Category Archives: Art


Getting To The Core Of Who Your Subject Is

It’s been a couple of weeks since I have been able to write or post a new blog.  I have been super busy lately working on more commercial work that needed priority.  One of the projects I work on this time of year is the promotional images for The Montana Rep Theater Company’s national tour that goes out at the end of January.  So much of my work has a theatrical quality to it.  I worked in theater for so long that it still sticks with me.  I guess it is just a part of my nature.  I love the idea of tapping into the emotional resonance of an image.  One of the things that most people first learn when working with me on images is how quickly I connect to others.  I once read an interview with Robert Mapplethorpe where he talked about the importance of establishing a relationship with his subjects.  Meeting, talking, getting to know, and sharing with the person you are about to create images with.  He would never shoot anyone cold that he didn’t know.  This stuck me at the time and I have modeled my own approach to photography in this manner.  It shows in the image how strongly the subject connects to the photographer.  I mean in a sense we are all photogenic.  But I see so many young or beginning photographer’s images and it feels they are only revealing the surface of the subject, because the subject seems distant or aloof.  Yes the image may be pretty and technically good, but that is only a small fraction of creating an image.  Establishing the working relationship first breaks down some of those barriers and creates more of an intimacy in the final image.  Somehow people trust photographers in ways they don’t trust others.  At my first meeting with a subject that I will possibly photograph nude, often revealing insights that are intimate and personal.   Perhaps I know the right questions to ask, perhaps they know and trust my eye and body of work, perhaps I have a reputation that whatever they say or reveal will not leave the walls of my studio.  I am not sure, but it gets me closer to the core of identifying who they are.  The actual photographic process can often be distracting due to all the technical elements involved in creating the right exposure and adjusting the lighting as I begin to discover what works best with their skin and personality.  The subject somehow trusts this.  My focus always remains on them, discovering the nuance of who they are.  I shoot a lot of images during a shoot, but with each shot I try to discover more about who they are.  I never work on the surface.  Part of my theatrical training is the ability to constantly coax out their best, each image becoming a step further.  I guess this is what I really love about the process.  To me, my segue from working in theater to photography was just a natural progression.  In a sense it’s still staged, but I have just moved from the box of the proscenium arch of the theater to the box contained within the frame of camera.

Considering All The Elements In Photography

I have caught up with all my commercial photo work for the year and this site is now tweaked and I’m ready to begin adding new material.  It has taken a couple weeks longer to clean up than I anticipated.  I spent this week working with the gallery component developer adjusting and figuring out all the issues with the galleries and how they would look and function across all platforms.  This was the last major issue to work out.  The site is now visually linkable and fully functional.

Recently I have been looking at all the people I have shot over the years and, considering this is Montana, it seems quite remarkable to have so many!  I had a new guy in the studio I was shooting this week.  Someone I had begun working with last year but we didn’t get too far with the process because he was so busy.  It was so fun to get back to shooting this sort of stuff.  When I began shooting naked men they became more of a study to help me develop lighting techniques for my regular photographic portraits.  I have a great studio and lots of variations on lighting filtration equipment.  I have collected just about every type of light filter size and shape available to focus light from a broad softness to a pinpoint direct spot.  The naked male is the easiest subject, because it is all skin tone and in portrait photography is it all about lighting the skin in beautiful ways.  It also allows me to focus on compositional elements.  The next step is the photographic process is to figure out the personality of the subject and match the lighting technique to get to the core or essence of who they are.  Some people are soft, some are hard, some are sculptural, some not.  Next I factor in my relationship to the subject.  What feelings does this subject evoke within me.  Are they alluring, raw, do they connect to me or are they evasive.  What part of my own life intercepts with theirs, do they bring out a remembrance or connection to a time in my own past or sensual development?  We all have memories of times we connected with someone on a very sensual level that lingers in our thoughts that we would like to relive.  Photographically these become great ideas for exploration.  When you begin to put all these elements together this is where photography really become fun.  I am lucky I don’t do this for commercial gain so I can just focus on what’s important to me in a sense becoming my own personal journey.

Are We Born Artists Or Is It Just Something We Create?

When I first began this project I brought up the question are we born to be an artist or is it something that we learn.  I talked to a number of different artists and remember there was a mixture of responses.  For me I grew up on a family cattle ranch in the mountains of Montana where I wasn’t really exposed to much of anything creative, yet as a kid I was drawn to coloring and creative hobby type things as gifts for Christmas.  My parents must have recognized some semblance of talent there because they always gave me things that captivated me or mostly things I had to build.    When I colored I worked had to stay within the lines.  My grandmother taught me to cook and sew when I was about ten and I began to make clothing I would wear to school.  My parents tell stories of how I gathered all my brothers and cousins and created stage shows in the barnyard for everyone to see.  I was a drama nerd in high school and created a drama club and began doing stage productions.  I then won a scholarship to the University of Montana in Missoula for theater and earned a degree in performing arts with an emphasis on directing live theater production, essentially creating my own program at the time.  I was mostly interested in lighting design and work anything back stage.  I worked in professional theater for many years until I got burned out of constantly being on the road, returned to Montana, and took up photography.  Looking back, everything about my life has been creative and I feel fortunate to have made a living pursuing my passions.  I still make a living and do quite well with it and still live a creative life.

So was I born to it?  I am not entirely sure.  I was born with a strong curiosity and probably a stronger ability to make things happen.  I do know as a creative soul my focus becomes more concentrated the older I get.  Downright obsessive.  I am drawn to photography because it is something I never stop learning or growing with.  Though it has become relatively simpler from when I started with, processing my own film, it is still a challenge.  I probably have most every piece of equipment to filter or channel light in most any conceivable way.  I have found one of the key tenants of becoming an artist is to always bring yourself to the creative table.  Every day if possible.  Once you recognize this the world automatically sorts it self out and makes way for your creativity to flourish.  But be relentless in your pursuit.  After a while self doubt and constant questing vanishes and you get to a state where everything becomes a part of your creative evolution.  I learned not to be so critical of myself in the beginning and accept my mistakes as part of the learning process.  I see so many young artists who say this really isn’t very good about something they have created, expecting it to be a masterpiece right from the get go.  It never is.  They give up to easy and find something simpler to do, when this is really the impetus of something remarkable that has completely compelled and engaged them.  Yet they can’t see the remarkable beauty that brought them to it from the beginning.  They are only looking at the end result and judging everything else on that.  First and foremost believe in yourself and trust that all will be resolved.  To realize all of life is a creative process and an evolution along an expressive continuum.

When Artistic Passion Ignites Into Fire

This past week, partly because the temperature dropped into the teens, I have retreated back into this project.  In fact, it has renewed my obsession with The Naked Man Project.  It’s almost like I have to completely deconstruct it to bring it back into existence.  God what was I doing before to create such a hodge-podge of a mess. I’m actually quite surprised it even functioned for as long as it did, but I’m having a blast revitalizing it.  In fact I feel on fire with it.  Working on it from the moment I get up and then late into the evening on my laptop in bed.  I have never believed in something as much as I have this project.

So many people have reached out to me via texting, Facebook, and email in response to the project this past week, it just continues to fuel me.  It is finally becoming the project I envisioned when I started it back in 2011.  In a greater sense destined to become a global collective of other peoples obsessions with the male nude as a higher form of artistic expression.  I have always wanted to feature the drawings of David Vanderpool and I managed to complete that this week.  In fact it became the model for the new guest artist project that I have reworked the others toward visually.  In reworking this section I have been in contact with all the other artists to clean up and relink their images.  I feel like I am part of a greater global artistic community.  I didn’t realize how much I missed all these conversations.  Living and being in Montana, and not generally recognized as a creative individual is very easy to become reclusive.  But this site still remains strong!  Thank goodness for the Internet in this regard.  This project began with the subheading of “One man’s exploration In finding himself and his search for light, beauty, desire and art.”  When I began the project I really was searching for some sort of acceptance for my “alternative” creative expressions.  A way to link to a new found community dealing with their one vision.  Now I see how many people have been touched by this endeavor.  In the beginning I did not see my own work as very interesting, but just a means of expressing my feelings and emotions as I examined my connection to the culture around me.  I remember how shocked I was the first time I posted some of my images on a site called ManArt, which collapsed shortly there after due to censorship issues.  I now see how much I have grown since those days and now nothing no longer seems taboo. I am on fire again and it feels great to feel alive once again.

Today’s image was the very first attempt I had at creating male nude art.  It was of my friend Daren Eastwold, who was a dancer with a body to kill for.  We went into his apartment and I had a single incandescent light fixture.  We rolled up the carpets, and removed everything from the walls.   The place was on the verge of collapse, in fact condemned, and later torn down.  I was nervous as hell as we began to shoot because I had no experience at this sort of photography.  This was back in the predigital days and I was shooting actual film. That meant I was limited on how many exposures I could take, and that I really wouldn’t know the results until I could process the film and print the contact sheets a couple days later.  Those contact sheets turned out so dark I could hardly see them and thought I had completely botched the shoot.  But there was one image that stuck out that even looked remotely worth working on.  Just one.  I put it into the enlarger and began to print and this beautiful piece began to emerge.  To me that was the defining moment of so wanting to become an artist.  I remember becoming on fire then, the same as I am on fire now.  Life is about passion.  Not being afraid to embrace it.  And from that moment forward to this moment hence I have followed that dream.

Adaption of a Creative Impetus

I am beginning to feel like Meryl Street in Adaption where her world of reality begins to blur with the fiction of her creation!  Where does one draw the line between themselves and artistic integrity?  I have always been intrigued by the age-old question.  Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

I have recently reconnected to this project.  Not that it has ever really been out of my sight, but I recently met someone who asked if I had done anything significant with my life.  I wanted to say “Sure a while back I took a year off and created something that I put my entire soul into for the duration of an entire year”.  Creating a body of work that oddly enough still remains online, and even odder thousands of people each month still follow and peruse.  I am still contacted by people, particularly young artists who find my story and imagery inspirational to their own journeys toward creativity.   My heart is and has always been full of passion toward anything creative and I am quick to encourage others to seek their own.   Looking back I see I am one of the most blessed people in the world to be able to pour out my thoughts, feelings, concepts, and ideals (utterly express myself) and still make a living at it.  The project didn’t quite take me in the direction I had planned, but it did increase my notoriety as a seasoned photographer who had an imitative eye and loved to work with light.  To me it has always been about the light.   This work progressed my business in other areas, mainly portraiture, headshots, and other artistic creations.  I began to get work from clients whose talents as Internet escorts I could help bolster their own talents and boost their businesses.  The one thing I can honestly say is that I have laughed a lot over the past couple of years and created or worked on some very imaginative projects.  As usual I digress…

So I wanted to share this project with my new buddy and sent him a link to the site.  He came back somewhat surprised and astonished at the caliber of work.  I then jumped on the site from my cell phone and I began to see how clunky the site was to navigate via hand held devices.  I had not put much work into the site the past few years.  About a year or so ago it crashed. I guess due to neglect, so I had to do some major upgrades to operational platform and system modules and plugins.  I found a new template that would make it more accessible to mobile devices.  I was so busy at the time I never got a chance to actually adapt everything to the new system.   Viewing it I was quite embarrassed.   I have recently caught up with my regular work and decided I would spend a little time adapting it.  Suddenly I am totally falling in love with the whole project again.  I never stopped shooting this sort of work and have a bigger body of work yet unseen.  So here I am back at it again, realizing how much all this sort of free flow spewing from my inner psyche I had missed.  I think I am going to revive the blog, not to an everyday occurrence, but to once a week, after all I do have a life and need to make a living.

As a young lad all fresh faced I used to argue that life imitated art, now as a seasoned fresh faced (no I did not have a facelift) elder I actually see that art imitate life, it’s an expression of life.  So here goes…