Hong Kong has a new magazine dedicated to the beauty of the Asian male body. It’s called beaux. Over coffee in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, I met its founder and publisher, Norm Yip, Hong Kong's best known gay photographer. He's also been a long-term LGBT activist, especially in the area of HIV prevention and education.
In an age of moving images, Norm has developed a very powerful niche in Hong Kong’s gay scene by creating an art melded from his own skills in photography, fashion and style. He’s pretty much unique in this in Hong Kong. The former architect's projects are numerous and they always surprise. His new magazine is no exception. In the introduction to the first edition, published in January this year, he writes of the pleasure he takes in the tactile nature of paper, the beauty of the printed word and the smell of the printed page, the way all these enhance the beauty of photographic images.
The first volume of what he intends to be a collectible series is entitled Vanity, a trait he rightly says is nowadays displayed not just by the Asian female but also by the Asian male. “The photography in beaux magazine,” he writes, “embraces this shift; we celebrate this progression as a natural evolution.”
Vanity is all his own work, though in future he intends to open the pages of beaux to others. He wants to encourage others to showcase their work in his future editions. He has divided this volume of the magazine into segments, some in the ‘folio’ series, showing various models and styles, others ‘shootouts’ concentrating upon images of just one young man. Interspersed are pages of his own paintings; his own reflections on his art; interviews with his models; quotations from others who have written anything on similar themes (from Jane Austen to Blaise Pascal); and a cheeky section showing mobile phone photos taken of life on the street. And, of course, there are the photographs; page after page Yip has taken from hundreds of shots of beautiful Asian boys from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States. Anyone who has ever seen Norm Yip’s work before won’t need telling that these are stunning, both the models he has chosen and the art he has created from them.
Images from beaux V1 - VANITY
Yip’s studio and gallery are at the east end of Hong Kong Island in Chaiwan, where he’s built himself a huge reputation in the LGBT community, not only for his photographs but also for his contribution to gay causes. Through exhibitions and sales of his photographs, paintings and books, he has raised funds for charities like the Society for AIDS Care, AIDS Concern, the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation and the old and sadly defunct help line HORIZONS (for which he held a photographic auction back in 2008). He is of an age which means that he grew up at a time when a positive test for HIV was a death sentence. Friends of his died of AIDS-related causes, so it’s not surprising that he has focused his work for charity here.
Yip is by birth a Canadian, from the prairies of Saskatchewan, and trained there as an architect before settling to work in Hong Kong in 1994. He found, though, that architecture was not his passion.“It was just not creative enough. So I formed a partnership with two friends to create a visual art outlet, which we called Méli-Mélo, the French for something like ‘organised chaos’. I began there to explore photography and started to shoot for my first book, The Asian Male: 1.AM and which came out in 2005). After a year or so I launched out alone as a photographer, earning a living at first by taking wedding shots, often in the big hotels. My first studio, Studio 8, was in Sheung Wan, and I then moved to where I am now in Chaiwan.”
His second volume of The Asian Male series (2.AM) came out in 2007 and he’s now working on the third.
The idea for beaux, which will be a quarterly magazine, evolved from all this and from his experience of working with a group of friends publishing an online magazine in 2011. This was largely centred on female fashion and style, and lasted for five editions. Its photography had some big name brands: Hermes, Gucci, Prada, others of that stature. It gave Yip a taste for magazine work. This time, though, he wanted to concentrate on the male body and masculine style.
Beaux V1 - VANITY is available for sale on Fridae Shop at US$19.99. For a limited time, Beaux V1 + 1.AM or 2.AM is available at a special price of US$58 or all three at US$96. When you get a copy, check out his very clever merging of acrylic painting and photography on woodblock.