They were the shots seen round the world.
Duncan photographer Masika Allan’s fun pictures of a male friend posing in his underwear for his wife’s birthday gift caused a social media tsunami last week.
And the excitement is continuing.
The Masika May Photography Facebook site has been besieged with requests for interviews and possible jobs, first from Canada and the United States but then from farther afield.
“This morning I woke up and I’d gotten three enquiries from places in Brazil and in the UK because it’s starting to gain ground over there,” Allan said Jan. 26.
The story’s pretty well gone everywhere now. Updated Facebook figures show that 7.9 million people have been reached and there are 9,000 comments on it and 15,000 likes.”
It all started when someone complained to Facebook about a particular group of Allan’s photographs.
Allan is known for her tasteful “boudoir” pictures of women but last week’s furor is about shots of a Langford man, Brendon Williams.
“We took them all the way back at the beginning of December but we had to keep them a secret because he was giving them to his wife for her birthday, Jan. 19.”
Williams gave his wife the gift and then suggested that Allan should put them up [on her Masika May Facebook page] for his friends to see and share the laugh.
“Brendon’s such a jokester and always loves to make us all laugh. I thought: I’ll put them up. I expected to get a couple of laughs out of it but within 10 minutes, 55 people had shared it. I thought: ‘Oh my gosh, what is happening here?’ It went kind of viral.”
She first put them up about 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
“When I woke up in the morning, it had pretty much exploded overnight and been shared I don’t know how many times by that point. It went up and up that entire day.”
The excitement came to an end when Facebook took down the pictures at what Allan estimates was “about midnight”.
Apparently, someone had contacted Facebook about the photos.
“They got reported for nudity, even though there was none. And then Facebook reviewed them and decided there was nudity and that’s why they took them down,” she said.
Allan found out the next day when she was notified she had to re-log in to her site.
“So I logged in and got hit with a notification: ‘You have photos that have violated Facebook’s terms’ and then it showed a highlight of the post and said they’d reviewed it and decided to take it down.’”
That was a surprise to Allan.
“It was very disappointing. When they did that, it was at almost 100,000 shares. It had just gone out of control during the day. It had 8,000 comments on it or something like that. It was disappointing to see all of that get taken down. So, I wrote them a letter and said this is unfair. There was no nudity. They were exactly the same as my female clients. He was wearing underwear. And I see photos pasted all over of male sports figures that have just a football covering them. It didn’t seem fair to me that it got taken down,” she said.
Meanwhile, the media had discovered the story.
“It wasn’t until the next day when the news stations contacted me to do an interview, they contacted Facebook and, because they were able to get hold of them, Facebook put them back up for me,” Allan said.
On her site, her subsequent post says, “If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if men did boudoir photos….. #dudeoir. Reposted with cropped photos to satisfy Facebook standards”.
Since then, the phenomenon has grown. It’s all amazing to Allan.
“It’s so funny because it was just a joke. My photography page has gone from having 6,200 fans to 15,000 now.”
That’s really special for a photographer.
“I’ve had already a ton of people book boudoir sessions for themselves because they saw my work. I’ve also had lots of enquiries for weddings, too. It’s been awesome.”
So, what does her family think?
“Well, my kids wanted to see me on TV, so I let them watch [an interview]. They saw the photos and they laughed and laughed. They thought it was the coolest thing ever,” she said.
“It was actually quite funny with my husband, too. He works in Alberta and was on night shift at the time. I put the photos up and phoned him before I went to sleep and told him about it and that they’d been shared quite a few hundred times. He laughed and said it was great. When I woke up in the morning and saw how it had exploded I couldn’t even tell him: I didn’t want to wake him up because he was sleeping. About 3 p.m., he phoned me and said, ‘So, what’s going on today?’ I answered: ‘What’s not going on today? My phone’s been ringing off the hook’.”
So, how can Masika Allan, photographer, top this?
She’s not sure. First off, she’s had to tell people she’s on Vancouver Island, not, perhaps, close enough for them.
“But there are people who want me to come out and do their weddings and I have travelled in the past — to Mexico twice, and to the Yukon and Vegas. That is something I would consider doing: destination weddings. I’ve had all these emails to answer. At this point, it’s just great for my business to have the exposure.”
Allan, a former Lake Cowichan Lady of the Lake, feels firmly rooted to the Cowichan Valley and loves that Valley folks have stepped up on social media to defend her, particularly when she’s had to deal with unpleasant comments.
“Seeing so many people here stick up for me is great. Even people that I haven’t seen since high school were defending me. I thought, that right there goes to show the type of people we are here in the Cowichan Valley. We all stick up for our own. I was super excited to see that.”
She’s also just enjoying the unexpected celebrity.
“Yesterday, my story was on that TV show, The Talk. Sharon Osbourne, Sara Gilbert and Julie Chen were all talking about it. We couldn’t believe it. The pictures were all up on there. That’s national television. And when I saw people like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post come into my inbox, I couldn’t believe it. People are hashtagging “dudeoir” all over the place and wanting to do their own dudeoir photo shoots. I’ve had hundreds of males contact me for them but it’s not something I’m going to be getting into.”