The Open Reel

Everything at Once Review: The Gay Gaze

Everything at Once sees the work of Kink magazine photographers Pace and Manolo through a distinctly queer lens.

5 mins read

“Every photographer is a voyeur.” Photographers Paco Moyano and Manolo Rodríguez arrive at this conclusion in Everything at Once. The Catalan artists debate whether photographers are peeping toms, voyeurs, or dirty old men as they snap portraits of a gay couple posing nude. Paco and Manolo are partners in work and life. As the photographers behind the magazine Kink, their work and their lives are all about the queer gaze. Now into their 50s, they can confidently empower fellow men to expose themselves and bare their souls through the camera lens. This artistic, introspective filter draws the line between art and pornography. As photographers, they’re not peeping toms, as the terms has an inherent perversion. Rather, they’re onlookers who know the power of the gaze.

Everything at Once observes the photographers at work as they take portraits of various men in Spain. Director Alberto Fuguet and cinematographer Patricio Alfaro capture Paco and Manolo’s portraiture with the same warmth and aesthetic beauty that make Kink’s photographs so sensuous. Structured in a series of vignettes as the artists engage with models for portrait sessions, Everything at Once documents Paco and Manolo’s style and work ethic. Each sequence conveys the essence of Kink by exploring the contours of a different model’s body.

Paco and Manolo emphasize how Kink isn’t about fetish. The title is almost ironic as the photographers favour working class men and couples. Their photos offer an unfiltered, naturalistic essay on sex and sex appeal. Admittedly, all the men featured in Everything at Once could be runway models or porn stars. Perhaps it’s merely coincidental that Paco and Manolo (and Fuguet) favour men with a buff physique and chorizo link that’s generous enough to make even the straightest viewer hot under the collar. As much as the film sees the men empowered through the photo shoots, it doesn’t confront the notable absence of body diversity that doesn’t mesh with the progressive musings the photographers offer between the shoots.

Their photo sessions are intimate encounters that obviously prove empowering for the models. One man, fully clothed in the post-portrait interview, admits that he feels more naked telling his story than he did exposing himself for the camera. The Kink sessions also evoke a notable exchange of power and empowerment as Paco and Manolo create a space where men not only feel comfortable with their bodies, but also celebrate every inch of them. Some men merely pose nude, while others become aroused and masturbate for the camera. The photographers note that seeing a model pleasure himself delivers the ultimate finale to their shoots as they capture a man in a state of post-orgasmic bliss and innocence. The film features a happy ending that testifies to this essence—cum shot and all—illustrating how Paco and Manolo navigate a balancing act between eroticism and pornography. While nearly all their photos (and virtually every shot in the film) features a penis, they’re mostly interested in capturing a man’s soulful vulnerability.

Everything at Once admittedly becomes repetitive as it follows the photographers on shoot after shoot. It could lose two or three photo sessions without much damage, since the insights from the models and photographers are far more revealing than the shoots themselves—although the film is a visual feast on all fronts. The doc also offers welcome insight into the ins and outs of magazine publishing, and the rewards and challenges that come with the perils of printer ink and long-lead deadlines, such as the photographers’ reminiscence about shooting a couples’ special issue with two of the pairs breaking up between the shoot and the street date.

When naked bodies are merely a click away, the film reminds audiences to stay grounded in their perceptions of sexuality amid a sea of pornography. Everything at Once celebrates the power of seeing life through a queer point of view by replicating Paco and Manolo’s distinctly gay gaze.

Everything at Once screens at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBTQ Film Fest May 27 to June 6.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

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