“My friends kind of laugh at what I do on Instagram and on [my] website,” says Sam Morris, the Instagram-famous artist whose posts showcase his near-naked body.
The artist has amassed over 63,000 (and counting) followers on his Instagram page thanks to his overtly sexual photographs. There are photos of his legs spread wide open, others of his pubic hair showing, others showcasing his butt in a thong. All are completely sexy and showcase Sam’s body hair and taut body in a provocative manner.
“I think that person on the Internet is incredibly fearless and very proud and very proudly queer and open with his sexuality,” he tells Very Good Light. “In real life I’m too awkward to approach someone in a bar. I’m kind of shy when you first meet me, I’m not really what I put out.”
Really surprising, given how confident the British man about town seems. But giving his followers what they want and also pushing the notion that they can’t have is fodder for Sam’s boundary pushing self-expression. We spoke to him over the phone where he told us that he doesn’t have any connection with his viewers. “I’m separated from what I do. I will create something, I’ll click upload and then that’s it. It’s not really me, I like this idea that they’re not fully connected to me.”
On his website, subscribers can get closer to Sam via his short, erotic art-films which he describes as “video-diaries.” “I started the site as a way to push that obsession more. I’m going to open up the doors of my life in an extreme way,” he says. Almost like reality TV but more exposing, more raw.” Speaking of which, Sam now sells art-prints that he has made with his genitals. You know, for days when you really need to find connection with him.
But if that makes you think Sam’s work is only about cheeky provocation, you’d be wrong. When asked about what drives his erotically-charged work, his intentions are clear: “I want to break the judgment around sex. Gay sex is considered this shameful thing. We have to break these stigmas so people can be supported in their own choice. That’s one of my other key things, choice and consent.”
We caught up with the consummate provocateur to discuss queer-representation and the intermingling of obsession, sexuality and voyeurism on social media.
Very Good Light: How did you start out doing what you do?
Sam Morris: I was in a band and we were signed to Sony, but that ended about four years ago. My ex-boyfriend was in the band with me at the time and so when the band ended, my relationship consequently ended as well. My self-esteem hit rock-bottom and I was extremely low and didn’t know what I was doing. That was when I started uploading my pictures. My mom used to be a photographer, so I’ve always been around cameras and I’ve always taken pictures.
At that point, that was like a fuck you to the previous two years I had been through. I just felt so oppressed and I was just like I need to own my sexuality. And then I released this music video, hilariously named “C.U.N.T” and the Gay Times wrote a big feature on it and that was the first boost on my Instagram. That was when people were like oh, who is this guy? And that’s when I first started to build a following.
Then I started shooting with photographers in New York, San Francisco and LA and it was just a slow progression after that. I started taking it more and more seriously. Last year I started my own website and that was the kind of moment like “oh shit, this is real now. This thing has really taken over my life in a serious way.”
VGL: What was growing up like for you?
SM: Well, I had an unusual childhood, I was a child-actor so I grew up on TV-sets and on stage and I went to theater school. So from the outside perspective it would be seem like I would have accepted my sexuality a lot earlier because I was always around other gay people but sometimes it used to make me rebel against it more. I’ve always been the kind of person that has rebelled against everything, which is quite evident in my work. I used to escape from it with art.
VGL: How has that affected your artwork and self-expression now?
SM: I sympathize with people who are maybe self-loathing and I think they just need to be understood. It’s something that I can recognize because I’ve been there. It’s been a slow process but I’m really about embracing what God gave ya. I used to hate myself as a teenager. Oh my god, I hated how I looked. But I learned to embrace it. I have a lot of guys message me on Instagram, asking me “when did you start to feel comfortable with your body hair” or “I feel really insecure about my body hair.” Which is crazy to me. I don’t feel like there’s many skinny guys online that are hairy. It’s more of a “bear” look or you’re a “twink.”
If you’re naturally hairy it’s really sexy, if you’re naturally hairless it’s really sexy. I used to shave all my hair off for so long and I kind of hated it. I felt like I had to because I was in a band that was very manufactured. I used to really want a gym-bod, but now I’m so over that. I’ve embraced what I have. I find being as natural as possible sexier than anything else.
I try in my art now to mix femininity into my masculinity. I really try and push as much queerness as I can into my masculinity. I don’t want to look like this “Masc 4 Masc” gay pin-up. I want to be me, which is covered in hair and very masculine in my physical projection – I’m “masculine” in that respect – but I’m also flamboyant and feminine and I like to put that in my work as well to play with peoples’ minds a bit. I want to push that gender-fuck vibe a bit more.
VGL: Can you expand on the the idea you mentioned, that rebellion is essential to what you do?
SM: I’m rebelling against this heteronormative culture that we’ve been forced into since birth. It’s fine to see a picture of a guy holding a protein shake, taking a selfie in the mirror at the gym in his fucking underwear and no one thinks anything of it. But if I’m half-naked and it’s a little bit odd, if it feels a little more like fashion or more feminine, it will get reported and Instagram will take it down. And there are so many times where this has happened to me and I think it’s purely because of how I project myself.
VGL: Why do you do what you do, what drives your art and self-expression?
SM: What I’m doing isn’t playing into a PG, kid-friendly audience. I think that’s the thing, I don’t think Instagram should be censored. But equally, having said that, the censorship that is on Instagram is what feeds everyone’s desires. To see further into what I do. And that’s what I do, I play on people’s desires.
I blur the line between viewer and lover and this obsession that people may have with me. What I create, I almost create looking at myself in the third person. It doesn’t feel like me I’m looking at, it’s a thing I’ve created that people become obsessed with. That’s what my aim is. I like people to be connected to me, on this human and sexual level like they would be a boyfriend. Some of the videos I have on there are not pretty. They’re not sexy, they’re just very raw. Raw, exposing and sometimes they can be quite uncomfortable. But that’s what a boyfriend is, that’s what a relationship is, that’s what love is. That’s kind of what I try and play with.
VGL: I’m fascinated by the idea that that you become someone different in the gaze of the viewer. And how that person is different from “Sam,” from who you are beyond the performer.
SM: I think that person on the Internet is incredibly fearless and very proud and very proudly queer and open with his sexuality and I think the person in real life is also that but also a lot more subdued and a lot more awkward and funny. My friends kind of laugh at what I do on Instagram and on the website. My persona is very overly sexual but in real life I’m too awkward to approach someone in a bar. I’m kind of shy when you first meet me, I’m not really what I put out.
VGL: You recently spent some time over the summer here in NY as well in Spain.
SM: I love New York. I think that people in New York are just more fearless. People in the city have a go-getter vibe. Everyone is very ambitious and everyone is very respectful of ambition. There are a lot of opportunities for people to collaborate and people are not very reserved. I think there’s less judgment in New York. And Spain is a lot more different than London and New York. It’s extremely beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. They wear things that I definitely would not wear in London and I think even if I wore it in New York it would be quite daring. It’s been an interesting summer. I’ve seen a whirlwind of different cultures.
VGL: That must have been really inspiring for you as an artist.
SM: It totally is. It’s inspired my work in numerous ways. I draw inspiration from everywhere so to go around to different places and see so many different kinds of artists and so many different kinds of people it was very inspiring. I think it enriches your life in many ways. I’m always looking for the next city to explore and to find the culture within that. New York is the only city I could really see myself living in besides London. Just because it inspires me so much and I have so many friends there now. The city really welcomed me so much, it was unbelievable.
VGL: Did you get recognized a lot?
SM: Yes, and it was always so positive! In London I can feel sometimes so judged. It might be because I’m from London, it might because it’s not an exotic thing. When I’m in New York, I’m British so they’re like “oh my god there’s that British guy.” British people have a different opinion on people who are daring or who are doing something outside the box. It’s still very British to frown upon that. Even if it’s in a subconscious way.
I have people who are British who will message me, who may even be an art historian or a student at an art college or something and they will openly criticize what I do and my work in a quite abrasive way. It happens in person, it happens in clubs. When I get recognized in a club in the UK sometimes it’s not positive. It can be bitchy or judgmental. It’s getting better now, I think because I’ve been doing it for so long now.
VGL: I’m happy to hear that people responded well to your work. But how do you deal with those who don’t? Like anyone with a presence online, there’s a lot of naysayers.
SM: A year or two ago the haters used to get me down. That shit would really get me down. But now it’s just water off a duck’s back, I’m not bothered by it as much. I’m very lucky. Some of the people that I have that subscribe to my website are like extraordinary people. Film directors, photographers, fashion designers, RuPaul’s Drag Race winners. I have successful, inspiring people who are fans of my work, and it doesn’t mean anything just because they’re successful but it gives me a sense of recognition in my head. Because you know if these people are enjoying what I’m doing and my art is inspiring these kinds of people then the world is my oyster.
VGL: What’s your exercise and grooming routine like?
SM: I used to be a professional dancer, so my body is kind of sculptured in a way that you get from ballet school. I walk everywhere and I don’t go to the gym but I do press-ups, pull-ups, some yoga and some ballet.
I moisturize everything religiously. I always have, my face and my body. I have extremely dry skin so I just would not be able to leave the house without moisturizer. I want to try and look as young as I can for as long as possible. I’ve always used Kiehl’s and I recently teamed up with them over the summer. On my body I use Kiehl’s Crème de Corps and for my face I use their Facial Fuel and Age Defender moisturizers.
And I’ve always used Hugo Boss Bottled. It’s a fragrance I’ve had since I was 20 and I’ve worn it forever. No matter what, whenever I put it on I feel very sexy with it. I’ve always worn it and I would never change it. All my friends are like it smells like me to them now. I used to have a few in rotation but I always went back to Bottled. Everything I tried just didn’t quite fit.
VGL: Where would you like to take all of this? What are your ambitions?
SM: I feel like it’s still evolving so much. It’s still very new. I don’t know where this will end up but there is a lot of different things that I would like to do. I would like to do more for the LGBT cause, I’d like to open people’s minds a lot more. I write as well and I’d love to put my writing together in a book or something. A dream of mine would be to return to acting but be in a film like Shortbus, my favorite film of all time. To be in something so sexually liberated and daring, that would be my dream.
I really want to push this… it sounds really awful, but this LGBT agenda. Especially in the film, there’s no LGBT talent being represented in film. LGBT people are only playing straight. And when they finally get the moment to represent their own reality, the roles are always given to straight people purely because of the box office. They don’t want to offend people. We’re still in the days of Brokeback Mountain, we haven’t moved away from that at all. The film industry needs to change dramatically. That’s something I’ve always been vocal about online. I’ve gained a lot of enemies just from saying that. It’s not even straight people that get pissed off about it, it’s gay people. But I think it’s very important, it’s very important to stay angry about that.