Renaissance man leaves behind music industry to photograph vunerable male ‘Rough Gods’

Interview with Photographer Michael Alago, author of “Beautiful Imperfections”

Interview by Danielle Boise, Photos by Michael Alago


Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago "Rough Gods"
Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago “Rough Gods”

Renaissance man and New York City native Michael Alago may be best known as a music producer and former A&R executive, who has worked with such vastly talented and differing acts from Metallica and White Zombie to Nina Simone and Cyndi Lauper, but he left the music aspect of his life behind in 2003, instead focusing on his passion for photography. Alago has since been known for his style of photographing friends, bodybuilders and male models in erotically charged atmospheres in states of undressed in his “Rough Gods” series.


Alago has just published his third book, “Beautiful Imperfections,” which takes a striking look not only at the male physique but also meshes a striking balance between the emotionality and masculine side by showcasing half-naked men with tender vulnerability inside fleeting moments. The twist is that every image captured in the book was taken with iPhone Hipstamatic app.


Alago’s “Beautiful Imperfections” exhibit is running at Cock Gallery in Portland, Oregon. I had the chance to speak briefly with Alago and ask some a little bit about his process and how this latest book came to him.


Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago "Rough Gods"
Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago “Rough Gods”

Can you give me a little background on “Beautiful Imperfections” and what it means to you personally?

Alago: “Beautiful Imperfections” is my third and latest book. It is always a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when a book one works on comes to fruition.


What drew you to create this sort of project?

Alago: I created this project with the iPhone Hipstamatic App because I like to experiment with a variety of cameras and technology.


How did you build this project, did it come to in you pieces or was it fully formed when you started?

Alago: I started this project a bit by accident. I was shooting images on the iPhone with the Hipstamatic App and was loving the crazy wild results. There was a variety of films lens’s and flashes to pick and choose from. The experiment was exciting to see, so I started to print the images and was thrilled with what I saw so I decided it needed to be a book.


Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago "Rough Gods"
Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago “Rough Gods”

And how did you come up with the title, “Beautiful Imperfections?” It as if the words are battling it out against each other with the modern concept of beauty/beautiful and imperfection clashes with a gorgeous descent. In your opinion, which wins – beauty or imperfection?

Alago: Once again the same way I came up with my brand “Rough Gods.” I was playing with words-thought the images were in indeed gorgeous and beautiful. I loved the wild imperfect results the iPhone camera gave me so I went with it because the words worked well together.

Were the models eager to participate in this project?

Alago: Men have always been eager to work with me once they see my work. I think they like the strength and vulnerability of the pictures.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago "Rough Gods"
Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago “Rough Gods”

What part of your musical background were you able to incorporate and use that as a way to find expression in this project?
Alago: My history in the music business really has nothing to do with my current work except at times during photo sessions I play loud music to get me and the subject inspired.


What was your favorite moment in the process of creating “Beautiful Imperfections?”

Alago: I always love laying out the images on the floor in my living room – very old school and just start mixing and matching and pairing up photos next to each other and see the magic happen that way.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for artists trying to find ways of getting their artwork on a platform where it can be processed and discovered?

Alago: Be true to the craft and shoot whatever inspires you and if you have a good eye for subjects locations lighting composition etc you stand half a chance. I think the platform these days is going viral online, have a great website, show your portfolio and show confidence in the work.

What do you hope to do next?
Alago: I don’t know whats up next as I live in the moment and I am enjoying my current exhibition at Cock Gallery in Portland, Oregon and that my latest book is out there for all to see.


Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago "Rough Gods"
Photo Courtesy of Michael Alago “Rough Gods”

You can follow Michael Alago’s adventures on Facebook or contact him at


Alago’s exhibit of “Beautiful Imperfections” will be open through August 31st at Cock Gallery in Portland, OR.


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