Text by Michael Bullock
Photography by Andreas Larsson
BUTT 14, 2005
I had been watching him at East Village gay bars for about a year. I was intrigued but intimitdated, so when a mutual friend introduced us to each other at a fancy party I was thrilled. I mistakenly thought the mysterious stranger could be a good boyfriend for me. At first glance I assumed Xevi was a Chelsea boy —its his unifrom: a tank top, gym shorts and high tops combined with his perfect, zero-body-fat body — but a Chelsea boy that might actually be intersting…
After closer inspection I realized that Xevi is in a territory all his own. The visual clue that sets him apart is how he grooms his facial hair. He has a thin golden mustache that lightly covers his upper lip. His hair is spiked on top with long thick 90210 sideburns. The combination suits the proportion of his face well so that you almost don’t notice how strange it is. Xevi is from Spain, which somewhat explains his style. He has some elements of American gay style but his look was crafted in Barcelona. In our conversation that night, Xevi was shy and soft spoken and the only thing he told me was that he was a photographer.
At the party we didn’t exchange numbers. Luckily Xevi tracked me down and the next day he called me at work. The following Friday we went out on a date. Xevi’s idea of a date was not dinner and a movie. Xevi preferred to meet at The Cock at 11:30, get really drunk together, stay until last call and then go back to his apartment where I would fuck him. In the cab on our way home we realized we were both sexually submissive. For Xevi this pretty much ended the date; he did not want to waste a weekend night with another bottom. I somehow convinced him that we could make it work and he agreed to take me home.
Xevi lived in Coney Island — the cab ride took forty minutes. He lived in a neighborhood of working-class Russian families. He must have been an alien to them. His apartment was not what I expected. He had the whole place to himself but it looked as if he were crashing at his grandmother’s suburban home. We got into bed immediately. We took off our clothes down to our underwear. There was no kissing or groping — Xevi laid on his stomach waiting for me to get aggressive but it never happened. We had no sexual chemistry whatsoever. We sat there, each waiting for the other to take the lead, until we both fell asleep.
In the morning we woke up painfully hungover. We knew little more about each other then we did before, other than the fact that we weren’t sexually compatible. I should have left when I woke up but instead of leaving I agreed to stay and watch a movie. Xevi put on a really creepy Spanish film about snuffing — this group of guys that gets off by killing people and recording their murders on video. He wasn’t trying to scare me off; I think he genuinely thought it was a great movie and wanted me to see it. After the film ended I asked if I could see his pictures to get some sense of who he was. His work was fashion photography with images of all these familiar people shot very elegantly. There was a monotone red image of Hedi Slimane, a bunch of hyper pop images of Kylie Minogue and these funny pictures of Sophie Dahl. It was clear Xevi was a serious photographer.
The next time we met up he told me that his Coney Island apartment was depressing him and, having seen it first hand, I completely understood. I had an extra room available and three weeks later Xevi and I were roommates. Xevi moved in and set up his room like a teenage girl, decorating it with stuffed animals, a giant pillow in the shape of a cell phone, naked pictures of boys, a giant 80s-style neon-lit poster of Marilyn Monroe and thousands of fashion magazines. He stacked boxes floor to ceiling with his photographs. The floor was covered with piles of CDs of every possible pop star in both Spanish and English. In the corner a makeshift library was installed and filled with a surprisingly literary collection of books.
Xevi’s favorite books —
Love in the Time of Cholera
To Kill a Mockingbird
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Xevi’s bed was lofted, leaving space for a perfect sex den underneath. He furnished this with a shag rug and a giant TV and VCR to watch porn. Condoms, drug paraphernalia, and porn magazines were scat-tered around the bed.
Xevi was a perfect roommate. He was clean and thoughtful and always seemed to be happy. His presence genuinely added a nice feeling to the house. He made clear from the beginning that he had his own routine, and lived as a loner. He always stayed in his room and made no mess in the shared spaces. Xevi’s life was pared down to just three main activities: working out, shooting pictures and having sex. This streamlined agenda allowed for maximal success in every category. The weekdays were about the intense hustling it takes to keep editorial jobs coming in. For someone as shy as Xevi, he was surprisingly talented at pulling in jobs. In work mode Xevi is extremely focused and nothing distracts him. You would never find Xevi going out to dinner with friends or going to a party outside of work-related obligations. Xevi has no interest in this kind of socializing. Days of networking and photo re-touching and occasionally shooting were followed by a long, slow-paced workout at the gym.
Back at home, Xevi prepared himself the same meal every night, consisting of an obscenely tasteless combination of tuna eaten directly out of the can and boiled egg noodles with nothing on them. The meal was created partly to compliment his work-out, partly to accommodate a tight budget, but mostly because eating for him is not about pleasure, it is purely about suste-nance. Xevi is not seduced by any of the fancy consumer culture that so many New Yorkers care so much about. Work for him is not a means to some better lifestyle. He couldn’t care less about owning fancier clothes and living in a nicer apartment. In fact if Xevi made more money I think his life would probably change very little from the way he lives now. Xevi is focused on photography because he loves adding his own images to pop culture.
I asked Xevi how he wanted to set his work apart from that of other photographers. He hates talking about stuff like this. He has something specific he is after in his work but it is a struggle for him to put that into words. After thinking about it a while, he explained that he was looking for a way to condense and simplify images, like the perfect pop song. He then cited Eyes Wide Shut as a major inspiration. Stanley Kubrick had no interest in reality, Xevi said; there’s this kind of a caricature that is not too funny or far from reality but just not real. To me Xevi’s work looked like the result of a collaboration between David LaChapelle and Robert Mapplethorpe. The images have a wild style and a baroque pop feel but the figures are isolated, making them God-like statues. It’s funny that he shoots fashion because it seems so far from his personality to care about clothes.