Raw, bold, and aesthetic. Those were the words that came to my mind when I encountered Jonny Kaye’s images. I felt that some of his photographs have this immense stopping power, and precisely because of that, I chose one of his images for the cover of Discarded Magazine’s XXX issue. It was the very first one and the cover is always the most important element, it’s the first thing people see and it influences their impression of what is about to be discovered inside the publication.
A year later, I never doubted my choice and since then we worked on multiple projects together. So when Jonny asked me to curate his debut monograph GROT, I could not feel anything else than pure excitement. From the start of his photography career, he created over twelve thousand analogue images to document the UK kink and fetish scene. He has accumulated such an extensive archive which certainly deserves a podium.
In Jonny’s artworks, certain themes emerge, including the body in its multitude of forms, desire, and temporality. His work seems to point to the idea of understanding kink as fragmented matter that cannot be contained in a singular form. The transgressive nature of Jonny’s oeuvre, made me view it as a form of transition. That was also the reason why his publication is structured chronologically in order to make Jonny’s development of style, perspective, and aesthetics visible to the viewer.
Over the years (2020-2023), there is an apparent change in his use of colour palettes and contrasts and also the environments he works with. If you look at the first pictures in GROT and the last ones, they are very different from each other, yet if you browse through the pages, the change comes more gradually and naturally. I see this as Jonny’s own transformation and involvement in the scene which is then directly projected in his images, simultaneously with his positioning in relation to dominant culture and judgment. People are not categorized in this archive, they appear, sometimes reappear, and fluidly exist within this publication.
A glimpse of backlash is also exposed in this book in the form of short derogatory social media comments Jonny received as a reaction to his work. I feel that these setbacks and forms of struggle always prove that you are doing something worth doing and fighting something that deserves to be fought for since it confirms you are challenging the status quo.
GROT, understood as counter-archive, engages alternative modes of knowledge and strives to initiate discussion about the public knowledge of sexuality and relationships. It aims to include sexualities and identities that were for a long time marked as “perverse.” Jonny’s photographs, therefore, exist outside of dominant temporality as they demonstrate emotions and topics that still remain taboo in society. This particular “otherness” can be understood as a violation of normativity manifested in unconventional clothing and sexual practices. However, thanks to this publication, identities that were for a long time unimaginable or invisible can now be acknowledged.
What I learned from composing this publication, is the fact that “vanilla”, is not the only form of relationship between people and certainly not the only expression of care. As it might appear to some, BDSM practices are often labeled as “violent” and “brutal”. However, at the core of kink culture is consent, manifested in a deep care for partners’ pleasure, boundaries, and dignity.
GROT provides a unique insight into a private community of underrepresented sexualities, desires, and practices. Through its transgressive aesthetics, it strives for voyeuristic pleasure and visceral response. By sharing the story of a marginalized history, it exposes its viewers to a micro-culture that through its provocative nature undermines socio- and hetero-normative marco-culture.
Jonny portrays kink as an art form, a way of life and we need people like him who can shine a light on this topic, otherwise, if we leave it ignored, we run the risk that such abandoned histories will be forgotten.
The work of Jonny Kaye (b. 1989, the UK) tends to stick in one’s mind for a while… Kaye’s photographs are immersed in erotica, rawness, and intensity. His signature analogue tactility and depth are juxtaposed with editorial aesthetics, creating a unique visual experience. As a former model, Kaye swapped his position from posing in front of the camera to being the one who stands behind the apparatus. So far, his images have been featured in magazine editorials, such as in RAIN, Notion, and Dazed.