• James Clive Richards

It's Ethan, b*tch.

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Ethan Caleb Johnson quickly became the sitter I would come to spend the most time with for my project both photographing (every other week) and discussing online gay culture (face-to-face and online messaging). At the end of one of our shoots together using 35mm and 120mm film at his home in Littleborough, UK, he pulled out a Britney Spears t-shirt and asked hesitantly if we could take a few polaroids of him wearing it?

I was caught off guard!! It was in that moment, I realised that although I'd spent hours talking, photographing and getting to know real-life Ethan opposed to the online version (persona) he shows publicly to his 8,000+ followers, I still realistically didn't know him that well.

Me: "Do you like Britney?".
Ethan: "I love Britney didn't you know?! Who doesn't love a little Britney throwback every now and then?".

- Ethan, personal conversation, March 3rd, 2019.

I had a strong grasp on Ethan's thoughts and feelings towards online gay culture (which at times was drastically different to my own view). However, this was still a positive learning experience and meeting of minds, as I was able to see and approach the topic from another point of view I'd previously never thought of. Trying to put myself in another individuals shoes to see the topic and paradox of online gay culture through their eyes.

@ethan_johnson (Britney T-shirt Polaroid) by James Richards©, 2019.

It was in these playful Britney Spears Polaroids, while listening to Britney Spears songs I caught a glimpse of a version of Ethan I hadn't seen up until this point. He chose this point in our working relationship as photographer and sitter to disclose this side of himself. Leaving that particular shoot knowing more about Ethan the individual. Leaving knowing his passion and love for Britney Spears, also even learning his favourite Britney Spears song is Oops!... I Did It Again.

To most this information and discovery may seem irrelevant and can be dismissed as trivial information. However, this small admission gave me a deeper glimpse at the authentic real-life Ethan, the one only a select few are trusted to see. Others outside his trust are confined to just seeing the perfectly planned and posed version he shares with his 8,000+ followers. 

This is what trust and intimacy can be. Intimacy isn't just sexual, it's feeling comfortable enough to confide and share with another individual knowing that your safe and won't be judged. That is the intimacy a sitter and a photographer share if they so choose and the photographer invests the time and effort to actually get to know the sitter as a person not just as a subject for their photographs.

@ethan_johnson (It's Ethan, b*tch) by James Richards©, 2019.

Models Instagram - @ethan_johnson

Britney Spears Website -

Britney Spears Instagram - @britneyspears

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