Filth, a pictorial by APHRO ONER. San Antonio, TX.
Photographer. Musician. Artist. Homie. APHRO ONER can be called a lot of things but I think "prolific" represents him best to people that don't know him. (And even to those of us that do.) I met APHRO a few years ago when I was living in San Antonio through the arts. His work found it's way through a channel of mine that I forget, but when I saw his work, I was immediately entranced. Amazed. Hooked. Like so many others. Photographers imitate him, emulate him, denounce him, report him, are inspired by him, hate him, and praise him. You cannot deny influence that runs such a gamut.
Eventually APHRO and I would meet in person as he started to influence my own photography. Straight up, APHRO is the reason I even know what street photography is. And that's probably true for countless others that may or may not admit it. I'm proud af to admit that. He sparked a new passion in my photography. Music and skateboarding had been my long time subjects in photos since I was a kid. APHRO, through watching his work, showed me there was more to these slivers of candids I would capture from time to time that I loved but had no idea what they were. He also showed me that you can take this nude/erotic subject matter and go hard with it in the streets. This shot of Jamila is honestly what threw me down the rabbit hole of "APHRO".
Jamila x APHRO. DTSA, 2012. Two months after I started Awake & Moving.
You can't fade this kind of pompous & daring attitude. An image like this takes BALLS lol. No one in San Antonio would dare try anything like this prior to APHRO. I'm not sure anyone would do it now if I'm being honest with y'all. Needless to say, when I saw this, I wasn't bout that life. But boy did I want to be! There's something so freeing about this image and about APHRO's work in general. There are fewer people I know that are themselves all the time. APHRO is APHRO--one hundred percent. I soon realized that I didn't want to shoot like he shot or what he shot. I just wanted to create with that same sense of fearlessness. I honestly just out words to that thinking as I was writing this.
On the cusp of releasing his latest collected effort, FILTH, I asked APHRO to tell us about the book...
BLUE731: The Lust Project, Unicorn Puncher, and now Filth. Tell us the purposes of each and why the distinct titles for them.
APHRO: Well, The Lust Project is the brand that encompasses EVERYTHING I do--from the street photography, the beats, the erotica, etc. The roots of that is a street art campaign that I ran from 2006 to around 2009. Stickers, wheatpaste posters, and such. It's a multimedia brand, kinda like Kanye’s DONDA imprint. It also functions as a vanity record label, and of course, a blog.
I was introduced to the term "Unicorn Puncher" while I was street shooting one day. I came across a homeless lady, sitting with her dog in front of a McDonald's. There was something different about her, so I asked to take her picture. She obliged on the condition that I buy her a cup of coffee. So when I took her picture, I noticed she had a tattoo emblazoned across her chest, in some old school script. I took a snap of it and asked her what it said. She proudly bellowed out, “Unicorn Puncher!” It was hard to read because the Puncher part was written in reverse, like a mirror image. I asked her what it meant, and she replies, “Well, whenever you see something that's too cute or pretty, I reject it. So when I see a Unicorn, I punch it in the face!” So after I finished [talking] with her, I went home, did some editing, and uploaded what I shot that afternoon to my Flickr account, where I caught the eye of Violet Blue® (an extremely popular blogger of technology and sexuality). She asked for my permission to use my photo to give her take on what a Unicorn Puncher meant to her on a site called Laughing Squid, and of course I said, “Fuck yes.”
A Unicorn Puncher is someone who takes it upon themselves to enact the saintly duty of restoring balance to the universe after an overwhelm of cuteness has affected a person, place, thing, dance floor, blog, or any similar saccharin brain rinse by the thankless act of punching a unicorn in the face.
- Violet Blue®
From that day forward, that's been my mantra. And when I felt that my erotic work had finally reached a certain level of quality and brazenness, I decided to make Unicorn Puncher it's own unique brand. I felt like I'd finally earned the name. So all of my erotic work now falls under that brand, and it was officially launched with the first UNICORN PUNCHER photo book that was released this past May. It encompasses the short films and videos, and this upcoming zine. And it fits because it ties directly to my street photography. The word “Puncher” in the logo is reversed in honor of that homeless lady and her tattoo.
Beauty and erotica. AKA, APHRO's bread & butter.
What about FILTH itself?
A: FILTH is a title I've been bouncing around for awhile. This past Summer I decided to start an erotic pictorial zine called, you guessed it, UNICORN PUNCHER. Each issue of the zine will have a unique title, layout, theme and concept. FILTH is the “issue zero” of the zine, and it's a retrospective of my older work. Just to give folks a taste of what's to come and whet their appetites. The work is grimy as fuck, lol. I really didn't want to do the same pretty, safe pictures that a lot of folks were doing at the time. The photos are extremely explicit at times, but not necessarily “sexy” in some cases. After FILTH, the first official issue of the zine will be LIQUORICE. It's a tribute of sorts to old school Penthouse and Playboy mags from the 70's & early 80's and will feature all brand new, exclusive work. That's going to drop in Spring 2017, and subsequent issues will be released quarterly thereafter.
Sounds dope. 2016 was definitely the "Year of Erotica" for you, in my eyes. What or who has been the inspiration for such a year?
A: Definitely old school porn. This year, I was especially influenced by sexploitation films from the 60's and 70's. Some low budget, black and white shit shot on Super 8 film. And definitely by a couple of the models I've been blessed to work with. I have an extremely close relationship with one in particular, and that being the case, I was able to push the envelope in ways I couldn't before. I gotta give a huge shout out to La Brianna (aka Cricket) for helping me launch the UNICORN PUNCHER brand. Helping me with the promotion part, and being the first model I shot for the zine. She's given me 120% of herself, and I couldn't have done much of this without her. I also have to shout out my muse Tabitha for lowkey putting the idea of doing a zine in my head in the first place. The work I've been making for the past couple years has been extremely intimate and personal.
APHRO x CRICKET for Awake & Moving.
I've seen you work with so many people. How do you decide who makes it into one of your publications?
A: Pretty much everyone I work with ends up being in the publications, and that's something that's discussed and understood from jump. My muses are like a loose-knit crew. We're all like family, and we help each other with our individual endeavors.
I think that's what I love about your work especially--how down all these people are for the work you all create TOGETHER. An idea lost on so many.
A: Yeah, we're like family. We're good to each other.
Making books can be hella stressful and I speak from experience. What were some of the taller obstacles making books and how did you overcome them?
A: Deciding what goes in them, lol. I'm pretty prolific, so I literally have to go through thousands of photos. Deciding which photos work the best, and what's the most flattering to the models.
What was your favorite part in producing Filth?
A: The shoots themselves, of course. There's a set in there called “Coupling” and that was the most challenging one to shoot. It was pretty game changing for me and set the tone for what's come after. It was a test of how far I was willing to go down the rabbit hole to make art.
If you could tell the audience one thing about APHRO or Lust/Filth, what would that be?
A: “They're just pictures, man. Just pictures.”
That's an understatement in all the best ways. I look forward to getting a copy!
You can pick up APHRO’s book Filth at the following: