Photographer Mack Sturgis marks his first Dallas show with Meat and Beats at The Eagle

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer

For about 15 years, photographer Mack Sturgis has been working out of his studio in Weatherford, just west of Fort Worth. But even though he started building his reputation as a photographer of bears and daddies — and more — in Dallas, on Friday, March 15, Sturgis opens his first Dallas gallery show.

“I had my very first show in P-town but yeah, T-Don put this all together, and it will be our first time to show here, even though I’m based here,” Sturgis explained.

Meat and Beats — The Mack Sturgis Art Exhibit will feature his signature style of hunky male models presented with a distinct artistic eye. The show opens at 9 p.m., with Sturgis and some of his models on hand for a meet-and-greet. He will also offer prints for sale.

Showing is something new for the artist. He has had some pieces on display at Skivvies, just not an actual show. He thrives by doing this all online. That’s both easier and in line with his day job.

“I do all this stuff on the side,” Sturgis said. “My day job is interior design, where we create wallpapers and provide art for hotels and shops. I combined it at first, but some clients were uncomfortable with [the bear/daddy photos], so I separated the day job from the photography.”

And that’s when the moniker Mack Sturgis was born. But his inspiration came way before then. In describing his work, he goes way back.

“I grew up in Catholic school, so the first images of men I felt drawn to were these biblical, saintly, epic looking images. So when I photograph everyday guys, I want to put an epic look to it,” he said.

His work may be considered erotic, but the craft he puts into his work is evident. It’s not just hot men standing around naked. And his work is not  just a matter of whipping out a smartphone with a great camera.

The shadows, the lines, his lighting — it all comes together to create distinct works of art that also emit sexual power.

Sturgis cites artists like Herb Ritts, Robert Mapplethorpe and George Platt Lynes and even the classic Hollywood style as inspiring as he grew up and came out. His interior design background lends to his work as well.

“I studied art history quite a bit, so I didn’t want my work to look like cheap porn. I worked a lot with lighting for my interior design, and then we started playing with lighting in the studio space. Now though, I shoot in all natural light unless I’m traveling,” he said.

Sturgis shoots with his husband, Chad Newlon, a photographer who often captures behind-the-scenes shots and crafts his own portraits. The two have been together for 15 years and married for 10.

So how does Sturgis create his shots with often-imposing models standing in front of him? Firstly, they are on his turf, often working in Sturgis’ home-based studio in Weatherford. Second, Sturgis plays it by ear until he feels the right vibe.

“It’s almost like getting to know them when you have a model. I see their good angles and start figuring them out until things start to click,” he said.

“Once I start shooting, it’s like a meditation to me, and I feel good about directing them how to move and finding their good sides and light.”

While he may be recognized for his muscle-bear or otter shots, he sees and photographs all body types. It’s a mix of people reaching out to him and people he may simply find interesting to shoot.

“I like some grittiness and realism in different types of people and pulling a classic shot that’s bigger than life in a way,” he said.
Sturgis’ work can be seen on Instagram, but there are parameters. He likes the social media platform, but the inconsistency of their guidelines works against his posts. He’s used X (Twitter), but he said it’s not the same audience. And he features the full shots on OnlyFans. Instagram though seems to be his primary focus

“I don’t mind that Instagram censors, because I like to leave something to the imagination,” he said. “I don’t keep up with OnlyFans, and I think Twitter appreciates the work for different reasons.”

Hidden in his work, Sturgis adds a deeper message beyond the muscle and skin, using that to make statements about religion or politics. He has a few conceptual pieces like The Gift, a concept he shot about the AIDS crisis and growing up in the middle of it, and Church and State about where we are headed if things don’t turn around.

He’s curious how Friday will play out and what people will see in his work.

“I am looking forward to seeing how people respond,” he said. “It’s interesting to take the work and prints into a show and give them a life almost. Plus, people will see the models there who are in the photos. It’s gonna be fun.”

To view his work online, visit @MackSturgis.g on Instagram.