Danny Polaris: Hey Dan, so how did the project barenfit come about?
Dan Govan: I started taking self-portraits to get a better idea of what I looked like; distancing myself from the embarrassment of myself with garish colours and dramatic lights, the kind of thing you’d never see in a mirror. Over time it changed my self-image and I thought I could use what I learned on others.
DP: Well you’ve certainly learnt a lot, we love your photos! You’ve seen a lot of guys in their underwear. What can you tell about a guy from the kind of undies he wears?
DG: I have a theory that people that wear colourful underwear want to show off but feel self conscious about it, so want to distract and that those that are more comfortable and confident keep it simple. These are all just assumptions of course, and likely to be wrong most of the time! Also more tops should wear jocks.
DP: Well, well… do you think top guys have an issue with showing their butts?
DG: The cliché is that if someone shows their butt, they want something in it, which of course is ridiculous. But then I kinda prefer the verse vibe anyway to be honest…
DP: What are the best kind of undies to photograph?
DG: I work with a lot of colour so it helps if the underwear is monochrome. White if you want to draw attention to the package, black if you want to be more coy, grey if you’re somewhere in the middle.
DP: What are your personal favourite?
DG: White CK briefs. Classic, unpretentious, just the right amount of distracting, don’t get in the way, not too ostentatious. Or more likely I’m just a victim of a lifetime of advertising.
DP: What does it take to be a good model?
DG: It’s not as easy as it looks! They have to have a really good sense of their own physicality, light, angles. I’ve only shot a couple of professional models and watching them work is hypnotic.
Most of the people I shoot have never stepped under the lights in their life though, so the main thing is to not worry about looking stupid and being open to trying random things. I only keep 10% of the photos anyway so there’s really no danger.
DP: What photograph are you most proud of and why?
DG: The next one! I get through things so quickly that once a photo is published I’m already over it and on to the next one. The proud moments from this project are definitely when subjects tell me how I helped change their opinion about themselves; that always gives me a thrill.
DP: What about your other project, @queernift… tell us about that?
DG: Similar colourful photos, different idea, @barenift is about vulnerability, @queernift is about artifice. Portraits of drag queens and club kids, celebrating their individuality and projecting queerness out into the world. The kind of people that brighten up (and/or perform to) any club.
Fabulous people all, and I’m lucky to call them friends. I actually have an exhibition on at Dalston Superstore with portraits of forty such queens of nightlife, including a few bonus @barenift photos of them out of drag. It’s been really rewarding to put the portraits back into the scene like that.