Lifting the veil: Mpls photographer captures images of queer sexuality

Ryan Coit specializes in photographing queer intimacy — this means leather masks, handcuffs and genitalia.

Ryan Coit poses for a portrait in his photo studio on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Ryans art explores queer sexuality and the human form.

Easton Green

Ryan Coit poses for a portrait in his photo studio on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Ryan’s art explores queer sexuality and the human form.

by Gunthar Reising

The studio looks like any other photographer’s studio, except along the walls are leather puppy masks, leather harnesses, pictures of nude males and a Holy Bible.

This is where Minneapolis photographer Ryan Coit creates his work, which ranges from drag model portraits to explicit photos of homosexual intercourse. His goal? To explore queer sexuality and shed light on the world of fetishes, taking away the fear and prejudice surrounding them.

“I started off just photographing men. Then it moved past just hot attractive men into, ‘What is a message I want to send?’ So I started promoting positive body image mixed with sexuality and people’s fetishes and kinks — my goal is to make them beautiful,” Coit said.

Though it seems to cater to a niche audience, Coit sees his work as universal.

“It’s interesting because I think everyone, whether you’re gay or straight, [is a] sexual human being. Yet it’s so taboo to talk about those things.”

Coit’s primary concern is to educate people about sexual fetishes, and hopefully spark an interest.

“A good example is the puppy hood. Taking images of these guys in pup masks and putting them out there for people to see — it gets people talking,” Coit said. “It might not be educating, but they’ll see the images and start asking questions.”

Coit’s exploration in the world of fetishes has provided learning opportunities for him, too.

“If you asked me two years ago about the puppy hoods, I would have said, ‘I don’t get it, but that’s cool.’ Being around people who are into these things has helped me understand a little more of the purpose around it and why people enjoy it. For me, it’s about getting into a space where all of the sudden you’re no longer ‘John’ — it’s an opportunity to step away from reality.”

The mask motif is personal for Coit. “For me, I enjoy photographing masks because it’s part of my sexual fetish,” he said.

Given its content, Coit’s work risks being labeled pornographic. While Coit doesn’t see this as a bad thing, he disagrees with the label.

“I understand why people label [it] as porn. That’s their opinion. But to me, it’s not. It’s about trying to capture the intimacy.”

And the experience. “Some people have told me that they can smell my photos, and that’s the best compliment,” Coit said.

The first time that Coit photographed sexual intercourse wasn’t strange or awkward.

“I wanted to have three guys in a room and show the sexual aggressiveness of that,” Coit said. “Before I had even set up my camera, they were going at it. So, I just kind of removed myself from the scene and let it become very natural.”

Coit had found himself a new market.

“I started having married couples approach me for photos,” Coit said. “I’ve been hired by quite a few couples to come to their homes and photograph their intimacy.”

No matter what the content is, Coit’s goal is to capture something beautiful.

“If I’m photographing, I usually forget the situation of it. I’m focused on trying to find the right angle.”