MEMBER INTERVIEW: ArjanSpannenburg - Beyond Boundaries

MEMBER INTERVIEW: ArjanSpannenburg - Beyond Boundaries

from Recon News

08 April 2024

By ArjanSpannenburg

We catch up with Arjan Spannenburg, creative partner of Max Govers, to discuss BEYOND BOUNDARIES: a captivating photography project celebrating diverse and vibrant individuals of the gay fetish community.

Central to their project is a commitment to inclusivity and diversity which showcases the many different identities and experiences that constitute the gay fetish community and serves as a platform for individuals to express themselves authentically, by fostering understanding and acceptance.

Please tell Recon about yourself and Max?

My name is Arjan Spannenburg, a photographer who completed my studies at the Photography Academy in Amsterdam in 2018. Alongside my role as an officer in the Army, I have delved into creating art projects, many of which are showcased and sold through Zerp Galerie in Rotterdam. My photography explores the transition from boyhood to manhood and the profound quest for identity. Additionally, my work occasionally takes on an activist tone, addressing pertinent social issues. You may often find me wearing leather, ingeniously combined with other garments, ensuring both comfort and flexibility while I capture the essence of my subjects.

Max is a passionate journalism student, born in 2001, who has been supporting my artistic endeavours since 2021. He is not only a dedicated journalist but also videographer and photographer. Max's creative talents are multifaceted, and he often crafts compelling texts and visuals that seamlessly complement our projects. You might recognize him from his distinctive custom-made rubber outfits, a unique expression of his creativity and identity.

What is it that peaked your initial interest in fetish?

When I was taking photos at Milkshake 2017 in Amsterdam, I didn't know much about the rainbow community. When I was there, I saw several groups of fetish people interacting together. Where I expected them to be harsh, they were very kind, friendly and intimate. I soon asked to photograph parts of the fetish boat during Pride Amsterdam and shortly after I got in touch with Taco Smit, who I later joined at Darklands and Folsom to photograph there as well. During this period, I got to see and know more and more people in the fetish world, learning about how they viewed, experienced and enjoyed the world. I am amazed how different people can be, and the diverse attractions people come up with to enjoy life to the fullest.

How do you find and select models?

I come up with a lot of ideas for my projects. But you need more than just an idea, it's a matter of finding the right location, people, personal energy, etc. When I talk to people in real life or online, sometimes things just come together or trigger me, and that's all I need for things to work out. It's important for the model to be themself and natural, not being too busy with how they will look on the camera. They need to trust me to make an interesting visualization of them as the subject, following my direction for the best result.
For BEYOND BOUNDARIES I started by looking around at Darklands. We would approach people that were different from who we'd already seen – disappointing some people eager to participate, as we tried to avoid having similar looks.

Is there anything that has surprised you within the project?

In BEYOND BOUNDARIES we were surprised how many people where enthusiastic to join the project, as well as the amount or organisations that joined in to spread the word about Diversity. What surprised us most, was the number of differences when we talk about fetishes. We made over 70 portraits, but later found so many different fetishes that we were unable to capture for this project.
We hope next year there will be an opportunity to create a new project about the diversity of fetish people. But we are still working on that :-)

Do you ever have any resistance from models and if so, how do you handle that?

When I ask people to participate in a project, it's rare that people do not want to cooperate. Sometimes it happens, but mostly it is because people are afraid of the response from their friends, families, or workplace, not usually because of the project ideas.
I always look to make models feel comfortable in the situation and would hope they are able to tell me if there is a concern. I'm yet to have an issue on a shoot, but I take time to explain to people what they can expect. I also know who I ask for which projects, so most of the time people like it, because it suits them.

How have your friends and acquaintances responded to fetish themes with your work?

Many people seem to be scared to talk about their fetishes or what they like to do in their private life. A friend of mine once told me: "If you act like it is weird, how can you expect others to treat you like it is normal" – I've since applied this since to my own life. In the Army, I tell my colleagues about the fetish world, what happens in it and how I am part of it, showing them my projects and artworks.
For some people this is awkward and sometimes disturbing – I find this hilarious because these people rarely are brave enough to tell this to me in person. But word goes around , and others tell me about their opinions. For me that's good to know, because LGBT+ acceptance still requires a lot of attention within the Army.
Most friends around me are fine with what I do. Straight friends have gone a bit more to the background, but new gay friends have taken their place. "Never make someone a priority, when they put you in second place" is another one of those sayings I go by.
But (fetish) artworks have the tendency to live their own life to the viewer. Someone from the fetish world who looks at my artwork may LOVE it and probably understand my vision better. While someone with a white, straight religious background, might be stuck at the idea of a guy being abused. In the end it is down to an individual's personal perspective and life experience, that defines how art is interpreted.

Have you discovered any new fetishes that you've wanted to explore personally?

When I got in touch with the fetish world, I barely knew what was possible. Personally, I have discovered several new elements I enjoy experimenting with since then. But most important for me is the personal connection and deeper level of trust between me and the other. It's always about discovering what someone likes and how interactions are mutually experienced.
I have discovered many fetishes which amaze me, but I've not been interested in trying or experiencing for myself. Life is not a manual, and I enjoy things to be less planned out. After all, it's not the army conquering new terrain step by step, so I will see how that develops.

How can people engage with and view your project?

The project BEYOND BOUNDARIES can be seen online on our website and on our YouTube channel. During the summer of 2023 it was also part of an art exhibition at the centre of Amsterdam. If people have a great idea or opportunity for another exposition, they should certainly contact us!

***If you'd like to share a fetish or kink experience in a member article, send your ideas or a first draft to: