Enter the Dragon!
As we celebrate the Lunar New Year and enter the year of the dragon, let’s cast our eye over some impressive men from across Asia.
Dannydan is the photographer behind The New Asian Men – is showcasing Asian guys in all their glory.
We caught up with Dannydan for a behind-the-scenes look at his work.
How has your photography style evolved over time?
We launched our first issue in 2006 – that was a calendar for 2007 and it was called Asian Men Redefined.
We changed the name of the calendar in 2015 to become The New Asian Men – we wanted to give it a stronger and bolder feel.
There’s a different theme for the calendar each year – 2007 was tropical, 2008 was stay-at-home, 2009 was sport, 2010 was industrial, and so on.
When we started out, we always took photos of the guys individually, because they were all in different cities – mainly across the US and Canada.
For the 2020 calendar, our theme was Pool Party, and we brought our 12 models together for the shoot. We were planning to do something similar for the 2021 calendar, but obviously the pandemic got in the way of that. Hopefully we’ll be able to return to that concept for the 2022 calendar.
Our Plan B for the 2021 calendar was to produce six different calendars, featuring some of our favourite models from across the years – Edric, Dawn, Edgar, Adrian, Andrew, and Eddie.
When I look back at the calendars over the past 14 years, I can see changes in my style of photography. Some years, my style is more vibrant and colourful, while in other years it’s a bit more rugged. The 2012 calendar is in black and white – that was a difficult time for me, I was dealing with some personal issues.
The main change that I’ve noticed is in the models. The guys that I’ve photographed in recent years for the calendars are so much bolder – they’re more independent and have stronger personalities. For example, the models that are featured in the 2020 calendar include a cancer survivor who became a medical doctor, a boy-band singer, an LGBTQ counsellor, and a pageant winner.
The evolution that I’ve seen in the guys featured in the calendar is one of the reasons we changed the name from Asian Men Redefined to The New Asian Men. We realised that we didn’t have to ‘redefine’ Asian men, we just needed to showcase the diversity of Asian men – with all of their strength and boldness.
Our mission is to promote the five Cs – Community, Connection, Collaboration, Contribution, and Celebration. Through collaboration between the models, project crews and volunteers, sponsors, and our audience, a community is formed to promote and advance the visibility of Asian men in the media. The calendar also hopes to connect to a broader community to raise issues affecting the Asian community. Lastly, but most importantly, the calendar is a celebration of empowerment and visibility of Asian men.
How do you cast your models for the calendar?
I’m based in San Francisco, but I also have a base in Jakarta – that’s where my family is and I spend quite a lot of time there.
For the first calendar we produced, I chose models that I already knew and had photographed – that made everything easier. Since then, we’ve conducted an online model search. Each year, we get around 100 guys who want to be part of the calendar – most of them are guys without any modelling experience.
Since the focus of the calendar project is about highlighting Asian men’s visibility in the media, especially in the United States, the models chosen usually come from various cities in the United States and Canada.
The guys we feature are all from different Asian ethnicities, professions, age, looks, and skin colour. I think it’s important to highlight the diversity of Asian men – not to just present cookie-cutter Asian hunks.
Once the models are chosen, we pick the shoot date. If they’re not from the San Francisco Bay Area, we just fly them over to do the shoot.
How explicit do the images get?
There is some nudity in the calendars, but no full-frontal nudity.
But that’s why we also publish photo books – so we can include all of the full-frontal nudity.
In a world where everyone has an OnlyFans channel and everyone is posting naked photos online, how do you elevate your photography so that it really stands out and grabs our attention?
As a photographer, I believe that a true artist has to keep creating his art and coming out with new materials or themes. That’s true for me in making this calendar project – that’s why there is a new theme every year, a new way of presenting a calendar that features Asian models.
Even though there are so many naked photos online and everywhere on social media, there’s a wonderful feeling about having a calendar on your wall reminding you of the date, the week, and the month with a picture of an Asian man celebrating his confidence and boldness.