Armin Hagen Freiherr von Hoyningen-Huene is a photographer, artist, filmmaker, clothing designer/sewer, model and gay sex symbol best known by his stage name Peter Berlin. In the early to mid-1970s, Berlin created some of the most recognizable gay male erotic imagery of his time. Serving as his own photographer, model, and fashion designer, Berlin redefined self-portraiture and became an international sensation.
His two films, Nights in Black Leather (1973) and That Boy (1974) (credited in the latter as Peter Burian), played to packed houses for years and, along with other pioneering erotic filmmakers such as Wakefield Poole and Jack Deveau, helped bring gay male erotic films artistic legitimacy.
Early life in Germany
Peter Berlin was born December 28, 1942 in German-occupied Łódź, Poland, but he grew up in Berlin, Germany. He is the second of the three children of Eduard Baron von Hoyningen-Huene and his wife Marion, 20 years old at the time of his birth. His siblings are a sister, Mirna, and a brother, Reinhold, who died in a car crash in 1970. The extended family included the American fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene.
He received post-secondary education in Germany as a photo-technician. In his early 20s, he worked as a photographer for an interview program on German television, photographing some of Europe's biggest celebrities and film stars.
Berlin designed and sewed all of his clothing without a pattern. He also was a painter and illustrator. He began photographing himself in erotic poses and making skin-tight clothes to wear as he cruised the parks and train stations of Berlin, and the streets of Rome, Paris, New York and San Francisco.
Filmmaking and celebrity
In the early 1970s, Berlin moved to San Francisco and became a fixture on the streets with his highly suggestive clothing and constant cruising. He collaborated with friend Richard Abel on a 16 mm hard-core porn film entitled Nights in Black Leather (1973) in which he played the lead role. Berlin's poster for the film helped make Nights in Black Leather an underground hit.
As a follow-up, Berlin directed, produced, wrote, and starred in That Boy (1974), another successful film. He also made four short films in the mid- to late-1970s, which were primarily sold as 8 mm "loops" by mail order. His self-portraits were published and sold. He was also the subject of several Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, five drawings by Tom of Finland, and at least one photograph by Andy Warhol. Two Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroid images of Berlin can be seen in the 2008 book, Mapplethorpe: Polaroids, and the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition of the same name. Some of his famous friends were Salvador and Gala Dali, Warhol, New York fashion designer Koos, and painter Jochen Labriola. He was acquainted with ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev.
Berlin's photographs and artwork have been exhibited around the world, including the exhibition "Split/Vision" (New York, 1986), curated by Mapplethorpe, and in the exhibition "Berlin on Berlin" (2006) at the Leslie Lohman Gallery in New York.
Although he retreated from the limelight in the 1980s, he continues to make videos of himself and lives quietly in San Francisco, where he is still frequently recognized on the streets.
He was trained in Germany as a photo technician in the 1960s.
In 2005, filmmaker and writer Jim Tushinski directed and co-produced (with Lawrence Helman), the feature-length documentary That Man: Peter Berlin, which began a resurgence of interest in Berlin's works. The documentary premiered at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival and garnered several awards at film festivals worldwide, reconnecting Berlin with his older fans and introducing him to a new generation. In 2006, Berlin launched a web site devoted to his work.
- Long features
- 1973: Nights in Black Leather (actor)
- 1974: That Boy (director, producer, writer, actor) (credited as Peter Burian)
- 2005: That Man: Peter Berlin
- 1973: Waldeslust
- 1974-6: Search
- 1974-6: Ciro and Peter
- 1976-7: Blueboys
- 2007: GayVN Awards, Category: "2007 GayVN Hall of Fame Inductees"
- Anderson, James: "Peter Berlin Sixty-Something German Artist From San Francisco Spent His Entire Life Getting Laid", BUTT Magazine, Summer, 2004
- "That Man: Peter Berlin" (Documentary), Gorilla Factory Productions, 2005
- The von Huene Family: History of the Family and its Baltic Homeland
- DVD Extras, "That Man: Peter Berlin" (DVD), Water Bearer Films, 2006
- Website of the Hoyningen-Huene family
- "Creating Peter Berlin", text and photos by Dennis Forbes—article in After Dark (magazine) February 1975, pages 44–51, with photographic portfolio of Peter Berlin
- "Berlin on Berlin" interview by Robert W. Richards (dead link)
- ManNet Review: "That Man: SE" (dead link)
- That Man: Peter Berlin reviews by "Dom79" and "TheCygnet" (dead link)
- Peter Berlin official website
- Peter Berlin on IMDb
- That Man: Peter Berlin official Web site
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