Urban Photographer Carsten Bruhn is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. From the project ‘Not the Only Gay in the City’. To see Carsten’s body of work, click on any image.
My bed as a place of finding my gay identity – isn’t that a bit trite? No! Generally, the bed stands for sexuality and sex – both belong to gay life, don’t they. I have met so many cool men, had wonderful encounters. And sure, I also developed and explored my gay identity in bed. Today, a huge part of gay life takes place in virtual worlds, sitting in bed with the laptop … Strange new world!
I came from France to Hamburg in 2012 as an Erasmus-student. Friends set me up with a cute young German guy whom I met for the first time at the entrance of the university. What a beautiful location for our first encounter! It was love at first sight and we’ve been together ever since despite me going back to France for a year in-between. He teaches me German and I teach him l’amour à la française. As a gay man I feel much safer and more comfortable here than in France.
My origins go back to the small town of Hagen. In 2018 I moved to Amsterdam and there I came to know and love techno-music. Another year later when I came to Berlin I knew what I was looking for: The “Berghain“, probably one of the most famous club in Europe, aka the cathedral of techno, became my regular weekend-destination, my personal gay safe space. Here I can completely be myself, do what I want, dress as I fancy – and nobody judges me. I appreciate this total discretion.
A good photo project is one that develops slowly and is close to the photographer’s heart. Therefore, I took some time to find a topic for my first big photo project.
However, it was soon clear to me that it would be a queer topic as I am a gay man as well as someone who has always been interested in queer subjects. It is important to me that tolerance for and acceptance of queer ways of living is visible in society, even more so as, alas, homophobia in Europe and in the world is on the rise again.
I was wondering about “gay places“. Are there such places after all? What defines them? Are they (still) relevant nowadays? Are they different for young and old? Are they just locations where the LGBT+-community gathers together or a visible sign of the old slogan “We’re here, we’re queer!“? Or does every man have his own individual gay place, depending on his own biography, his own quest for identity?
Hence, I asked gay men:
What is a relevant location of your queer biography?
Men of different ages and whereabouts, most of them living in Hamburg now, have told me their stories. Stories of their coming-out, their self-discovery, stories of fear and courage, of suppression and liberation. Taking part in my project to them is in fact also an expression of their self-portrayal as a gay man, is indeed a visible expression of their pride. And of them knowing: They are not alone, they are most certainly Not the only gay in the city!
When I came from Vienna to Hamburg in 1994, I was working a lot in different bars in infamous St. Pauli. Then, “Camelot“, a famous queer club off Reeperbahn, was the place for me to let off steam, to clear my head. Here I felt free and independent. In those years I needed the gay scene to become more self-confident. In 1999 “Camelot“ was closed but I still like to remember those times.
The viewpoint at the old foot tunnel under the river Elbe is the place where two personal decisions of vital importance were made in the late 90s: Not only did I finally made up my mind about moving from Stuttgart to Hamburg but also, the man who then showed me the skyline of Hamburg has been my husband for many years now. This was the best decision of my life.
In this tenement I had my first flat after having moved out from my parents in the early 90s. Here, I had my coming-out, my first sexual encounter, my first gay relationship. My life completely changed here. I became independent, more self-confident and grown-up.
Alex ( see featured images)
As a 16year-old teenage boy from the countryside near the city of Lüneburg in the 90s, there was hardly any chance of obtaining information about gay life, let alone get in touch with gay men. But finally, thanks to a hotline, I came to know a man twenty years my elder who lived in Hamburg. We met at the central train station and he took me to his place. There I had my first sex. Unfortunately, not a really good experience but a formative one nonetheless.
All images and text © Carsten Bruhn
By Carsten Bruhn
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