Revolutionarry, übercool, and cutting edge in many ways: that’s all what it’s takek to describe Israel’s underground gay magazine. After all not so many publisher can allow itself to promote raw, un-manipulated beauty on controversial photos, exposing naked bodies of every kind of Israeli men. Boys, bears, queens and gym bunnies are all happy to strike a pose in front of Dror Amsallem’s camera – the man behind the Bayad phenomenon.
The Bayad magazine is on the fine line of art and pornography, yet you get to sell it in museums, fancy bookstores and cinematic festivals. How did you convince everyone that naked boys and erotic novels are more on the “art” side?
Most people would probably say that art start’s to become porn when it comes to a hard penis. What I think is that it doesn’t matter if it’s erecting or not, what counts is the concept, and what the picture represents from a social point of view. We also present illustrations, poems, and interviews and all this is what pulls it more to the art side.
Israel has a history of gay magazines blossoming for a few years, and closing down. What will make Bayad’s story different?
First of all what makes it different is that it’s by me. More over: as we come out four times a year, we constantly available for our readers at the Bayad blog and the social networks. We’ll survive.
Who would you say is a typical reader of yours? Where do you get your subscribers from?
As most of our models are Israelis, our subscribers are usually men who are really into our kind of beauty. Bayad is a great way to understand and read the gay community of Tel Aviv and because of this I’d say our readers are everyone, who just love Israeli men.
I know you are celebrating every issue with a big party, and you often have a specific. How does the crowd react to the non-conventional party settings?
People are crazy about it, our parties are always very popular and as they are open for the public, they are often talked about in the city the night after… or a few nights after. The host of the event usually dresses up in rather unusual outfits: last time it was a thorn hospital gown with opened back. He had a white mask on and he was going around the bar, sharing giveaways our guests.
Who are these guys who appear in the magazine? Clearly not professional models.
Almost never. The main concept of Bayad magazine is to present regular people as they are. We don’t need them to go to the gym, remove their hair, and we don’t use airbrush. We want guys on the pictures who everyone can identify with. Boys, who could walk in front of you on the street.
You seem to promote “down to earth” beauty over manipulated and perfectionist beauty. Is this a mission of yours?
I’m working as a graphic designer, often for clients from the fashion industry and when people ask me to do everything “prettier” than the reality, I do it, but I don’t agree with it. I personally think being who you really are brings out the beauty of the people, and not photo shop.
How does your family react to your passion and profession? I’m not sure a typical Jewish mum would be happy to show this magazine to the neighbours, saying “look, my son is doing this, I’m so proud”.
They don’t really know about it… and I want to keep it that way.
What is the inspiration behind the Rosh Hashanah-photo shooting? A religious guy, naked, wearing only a yamaka, munching apples on the hills of Jerusalem…
I got a mail from this religious guy, who really wanted to be in the magazine, and I realized he was perfect for the concept. As a Jewish guy I grew up experiencing the holidays every year the very same way, so I thought: why not to show our Mitzva in a different way?
Are you aware of it that you might upset people? Do you like to provoke?
No, I don’t like to provoke. I do what I think will look interesting and beautiful. We are an underground magazine and we don’t try to please people who have “main stream” expectations. And our readers are used to it that we are shameless.
Your short movie about your grandmother’s story in the holocaust is included in the program of a documentary film festival in Berlin. Congrats and tell us about the film.
The film tells the tale of my grandmother and her brother’s childhood in Tunis, living under the Nazi regime during the World War II., interweaving the personal and historical events. We get to know the story from my grandmother’s point of view while her brother was incarcerated and forced to work in the concentration camp of Bizerte. I created it as the final project in my studies and it ended up being presented in some international film fests. It made my granny very happe… and it made me “The Grandson Of The Year”.
Subscribe here, or visit the magazine’s Facebook page. This article of mine was written for Time Out Israel’s September issue, 2012.