I met this hustler in the pre-Grindr era, around 2004, probably in one of the hustler bars in Los Angeles that no longer exist. A likely scenario is that I took him back to where I was staying, at my friend Billy’s place. That’s where the shot was taken. I’m pretty sure Billy was out of town.
When the hustler got there, I realised he had this ankle bracelet on to track him. He was under house arrest, I think, for breaking and entering. I don’t think he was supposed to come and see me. It was obviously in violation of his parole, but that didn’t seem to bother him.
I actually have another photo of this guy: my friend Terence Koh had filled the basement of a gallery with white powder that looked like cocaine and this same hustler stripped off and started doing snow angels in it. So I took a photo. There’s a thing with hustlers not wanting to be identified in photographs so you learn certain tricks: I’ve shot one with a shirt over his head, another with his back to the camera.
With this image, I like the way the foot is framed on the Louis Vuitton trunk. It’s a paradoxical juxtaposition. You think: “What could this be? What is the backstory?” The dirty toenails are interesting, too. The bruise on the foot adds another question. I also like the colours: the various browns of the skin, trunk and hardwood floor. It’s a weirdly warm image, even though it’s a harsh subject.
The flip phone on the trunk dates it to a particular era. I remember, back in the late 1990s, we all started carrying around these little Yashica T4 cameras. You would be at a party and four people would suddenly pull out a Yashica and take a picture. Whether it was somebody drunk, taking their clothes off or snorting cocaine off someone’s penis, it would be documented by four different cameras.
The flip phone on the trunk dates it to an era before smartphones, one of the most horrible technological advances ever
This was all before smartphones. The smartphone is not like a camera. It’s a flat screen, there’s no viewfinder and it also flips, which is probably one of the most horrible technological advances ever, because it ushered in the selfie. Essentially, it reversed the whole history of photography, because the camera now pointed back at you. I think aesthetics really suffered with the smartphone. There’s not as much attention to framing and composition. The photos in my new book are all from the era before smartphones and they definitely have a different quality to them.
Back in the 1990s, I made the movie Hustler White, about street hustlers on Santa Monica Boulevard and the end of that scene. I also did a lot of pornographic photoshoots for New York magazines …….