In many ways, fashion is an illusion. The clothes that go on the body are quite real, but the way in which the general public perceives those garments and the models who wear them and the photographers who shoot them is less easier to pin down. Clothes are tailored, pinned, and finessed so that they look just so in images, but would look completely different were you or I to put them on. Models go to great lengths to maintain figures that are unattainable for the average human. Photographers use Photoshop to manipulate the images to make them even more “perfect.”
Few people embody the vast gap between perception and reality more than Mark Reay. The subject of a new documentary called Homme Less, Reay is a former male model turned fashion photographer who was homeless for six years. Reay was signed to top model agencies Ford and Wilhelmina and walked in shows for Versace and Missoni. He gave acting a try and appeared in an episode of Sex And The City before switching to photography, where he takes street style and backstage shots for publications such as Dazed And Confused. On paper, it all seems quite glamorous, but none of those careers provided the financial security that Reay needed so he ended up living on a rooftop in New York City.
“Living on a roof wasn’t easy, of course,” Reay told The Guardian. “I remember tipping over my pee bucket a few times (it was a gallon water bottle), that was bad. But the most terrifying was when the construction workers were working overhead. I would wake up to this clanging sound, freeze and start slowly taking the tarp down before they saw me.”
Despite his struggles, Reay never felt sorry for himself. He acknowledges that wanderlust is an integral part of his personality. Even though he left the roof last summer, Reay still largely lives hand-to-mouth. “I don’t feel anything but lucky,” Reay says. “It’s an odd double life, and I’ve been alone, but I’ve never been lonely.”
Homme Less is in theaters now in New York City and more screenings will be announced soon.