The Photography of Dylan Rosser

Pedro from 'Wet' book by Dylan Rosser.


The Photography of Dylan Rosser

We’ve been following Rosser’s work since his first photo book for Bruno Gmuender in 2008. He has since established himself as one of the most celebrated names in the world of male nude photography, with ten books to date (many sold out), a curated website and an eponymous magazine. The titles and the erotically charged covers leave no doubt about his quest for beauty: X-Posed, Naked, Naked Ibiza, Wet… In 2016 Rosser tried out crowdfunding: Naked Ibiza was successfully funded in less than 48 hours. His latest book, X, offers an unapologetically provocative “exploration of sensuality.”

How did you get started as a photographer and why?

When I moved to London about 25 years ago I was working for a magazine doing design and layout. I never had any interest in photography and never thought of it as a career path. The magazine had just acquired a digital camera and I was entrusted with figuring it out. It was probably a year or two after that when I started testing with male nudes. I would message guys on Gaydar (the Grindr of the time), asking if they wanted profile photos and that led to shooting guys with more athletic physiques.

You’ve dedicated almost two decades to celebrating the male form. What draws you to it? And what do you aim to capture on film?

The simple answer is I like to see hot guys naked. If I delve deeper maybe it was because I was the skinny, shy, geek and this was the only way of getting to be in the same orbit as the “cool jocks.” But beyond all of that, I just want to create timeless images of beautiful men.

George by Dylan Rosser.

Tell us about your artistic journey, from the first indoor shoots (X-Posed, Red, Naked) to the outdoor photography most fans know you for (Naked Ibiza, Wet). Is there a fil rouge?

I think my style has been consistent, but a lot has been influenced by my locations. I was shooting for almost 10 years in London and back then it was all indoors. This obviously became quite constricting and so I would travel abroad and shoot in nice hotels or apartments. In fact X-Posed, Red, Naked and Loft feature no outdoor shots. Then I moved to Ibiza, just over a decade ago, and I switched to mostly outdoor shoots. My Naked Ibiza book, for example, is all outdoors.

You called X (2023) your “most explicit work thus far,” after Penis Portraits (2021). What’s the line (if any) between erotica and pornography, according to Rosser?

There is a quote that says: “the difference between art and porn is the lighting.” There is some truth in that for me: there are images that I have shot recently that I would have considered porn 10 years ago, but don’t phase me now. I started my own DRX website during the pandemic, so I could have a place to post more X-rated content and my new X book is an extension of that site. The book has no PG images, or even flaccid shots. It’s all hard shots or sexual in nature. So I don’t really care about the label anymore, and if someone wants to call some of my work porn, then I’m ok with that.

Daniel by Dylan Rosser.

Are there any colleagues of yours whose work on the male form you find interesting?

There are so many I admire. Two that stand out and currently working in the male physique field are David Vance and Rick Day. But Herb Ritts and Andreas Bitesnich are definitely inspirations too. My favorite editorial/fashion photographers are Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel.

Technique. Is there a Dylan Rosser recipe? A Dylan Rosser aesthetic?

My earlier work was all studio settings, backdrops, strobes, but I have moved away from that. So even though I usually travel with one light I will normally only use it for bathroom/shower shots. And I have A LOT of shower shots. I think my aesthetic is clean and polished with minimal distraction. That is probably my graphic design background. I like things to line up and be well composed.

In an interview for The Advocate you define yourself as a digital artist.” What do you mean by that and what’s your take on generative AI?

I meant that I use all the tools available to me (like Photoshop) to produce the final image. I made that statement before AI was a thing and unfortunately I do think AI will take away many jobs in the creative industry and even for models. Soon you will not be able to tell if an OnlyFans model (or influencer) is real or AI-generated. Consumers will be able to generate exactly the dream model they want. Why pay to see images of naked men when you can just create your own fantasy. The only glimmer of hope is that maybe there will be a niche market for books like there is for vinyl. So books for the masses might be over, but doing collectable books might be the way forward. Offering high quality printing, limited editions and signed copies…

Stefan by Dylan Rosser.

Most of your books were published by Bruno Gmuender. Even the ones you successfully crowdfunded. Tell us about your relationship with Gmuender and of the revolution that crowdfunding brought about in the world of publishing.

Gmuender took a chance on me in the early days, and it was great to go and visit them in Berlin. The first books were done the traditional way: I would get an advance, they would lay out the books, distribute them to bookstores and Amazon, and I would get royalties. Then together we used Kickstarter to launch Naked Ibiza and Wet, however they went bankrupt just after my Wet book came out. After that I have had to do it all on my own. I have a good relationship with the printers in Italy and with my design background I can layout the books myself to save costs. I fund the printing costs (instead of crowdfunding) and I only print a small number of copies that I then distribute via my website. A smaller print run means the cost per book is higher, but I prefer this business model so that I am not stuck with too large an inventory. I might try Kickstarter again, but my last two books (Penis Portraits and X) were too explicit: I thought it might cause issues with Kickstarter’s guidelines. 

The DYLAN Magazines. I believe you published 5 issues to date: is there a demand still for print magazines? Is it about nostalgia? A tactile experience perhaps?

There is not a great demand for print and that is why DYLAN magazine is a print-on-demand product with no upfront costs to me. I enjoy the design process so it’s fun to put these issues together. I have so much content shot over almost 20 years, and each issue of DYLAN features 6 models. I am hoping to do at least 10 issues.

What’s next for Dylan Rosser?

I am back in Ibiza for Spring, and so hopefully I will get to shoot some more beautiful men and create new content for my DRX site. I have a few more books in the planning stages too, but I like to leave at least 2 years between releases so the next book will be out in late 2025.

We can’t wait. Thank you, Dylan