All photos by: Adam Munnings
We had a long talk with photographer Adam Munnings, who’s been around the world but ended up in Berlin where they get inspired by love, queerness and individuality.
You’re from Tasmania, Australia – how come you moved to Berlin? Growing up in Tasmania in the 90s had it’s challenges as a young queer person and I was desperate to move to a bigger city but never imagined I’d live outside of Australia. I moved to Melbourne at 17 to attend a full time performing arts school with a focus on dance and after crashing an audition for a role in a show at Tokyo Disney I landed the job and at 18 moved to Japan. As a teenager I was consumed by dance and focussed all of my energy and attention on being the best possible performer I could be. Being in such a huge city like Tokyo opened my eyes to a new world of self expression. I completed two contracts at Disney and one in the Caribbean on a cruise ship before deciding to move back to Japan to sign with a modeling agency. After 3 years in Tokyo I moved to New York to continue to explore my creative identity. I was dabbling in many things and the hustle was real, from DJing, modeling, art direction and event production all whilst juggling hospitality jobs on the side. I felt like a jack of all trades but a master of none. Four years into living in New York I felt like the city lacked a certain grit, freedom and affordability.
The day Trump was elected I decided to move to Berlin in search of a new beginning. I attended a film school here and finding film really changed my life. The creative community here in Berlin is so beautiful and diverse and I knew this was a city I wanted to be in and here we are almost 5 years later.
How did your interest in film & photography start? I’ve always been a visual person and from a young age I knew that I would pursue a creative career. Photography was always just a hobby and up until recently I didn’t take it too seriously. Filmmaking came into my life in my late 20’s and t naturally the photography started to grow alongside my work as a director. This life and career transition was more of an instinctual pull and an opportunity to expand my self expression. Going back to school at 27 was the best gift I could give myself. The gift of time and education. I think curiosity and exploration is key to finding what works for you personally and professionally and although I started a little later with what I’m doing now, everything leading up to my directorial work has influenced my craft.
Who were you as a kid? A little faggot with big dreams. Definitely the black sheep of the family but I was pretty strong willed and really longed for independence. Dance really gave me a sense of community and purpose but at the same time being a male bodied dancer put a target on my back for a lot of homophobia. I was desperate to grow up and craved the freedom of an adult life. Growing up queer either makes you want to hide in the shadows or become an overachiever to prove your worth in society. As I was pretty outgoing I pushed hard for the things I loved but didn’t have a lot of role models or queer people I could engage with. This was a time before instagram, Grindr and the internet was a very new and strange place.
What does photography and film/ visual arts bring you? / Why do you do it? / Why is it necessary for you as a creative outlet? It ultimately gives me a sense of purpose and I feel so lucky to be able to call it a job. It allows me to explore my own points of view and also gives me the opportunity to help others share theirs as well. Self expression is a privilege and ever developing. Having visual arts as a creative outlet is exactly that, an outlet. Most of all I love what I do and the people I’m doing it with, together the sky’s the limit.
What inspires you in Berlin when it comes to your photography and art? I’m mainly inspired by life itself in Berlin, the complexities of self identity and relationships, nightlife and the queer community. Conversations, observations, sex and expression. Everything that little Adam in Tasmania dreamt of experiencing inspires me, a life outside the box of mundane society. At the same time I’m becoming more inspired by the poetry of the mundane. A lot of what I love about Berlin is intangible so capturing a feeling or emotion is both challenging and motivating.
You described that your main course of inspiration is the community you surround yourself with - love, queerness and individuality. What do you do to capture it? And what’s important for you to tell when it comes to the emotions/ stories behind your work? I think the best work is created when you can put a part of yourself into it. A part of your heart and not all projects call for crazy personal connection but there’s always a small representation of what is going on in my personal life translated into the work I do. People amaze me and chosen families become so important for anyone living far from home or feel like they are misunderstood by their biological family. Community is a huge source of inspiration for me, we can teach each other so much when we are comfortable being vulnerable and open. The amount of times I’m in a situation where I’m fighting the urge to snap a photo, wishing I had my camera or desperately working out how to recreate a scenario or feeling on film is crazy. Often I just have to bank the idea and accept that some intimate moments are to be enjoyed and not photographed or churned into a production but it’s so hard when life can be so beautiful. Creating a safe space on set and nurturing the trust of the people I’m working with is key to being able to capture magic moments. Most of the work I am able to do is a celebration of the community that inspires me so much and getting creative with creative people is a drug I’ll never give up.
What about individualism makes you drawn to capturing it, and what does it take to be acknowledged by you as someone to capture, would you say? There are so many people I would love to shoot but often I’m restricted to certain briefs of the individual requirements of a project so I’ll sometimes wait for a year or two before the right moment comes up. Anything that sparks intrigue or curiously to me is a big appeal.
People with a strong sense of self who have a fearlessness in their expression. Some people become inspiration for characters or narratives and others I just want to capture a portrait of or include them in a scene that works with the energy they give off. Exploring beauty as a wide spectrum is refreshing and it’s exciting to see more diverse representation happening in the industry.
You have also started your own party in Berlin, called “Lunchbox Candy” - What does it bring to the city and how come you started it? The party is truly something special and I’m blown away by how fast it’s grown and how the concept has resonated with so many cuties. We really dreamt of Lunchbox encompassing something of a pre internet time. Re-birthing the idea of club kid culture and reminding people that nightlife was built on community and the most iconic parties were places for people to gather and network with like minded individuals, to show up and show off, to free your mind and even for a brief moment forget the troubles of every-day-life. It’s not about escapism its about engaging. The party also celebrates queerness as a spectrum, a state of mind that is far more than genitals or sexual preference. Queerness is about being the other, the alternative, the pushing back on what we’ve been taught. It’s punk in it’s essence. So Lunchbox is a place for all bodies, it has a femme energy but mainly I would say the feeling is non-binary which is ultimately the future.
Lunchbox was made by and for the queer creative community and attracts a symphony of talented individuals of all ages. We don’t have a dark room but we do have a love room. If there are muscle gays there they aren’t in harnesses they are in skirts. The looks are to die for and the dance floor is a sweaty euphoric magic carpet ride. We have pop up performances that happen randomly and we’ve had things like pussy opera cake fucking, toilet troll piss play, heartfelt dance performances about what it is to be trans, a blow up sex doll pool party the list goes on. It’s a production and it’s a labor of love, a gift to not just the queer community but to my (and my party partner Elninodiablo’s) inner child.
That’s the scope of the party and of course we have energetic EBM, nu-disco, house, bouncy techno, dark wave and trance sounds throughout. I think it brings a refreshing, positive new energy to the Berlin nightlife scene and embraces the darkness as a space to explore and evolve with love as the intention. See for yourself, May 20 is our next event at Aeden Berlin.
What’s your view on ‘safe spaces’? Safe spaces offer the framework for expansion and radical self expression. They do however require careful curation, at Lunchbox Candy for example we as a collective discuss our core values and then work towards filtering party goers at the door to be sure they share the same values and respect the experience we are offering as well as the people attending. We don’t always get it right and it’s often a battle of inclusion and considered exclusion but it’s of the upmost importance to us to do our part to be sure that the people we are welcoming into our space feel safe and celebrated. Safe spaces are not exclusive to nightlife events, we have the opportunity to create safe spaces in our everyday lives as well. Making a conscious effort to make your loved ones feel safe can be so rewarding. It all comes down to respect.
You mentioned that Love is a driving force in your life, and that Berlin somehow taught you how to rethink love - in what way? Love always requires some rethinking and I’ll most certainly die before I work it out but that’s half the attraction. It’s something bigger than us. I don’t know if it was my rollercoaster marriage and divorce, turning 30 or some astrological tango but my time in Berlin has certainly forced me into rethinking love in general. Love - like many things requires a fair amount of unlearning or at least some healthy criticism of systems in place. The same goes for your intent and how or why you receive or reject love from others. Self awareness is a great tool to help you revisit some past traumas, behavioural patterns or toxic habits that might be the cause of attracting the wrong people, not being emotionally available or even putting too much emphasis on finding a romantic partner. The mindset of Berliners is typically more progressive and the way in which we engage in love, sex and romance can be shaped into many new forms we may not have had the chance to explore in other cities or stages of our lives. This can be both freeing and confusing. Leaning into the value of platonic love amongst friends and not exclusively needing it from a romantic partner has been a big shift in the way I give and receive love.
The FKK culture, dark rooms, cruising etc. are all things you have easy access to in Berlin, however what’s your view on dating in the city? The absence of taboo around nudity and sex in Berlin is super refreshing, it leaves less room for shame and more space for exploration and sex positivity. Berlin can be a sexy playground to live out your fantasies and the gays are certainly not wasting any time in doing so. Casual sex is always just around the corner and who doesn’t love the odd orgy or some summertime Hasenheide bush bashing. Dark rooms aside, dating in Berlin can be another story. I think the appeal of this sexual liberation is something so celebrated here, as it should be, but this makes me think that some people value it so much that they fear that they will lose it if they engage in a more traditionally romantic relationship. Berlin is very transient and international with people coming and going, the summers are full of vibrancy and hope so we hold onto this sense of freedom and independence to make the most of it until winter approaches and then people look for that hibernation fuck buddy. I may be jaded but my dick certainly gets more of a workout than my heart in this city.
Why do you believe/ if so/ that people aren’t normally as open for deeper relationships, or are more ‘flaky here? – Is romance dead in Berlin? I don’t think it’s about being flaky, it’s more about being emotionally unavailable. I wouldn’t say Berlin is an overly romantic city and of course in all of what I say I can only speak from my experience as a queer person engaging in the scenes I do. I’d hate to admit that romance is dead in Berlin but let’s say that its endangered. I’m waiting to be proved wrong. If people were actually as ‘woke’ as they make themselves out to be they could maybe understand that love and relationships can also be freeing, healing and liberating with the right person under the right conditions. We don’t own the other in a relationship and sometimes expectations fuelled by insecurities are the real heart breakers.
Where does self love come into play? It’s really the main kind of love we should be actively working on. Some people can turn to escapism here and can have some pretty self destructive tendencies, I think we all do to different extents. But in a place where you have the freedom to be yourself it allows you
the freedom to love yourself and all of your unique quirks and complexities. Self love, therapy in various forms, being present, nurturing our inner child, looking at the bigger picture and manifesting abundance are some key 2023 focus points for me.
Monogamy is a big topic, and if we look at the dating app Feeld for example, and compare cities, people seem to cover their faces less in Berlin, and there’s also a bigger variety of people in Berlin. So - what’s your thoughts on monogamy? Again, I think it’s all about the sexual liberation that this city embraces. We are all sexual beings and through open communication, honesty and self awareness we have the opportunity to reshape what sex and relationships can look like to us. People in other places are so quick to adhere to outdated societal frameworks based on religion or patriarchal fuckery that just shrinks people into believing that they have to suppress certain wants, needs or desires to be an acceptable human. Not today satan. I believe in monogamy as a totally acceptable option but not a love law that everyone should be expected to participate in.
Queer people are the pioneers of reshaping. There’s no rulebook in the game of love but there are a few key ingredients to a nourishing sexy, heart opening banquet. Firstly once again it’s self awareness and communicating your wants and needs to your partner in an honest way. Vulnerability is sexy. If you are clear about your character there will be less shocking moments when the real you comes up for air. Be yourself, love that and make your own rules. If you love someone you would hope that your good intentions and respect will carry you through. If you have the capacity to engage and share a bit of yourself with people other than your primary partner without hurting anyone then power to you sis. Also some of the best relationships are short and sweet, where you don’t think and you just feel. Enjoy those. Love them when they happen, grieve them when they pass and write your feelings down until it hurts a little less.
What makes you choose to live in Berlin today, and what are your best Spring/ Summer gems? It’s cute, it’s messy, it’s creative and I love to dance my ass off at strange hours of the day. Summertime means the clouds have lifted, we’re reminded of the color green and why we live in this crazy place. It means the canal is a place for lovers, there’s hope and spontaneity in the air. I can abuse tourists in the bike lane on my way to take mushrooms and swim naked in the lakes. It means haggling for that lamp at the flea market and complaining about how expensive flights are in Europe now to your new friend you borrowed a lighter off in the Berghain garden. It’s the adrenaline you feel cruising and wondering if you’ll see your boss on his knees with a welcomed stranger as the dappled light dances through the trees. What about finally getting to wear that vintage Jean Paul Gaultier skirt you spent your rent money on to Lunchbox Candy knowing the guy you topped last weekend will be there and you just wanna remind yourself that you are vers as fuck and the future is non binary? Oh summer....