A quirky exploration of sci-fi and masculinity

Delving into a post-apocalyptic world, Rick Pushinsky’s latest photobook is a satirical story about an intergalactic invasion that presents a unique interpretation of traditional gender roles. Named after the 1982 Blade Runner character Basic Pleasure Model, the project employs a light-hearted approach, embracing the trashy edge of science fiction, but with gentle nudges of symbolism.

The London-based fine art and editorial photographer is known for previous projects including Songs of Innocence and Experience: A Study Guide and Just Not Kosher, as well as for editorial commissions for the likes of Vogue, Tatler and Architectural Digest. But Pushinsky’s latest project is unlike his previous work. “I realised that if you’re going to do another project, it has to be something you’re innately passionate about and one of the things I’m really into is watching trashy big budget science fiction,” he says.

Basic Pleasure Model pursues an eclectic interpretation of the genre’s traditional heroic male characters and ultimately alludes to society’s rife gender stereotypes. Explaining his inspiration, Pushinsky says, “I wanted to do an evolving philosophical novel, like Kurt Vonnegut, who I liked reading in my teens, and used sci-fi as a way to talk about other issues, but most of these films don’t do that – they just confirm existing values.” 

The photobook follows a traditional Hollywood film plot, but has an alternative antithetic ending to what would be expected. Divided into six chapters as “a way to enforce awareness of a structured narrative without having any text”, it captures the life of an alpha male being targeted by galactic explosives. Playing this role is comedian and 2017 BAFTA award winning actor Adeel Akhtar. “I approached him with the idea and he seemed into it which I was pleasantly surprised by, but he’s done lots of comedy and quite absurd things in the past, so it’s not exactly outside of his comfort zone,” says Pushinsky.

Throughout, the photobook alludes to traditionally mascluine tasks like fishing, fighting, war, karate and hunter-gathering. One of the images in the collection features the man’s hands shackled by sausages, which could be interpreted as a peculiar artistic choice, however “it is just a comical representation of all things traditionally masculine and a funny way of imprisoning him,” Pushinsky explains. 

In the last two chapters the man reinvents himself to take on evil, clad in his new attire of a grey marl suit, wellington boots, a karate belt and armed with laser-shooting fishing poles. This seemingly bodes well for the character in the final chapter as we witness his heroic win and see the aftermath of the new post-apocalyptic world. However, rather than promoting a cliched sci-fi celebratory ending, the man “is left unfulfilled because ultimately the difficulties that he has are not outside but inside”.

Shooting the collection was, to some dismay, not in a galaxy far, far away, but rather on the Greek island, Milos and Pembrokshire and Seaford in the UK. “I scouted places which had landscape that would sit well without looking like different locations,” says Pushinsky. 

For those looking for a deeper meaning, Basic Pleasure Model equips you with a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be masculine in contemporary society and how traditional stereotypes have seeped into every aspect of life, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. Nevertheless, this photo collection contains a layer of significant humour and the bizarre, which is impossible to not notice. 

Basic Pleasure Model by Rick Pushinsky is self-published.