Ian Giles is a gay filmmaker from the U.K. whose new documentary “After BUTT” examines the cultural legacy of BUTT magazine.
BUTT was a quarterly magazine from 2001 through 2011 that helped an entire generation define just what it means to be gay. It was sort of a half lifestyle, half porn zine, known for it’s iconic pink pages, candid interviews and amateur photos of guys’ butts. It was created by Dutch publishers Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom, who ran the publication out of a small basement office in Amsterdam for ten years. Giles shares that he first discovered BUTT when he was in college in the mid 2000s.
“Within BUTT’s pages were images of men in their messy east London flats, shot in daylight; it challenged the mainstream presentation of gay men,” he says. “These were real people, all be it very hip and hairy ones, they opened up what a gay man could look like, do and be.”
Giles interviewed BUTT’s former publishers, editors, and writers then transcribed the interviews, which were then portrayed by a group of young, gay men.
“I wanted to transfer narratives between generations,” he explains. “Through interviewing men in their 40s and then working with men in their 20s I was able to understand how far we have come within a relatively short space of time.”
Reflecting on the origins of the magazine, Jop van Bennekom, played by a man in his early 20s, says: “I think we responded to what was, basically, a representational crisis of homosexuality. The representation of gay was so commodified, so made into a lifestyle, very clean, so commercial … Porn was still stuck in the AIDS crisis, there wasn’t anything spontaneous about gay porn. We started with how we can make a magazine that we think represents us: the gays we know, the sex we like.”
Over time, Jonkers and van Bennekom eventually felt they found the answers to the questions they were asking when they first started producing the magazine, and so they stopped printing it. The website, however, is still active.
“After BUTT” is currently being shown at the Chelsea Space art gallery in London. It runs through March 2. It is not yet known if/and/or it will be shown in the United States.