Please note: This article includes images containing nudity.
A photographer has taken a series of candid images of gay men to explore how the online world has become a “safe space” for young LGBT people.
Matt Lambert’s ‘Home’ project, which was funded by Grindr, features intimate portraits of men who’ve used the internet to connect with others.
While some of the models are Grindr users, others have found comfort in digital spaces such as Facebook, Instagram, Tinder and Gay Romeo.
“For LGBT youth, connecting intimately can often be a terrifying concept that often must be done in secret, based on where they live,” Lambert tells The Huffington Post UK.
“Historically, bars and clubs were the only places queer youth could go to feel protected against possible attacks and social ridicule. This is a stage of development that is much less commonly experienced by straight people.
“In the last decade, digital spaces have vastly overtaken the cruising worlds of the past and have proven to be powerful tools to combat feelings of alienation and isolation amongst LGBT youth.”
For the series, which he’s since turned into a book, Lambert specifically spoke to men from smaller towns, where safe spaces for LGBT people may be limited.
Some of the men appear in the book by themselves, while others appear with partners.
Many of them describe how the online world enabled them to feel connected to other gay men and feel less isolated in society.
One model, named Lance, says he “didn’t even know ‘gayness’ existed” until he found online communities.
“I would look at those sappy pics of boys kissing and I would get so happy that I wasn’t alone in my totally whack feelings about other guys,” he says in the book.
“I had a few different blogs where I was able to express myself in a safe environment, even if it was anonymous. I remember falling in love for the first time when I was 15. I went to a Christian school, so our relationship had to be kept a secret from everyone… even our best friends didn’t know.”
Another model, called MJ, explains that he was able to find “others who didn’t quite fit into one defined category” online.
“I have never really felt like I fit into one compartment. I’ve always been interested in fluidity,” he says.
“It was through digital spaces that I gently started the process of carrying myself differently in the real world. I began to see that there wasn’t any other way for me to be in the world than to march to the beat of my own drum, and that authenticity and honesty were of so much more value than merely ‘just being.’”
Lambert decided to call the series ‘Home’ to play with the concept that “home” can mean many things to many people, especially young LGBT people.
“For some LGBT youth growing up, they can feel very alone despite being in their homes,” he says.
“Digital spaces can often be sanctuaries where they feel more themselves than the places they physically live.”
The Berlin-based photographer says he aimed to both “celebrate and humanise” young gay men through the series, in the hope of improving public understanding of “the nuances that make young gay men what they are”.
“I wanted these anecdotes to show the next generation that life does get better and that everyone has there own way of finding a ’safe space,’” he says.
“I also wanted past generations to see this generation is being still very full of romance and wonder and for digital spaces to not represent the death of gay culture.”
View some of the images below or visit Matt Lambert’s website to see more of his work: