it’s like to use hot, naked guys to subvert the gay establishment and how to make it as a one-man publisher.

QUEERTY: So, to someone who’s never heard of Pinups before, how do you explain it?

Christopher Schulz: It’s hard to explain it in a sentence or two. In Printed Matter’s announcement of the issue eight launch, they said Pinups is an ongoing artist’s publication playing on the historical centerfold practice of nudie magazines by making the centerfold the sole feature. That’s probably the most concise explanation that I’ve seen. More concise than mine!

What’s the appeal of making a magazine that’s just a centerfold?
I’ve always been drawn to the process of creating something in the format of a publication, but there are already so many magazines out there and nearly all of them are made up of punny headlines, a review section, interviews, articles, advice columns, ads, and so on. I figured that if I were to bring another magazine into the world it would have to be drastically different. As the creator I have the freedom to define the formula of the magazine, so it’s appealing to me, but it’s also refreshing for those who look at it–it’s an entirely different experience from looking at a conventional magazine. It’s more than just a flip-through. The magazine can be taken apart and the pages can be tiled to form a 70″ x 32″ image. So it involves interaction and can exist in the form of a book or a poster.

Where did you get the idea to do it? How did you first start the magazine?

I was looking at an old issue of After Dark and I noticed an ad for a beach towel that featured a head-to-toe image of a beefy looking guy in a Speedo. I started to think about the formula of porn magazines and how the main feature is the centerfold, and then I thought about enlarging the centerfold and removing all the fluff that many readers disregard.

I’m not interested in capturing body shame–there are no waxed bodies in Pinups; no painted on muscle tone. I’m not dolling guys up to sell anything. The perfect model is comfortable with his body and isn’t afraid to show it.

When I started, I knew nothing about printing or how to lay out the pages. It took me a year to experiment with the format and contact printers before I put out the first issue. Originally I intended on printing it on newsprint and have it come apart much like a newspaper. I got nowhere with printers, and was so frustrated that I hit a point where I realized that if I don’t print it the old fashion “‘zine” way (Xerox) then it would never happen. The first year I printed the magazines using a Xerox printer. The magazine is now printed on an offset press.

Pinups has been described as part of a thriving gay ‘zine scene by New York Magazine. What did you think of the article? It sort of seemed to say that gay ‘zines are the future of gay print media.

I would say that gay zines are a taste of what’s to come. There’s something liberating about a bunch of artists that are taking gay media into their own hands and really challenging the standard. Hopefully these magazines will inspire their mainstream counterparts to be more thought provoking and dimensional.

How do you pick your models?

Most of the models I’ve featured have been close friends of mine, and many of them live in New York. Some guys I’ve invited to be in the magazine because I think they’d be a good match, and others ask me if they can be included. I always do test shoots before picking the models because I want to know how comfortable they are in front of the camera. The guys that I have worked with have been amazing. They agree to be in the magazine out of a love for the project and they really trust what I’m doing, so the collaboration between us has been very organic and easy-going. The photo shoots have always been fun and relaxed. I’m always stressed before and after the shoots. The most exciting part of the process is the photo shoot.

Describe the perfect Pinups model.
It’s important that the models are comfortable with themselves. I’m not interested in capturing body shame–there are no waxed bodies in Pinups; no painted on muscle tone. I’m not dolling guys up to sell anything. The perfect model is comfortable with his body and isn’t afraid to show it. Hopefully that comes across.

Is there any political or social meaning to the magazine?

I want to present an alternative to imagery that perpetuates the ideal body as being overly toned, overly tweezed, and overly Photoshopped. I’m inspired by all the nude photo books and magazines that came out of the 70s. Models were presented in a very neutral, almost documentary style. Some friends of mine showed me a book they had from the 70s that was basically a portfolio of images of all sorts of different people, photographed nude in a photo studio. The only text was the name of the person and their profession. It was genius. That’s how I want to present the guys in Pinups–the nudity is natural, not pornographic. Similarly I believe peoples’ responses are projected, not provoked. I think it says a lot for a magazine without words.

What do you have planned for the release party?

This time around, Printed Matter is hosting the launch, which is very exciting because there is really no other place quite like Printed Matter and it is the perfect context for Pinups. It’s sort of a hybrid of a gallery and bookstore and carries works from zine makers you’ve never heard of to artists such as Yoko Ono and Barbara Kruger. It’s really the most incredible range of works you’ll see in one place.

Pinups Issue #8 will have its official launch on Saturday, Jan. 24 at Printed Matter (195 Tenth Avenue, NYC) from 5-7pm with an after party at Nowhere Bar (322 E 14th Street, NYC) at 10pm. Needless to say, come as you are.