We have seen the rise of nerd culture, but now one photographer is showing how hunky it can be.
They’re all-too-familiar stereotypes: superheroes on comic book pages or movie and TV screens in their skin-tight-costumed glory looking like quarterbacks and cheerleaders on Halloween. But what of the people that have celebrated these characters: the obsessive collectors, the encyclopedic know-it-alls, the guys who stay up into the wee small hours to beat just one more level? When will they be celebrated like the heroes they worship?
According to photographer Fwee Carter, that time is now. As part of this mission, Carter has thus far crafted two volumes of “The Sexy Nerd Project”, which asks real-life geeks, gaymers and other representatives of nerd culture and allows them to pose as the superheroes they adore or embody the passion they feel about their areas of expertise.
“Most of the models contacted me saying they wanted to be in the project,” explains Carter. Carter started by choosing or suggesting characters for the models but ultimately found that great shoots came from letting the models express something about themselves. “The Magic: The Gathering shoot was the model’s idea,” Carter offers. ”He is a big Magic fan, and those were his cards that he set up. Another one was the gaymer nerd. Those were all his games and systems, and I came by, and we took a lot of shots of him with them.”
However, Carter did take steps to ensure diversity. “I had almost 20 cancellations in the first ‘Sexy Nerd Project’ set, which would of had different people of color portraying characters,” he reveals. “But for Volume Two I was adamant on not finishing until I did all characters I wanted, and I even waited for months for certain people to be available.”
When it came to female characters, rather than attempting to match them through drag, the models channeled their essences through still-unmistakably-male bodies. “I did some creative changes,” Carter explains. “Like for Power Girl, instead of the ‘boob window,’ we did a ‘butt window’ using a jockstrap.”
The shots contain a mix of practical props and scenery/effects that were added through photo-editing after the fact. Carter admits some of the models “were worried since it was mostly on green screen.” But most were pleasantly surprised by the outcomes. “I did have couple of shy guys that were shocked that I made them look amazing.”
There were bumps along the way. “The model that was originally Aquaman dropped out last minute, and I had everything still set up, so I asked the model that was the ‘Card Nerd’ if he could come over and shoot as Aquaman,” Carter recalls. “He actually came and we shot ‘til, like, 12am. We tried so many different shots with him pouring water on himself, and I even threw water on him, but it was not working right until suddenly I heard my roommate exit her room, and I quickly asked if she could throw water on a model, and to my surprise, she said yes. So at 12am I have my roommate throwing water on this model!”
Carter says that the series — which continues to evolve — has been a real journey. “Before I did the project, I was still figuring out what kind of photographer I was. I was mostly doing fitness and portraits and events but a friend asked me to do a group photoshoot of himself and whomever else wanted to come in costume and I absolutely loved doing that,” says Carter. Ultimately, it led to this passion project. “I learned so much from editing these photos,” he says. “Volume Two feels like I really put more blood sweat and tears in it because I had grown so much as a photographer and editor since Volume One.”
Check out our exclusive video, which highlights some of our favorite shots from Volumes One and Two, and share it with a friends who will appreciate some sexy nerd action. Then see more of the project at sexynerdproject.tumblr.com and more from Fwee Carter at Fwee Photography on Facebook, @fweecarter on Twitter and Instagram or by visiting fweecarter.com.
Last modified: May 15, 2018