“RAW” is the groundbreaking 200-page hardcover monograph by acclaimed photographer Lope Navo.
Navo, a native-born Filipino who came from humble beginnings, managed to make a name for himself. He has actually lived in almost all continents for three decades long and amassed an unprecedented grand library of work in the fashion industry. While Navo’s first book “STARK” was exclusively photographed in America, this sequel, “RAW,” is shot predominantly all over the United States—New York City, Miami, and Los Angeles—but also in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Vitória, Manila, Tel Aviv, Paris, Berlin and Milan.
In this NSFW coffee table book, Navo focuses on male beauty, masculinity, boyhood, nudity and fashion. It presents both color and black- and-white imagery, and features hundreds of the sexiest men alive today. The signed limited- edition copies of “RAW” include a foreword by Christopher Harrity of Advocate Magazine, a signed giant-size Lope Navo poster, a chic limited-edition postcard set in hand-finished faux leather envelopes and a special acrylic slip box case with an embossed die cut logo along with a premium red clamshell box. DA MAN chats with the one and only, Lope Navo.
DAMAN: Can you tell us the story behind “RAW”?
Lope Navo: RAW, a coffee table book that celebrates male beauty, masculinity, boyhood, nudity and fashion. A follow up from his first book STARK released in 2009, RAW is a 200-page hardcover monograph shot in more than five continents and dozens of majors cities, possibly the first of its kind, just based on the grandness of its locations, and scope of the materials. No photographers that live today possibly have ever done. RAW serves as a culmination of my three-decade journey abroad where I amassed a grand body of work while living in the most exciting cities. Almost a retrospective, although it features most of my newer work. The signed limited edition copy includes a foreword by Christopher Harrity of Advocate Magazine, a signed giant-size Lope Navo poster, a chic limited edition 18-set postcards in hand finished faux leather envelope and a special acrylic slip box case with an embossed die cut logo.
DA: This is in fact your second book after the launch of “STARK” about a decade ago. What made you decide to publish a new book now?
LP: The first book Stark was described by OUT magazine as “a book that makes your loins ache” I was very young back then, and rarely photographer’s my age and background publishes a book that early. RAW was published during the days of the Covid-19 lockdown. I was already planning to publish another book before that about surfers in 2019, but due to the pandemic, it wasn’t possible to finish. So I decided to come up with RAW. Which is a bigger project on its own right. I love coffee table books, and if I wasn’t travelling that much for the past decades probably I have completed my own wall to wall collection of photobooks myself. I love the smell and sound on paper, the digital electronic copies don’t do it for me as much as the hard copies you can hold in your hand.
DA: In your opinion, what makes a great photograph?
LP: For me all photographs objectify, whether you take a photo of a mountain that looks like breast of a woman or a man’s buttocks that accidentally looks like deserts, all photography instantly turn an event or a person into something that can be possessed or owned on the click of the camera. You click your camera and suddenly the abstract becomes somehow more attainable and approachable through light bounced around the pieces of paper.
The earliest memory of me seeing a photograph is accidentally opening a suitcase from our former house in Manila, I came from the most humble beginnings you can ever think of but somehow a suitcase of pornographic materials of vintage Caucasian men stashed in one of the wooden drawers, you know the one with blonde moustaches you usually find in Tom of Finland art pieces, tucked inside a suitcase. I’m the only gay person I know in my family, and I’m sure my mother don’t own those. I was on my pubescent age. From then on, those photographs have left a searing mark at my very young mind.
DA: How do you capture the perfect moment?
LP: Is there such a thing as a perfect moment? For me the best photographs are ones you took by accident, by the fleeting moment, by chance almost an accident. I wish I can tell you that photographs are like what we take on Instagram, perfectly filtered, which is fine. But as I grow older “the perfectly-manicured” photographs are not as sexy compared to some unexpected details of imperfections especially for a man.
For me what differentiates men from women is that you can still find a man very sexy, even sexier, if he have wrinkles or a big scar on his face. Where in for women, if you see many wrinkles, tattooes, and scars all over the prominent parts of their their body, they won’t be featured in the cover of Vogue or Playboy, absolutely. You see the difference? Masculinity versus feminity as ideals juxtaposed in huge contrast even up to today in 2020.
DA: How do you choose your models?
LP: For me if we are talking about RAW, which the culmination of my decades of work, I chose them like the way my teenage fantasies where built around. But of course as I grow older it changes. But when I was young what filled my fantasies are images of pop stars and celebrities. But when I grow older and travelled the world, I realized that there is a bigger world than magazines and TV, and there are an abundance of beautiful men in the world, you know those ones that doesn’t need filters and photoshop. You exactly get what you see, if that make any sense?
DA: How do you establish a rapport and good working relationship with the models you feature in your book?
LP: For me I have been doing photography for almost my whole life, of course it had its ups and downs, but I think I am at my age that I know exactly what I want to photograph and it is a challenge to create something fresh in the noise of overwhelming we have now on Instagram. Internet for the past decade have ushered a flood of new young and very talented image-makers.
But just like Heidi Klum said on Project Runway, “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out.” I don’t think there is more cutthroat industry than fashion. The battle for relevance this age and time is almost a race. And unlike any car race, where the fastest car is the winner, in photography, the most beautiful or fashion forward is not the winner, since the judges are the masses. You see the difference? So fashion always ends up sometimes with not the best of the crop to say the least. Well unlike car racing.
DA: What do you hope to achieve with “RAW”?
LP: I want RAW to be a transition of my past work to my new work. Where is my photography is taking me next. As I’ve said on my Huffington Post Interview in 2017, “The biggest challenge for me is discovering myself through my work. All this time I have been trying to peel the onion to see what’s in the middle. I want to know what makes my work unique, and that is very important to me.” So I hope RAW will be that transition, like the calm before the storm.
DA: In your opinion, what has changed—in terms of your photography or writing—between the time you published “STARK” and now that you’ve launched “RAW”?
LP: So much have changed and I’m grateful and that change is a gift. To express yourself exactly the way you wanted, some people don’t even have one, I have three, I can write, I can paint and take pictures and do them all with justice. I wrote my first piece in highschool about my mother, and my teachers taught that I was a professional writer, of course I wrote the piece in Filipino. I also won many painting competitions sponsored by big corporations in Manila, when I was in College, I sold them all with high price. So as a young person I already know that art can be my source of living somehow. Very grateful for that. I was very very competitive when I was young as you can see. And my sheer talent brought me to places I can only dream of. I can make any abstract idea into reality.
DA: What was the most memorable shoot for “RAW”?
LP: The most memorable shoot for RAW is possibly the cover, I shot that in winter in America, before I moved for Europe. The thing with me the photographs becomes more alive if I find the perfect muses, almost the truth in every artist, writers or painters. Without the muse, someone you find sexually attractive, someone who stirs your loins and imagination, then being an artist is pointless and mechanical.
I shot the cover, and later on discovered that the model appeared in amateur pornography even before I met him. But it just made him more exciting and interesting, because I like men who are confident. And that one photograph sums up the book somehow. Riccardo Conti of Vogue Italia wrote a beautiful afterword to Stark and he said “The sense of sacrifice is exactly this: exposing the tongue. If you’re searching for origins, you’ll always find the tongue.”
DA: And now that “RAW” is published, what’s next for you?
LP: I have many plans and I can’t even start to tell you when I can start with all. So many ideas and so little time it seems now for me. Imagination is a gift that keeps on giving. Possibly I’m wrapping up a novel around 400 pages big, and another coffee table book possibly around 300 to 400 pages as well, but now it focuses on fashion, men and women.
Grab a copy of “RAW” here.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE