Category Archives: Photographers

Photographers I have known or inspire me

The Value of Tear Sheets

I have recently been working through the Reed Massengill book Uncovered: Rare Vintage Male Nudes and am struck by the remarkable beauty of the images, not so much the models that are paraded though out the book, but by the photographer’s skills in crafting the images.  One particular photographer from the 60’s, I think who had an exceptional eye, was Al Urban, a photographer I had never even heard about.  He used stark backgrounds and you can tell from the images spent quite a lot of time working with the light to create a perfect balance.  As a photographer and I suppose particularly as a lighting designer, I learned early to pay close attention to light, the source, the color, the quality.  Photography is a process that I think really can’t be taught. Sure, you need to learn the basic skills of how the camera functions and when you yourself have absolute control of the tool, but the remainder of what you need to know is, how do I relate to this subject and that is developed through your power of observation.  The best way to learn your craft is to study the masters who have crafted images before you.  I used to love fashion magazines, not for the stories, but for the remarkable lighting in the images the photographers created to sell the products.  My ideal Sunday would be to buy a stack of magazines and slowly go through them page by page ripping out all the images that excited me in any way.  Sometimes it’s a look in one, sometimes it’s a line in another, a makeup technique, a piece of clothing, an exposed neck.  Every image had a quality that I adored.  I would scatter these images across the floor and study them for hours or even days.  Soon I began to understand the dynamic of what made a specific image so alluring. Soon a set of skills begins to develop that helps us to evaluate the image.  Since I am so drawn to light, that is the first thing I began to explore in the image.  Then I take the concept from the original inspiration, bring it into my studio and begin to explore the properties of lighting within the images.   I began with hot lights because I was fascinated with the old Hollywood glamour lighting styles and knew I could maintain absolute control and could actually see the results.  Then each month I added another piece of equipment that would do something else until eventually I had strobes and eventually designing my studio to channel the natural light into in certain ways.  Everyone that walks into my studio seems mesmerized by the remarkable structure of light of the building.  This all begins with understanding the photograph and is fed by an impulse.  It’s funny as I write this the morning sun is coming over the hill and the room took on an extraordinary glow, since the trees are barren and can no longer filter on the east side of the house.  I now wish I had someone naked standing before me to use this beautiful radiance as an example.   And in this moment I feel in tune with the universe and as it gives this extraordinary moment just as I write about it.  I digress, today’s topic was going to the about viewing a photograph for the lighting properties, but suddenly the preface on light seems to have taken up the entire blog.  Tomorrow I will talk about how to evaluate images to extract their lighting values.


There was a time in the 50’s when young men arriving in Los Angles seeking fortune and fame in the film industry were recruited by photographers to be photographed nude or nearly nude for companies like Athletic Model Guild to showcase these young guy’s bodies in the hopes of hiring them for work.  It seemed harmless at the time, and the photographs grew into such publications as the Physique Magazine that were adored by a complete male culture as a means of becoming healthy and strong.   I recently watched a movie called Beefcake that documented the rise of fall of one particular photographer named Bob Mizer who was eventually brought down and indicted on a charge steaming from a prostitution sting.   Looking back at his images they are spectacular, well conceived, well photographed images of beautiful fit young men in the prime of their lives.  Many of them becoming classic works of art that have become highly collectable today, with prices ranging to $400 to $1000 plus for a standard 8×10.  During that era the post office began to shut down such distribution of these images as being lewd and lascivious.  Many of the photographers of this era’s images and negatives were confiscated by the courts and destroyed.  Mizer went to elaborate lengths to refine and define this style of imagery that was by nature erotic and arousing for much of the culture and was yet socially acceptable by the general public at large.  It became a cultural phenomenon to see near naked men exposed in such ways.  This was of course before my time so I was never really exposed to such things.  But I do member as a kid seeing the puny weakling on the beach having sand kicked to his face and wanting to become more masculine and strong and the beautiful Adonis you would become and who would be adored by everyone if you subscribed to this sort of ad.  I am not even sure what the product was then.  I had never really paid much attention to this sort of photography, but now I see the influence it has on my own work and style.  Mizer was a man of vision who worshiped and paid such adoring homage to it.  He opened his house to lost wayward boys, giving them a sense of dignity and respect.  Paid them small sums for posing and gave them a place to stay.  Many of them hustled on the side and took advantage of his generosity.  But to look back, his artistic vision was astonishing and at the time may have felt or seemed worthless but inspired countless others to pursue the art of men naked.  In the end he lost everything and become labeled as a pornographer, but for one fleeting time in our history defined a new adoration of oneself, with dignity and respect becoming a beacon and icon for others to follow.  The film Beefcake by Thom Fitzgerald is a delightful film to watch unfold.  It is filled with actual images and footage of this era and style, and yes contains lots of nudity mixed with live interviews from some of the models from that time and their perceptions of themselves and how they viewed culturally what was happening.  I recently had ordered a book put together by Reed Massengill called Uncovered: Rare Vintage Male Nudes that pays homage to many of these artists, images lost but suddenly recovered.  I have been looking at it with a new found adoration for those who have paved our way in this modern era.

When Did Porn Become So Homogenized?

Last night a group of us where sitting around the bar at the studio looking at some old vintage porn magazines and remarking at how erotic and sexually enticing this type of imagery used to be. What I mean by vintage is 80’s magazines like Men and Playgirl and the likes of that. In these images the guys are not your perfect well-defined bodies like what we see today, but where average guys seem to have a presence and actually looked like they were completely enjoying exposing themselves which I think added a level of accessibility to indulge the fantasy. These were guys you could possibly pick up on the streets or could even have been your neighbor next door, for a place like Montana. I once had a friend who worked in the business say there are three major things that qualify you for porn, one is good looks and a connection with the eyes, second was a good body that we would want to hold next to us, and the third was having a big dick which would satisfy the sexual portion of the illusion. He would say a person would need two out of these three qualities to make it in the industry and the combination could go either way. In modern porn it feels like we are often verging on actually containing just one of elements whereas in the vintage 80’s porn every single model seem to possess all three, page after page, after page, after page… The photography was sensational, most featured models would begin with a page with them dressed and somehow placed in their everyday environment. On a horse, in their back yard, a construction site, an actual garage. Great detail was placed on making these subjects normal and the photographers of this era paid great attention to the detail of the light and environment. Many of the images were actually quite a bit sexier with their cloths on than without them on. It was fantastic, the more I looked the more I began to realize that it was actually this type of photography that drew me into photographing these sorts of images from the beginning. There was a time when the great male photographers like Bruce Weber and Steven Underhill brought there level of expertise to this media rising porn to a artistic level and the photographers became an important part of the illusion. To hell with art, I just wanted to indulge my desire and live the fantasy of my dream centerfold for May, and there where enough in each magazine that I could have one for each week until the next publication came out. So what has happened with this beautiful world of tantalizing and teasing of most carnal need? It seemed to begin disappearing long before the Internet become popular. Was there just an over explosion in the industry and a shortage of models and extraordinary photographers? Did the industry decided to cut cost in order to produce quantity? How is it that the thing that becomes so enduring to all of us becomes so depersonalized without any sort of interest to wrangle us with its seductive enticing power? This is the industry that makes more than probably any other industry in the world, so as the price escalates on what we pay for why doesn’t the quality escalate? Wouldn’t they have more money to spend on upgrading the quality? Perhaps I am just a romantic at heart, I do like my sex dirty, but I still what to believe in the world of erotic fantasy. The Internet is paved with lots of dick; perhaps after a while it all begins to look the same but I still want to dream and live in a world where people are human, where I can shake their hand and have a conversation, and be pulled in by their mystical seduction.

Did I miss the streetcar named Desire?

Last night I crossed over into a strange delirium of geekdom as I had visions of naked men dancing in my head and my sexual desire crossed into a strange cyber lala land that wasn’t of men with huge penises and small tight butts, but where people were ordinary and a beauty was recognized from within. I have a kid I work with at UPS, who is a total cyber geek, whom I completely adore and I now feel like I have crossed into his dimension of existence, and I have a greater understanding of where he’s coming from. Some friends had invited me out to a drag show and when I got off work last night, I sat at my computer and was suddenly sucked in. But, it all began to click last night, instead of fighting technology I was suddenly a part of it and things where suddenly happening. Oddly enough I didn’t work too late, but had added some major elements to the project that seemed effortless. I looked up and it was only 11:00 pm and I was shocked. Normally it has been 2 or 3 in the morning. I realized the web site had past the tipping point and had crossed to the other side as I shut it down and walked away.

I took the kitties for a nice long walk under the beautiful starry sky, feeling the warmth from the day still in the air as my mind and body become overwhelmed with a great sense of satisfaction. I went to bed early and as I lay there, I laughed at how much I have changed this year and how far I have come and how I have crossed over into a side of myself that I have not felt in a decade. Sex used to make me feel this great. It seems when I hit my forties, the sexual side of myself had begun to shut down. I know guys my age who are still totally engaging in sex, all the time. Why has it all shut off for me? Mostly I think because I had the most ruckus youth and lived that prime to its fullest. I was mostly ruled by my dick from the mid twenties to those forties. I stayed in a long unhealthy relationship for almost eight years because the sex was so extraordinary, and then it took two years to get away from it because we were still having sex even after we separated. Everything became about sex and having sex, so I definitely get it.

Mapplethorpe photographed the people he had sex with and you can often see that personal connection to those subjects and their trust to allow him into places that would otherwise be forbidden. I somehow wished I had found Mapplethorpe earlier and gotten into photography during the prime of my sexual desire and could have recorded all I have experienced. Now as an older man I can only vicariously live that through my imagery and the experiences I write about. It’s like now I am on a different kind of ride, equally as exciting and intoxicating. But it feels like the last 10 years I somehow got off the streetcar at the wrong stop and ended up in a different and strange new place. The past ten years, psychologically, felt as if I had been spiraling into an unknown oblivion finally reaching the bottom at the beginning of this year as I hit the pit of despair witnessing the passing of my prime moving into middle age, rapidly approaching fifty.

Today I stand on the rampart of something extraordinary. Yet it’s an extraordinariness that I have always known and somehow felt was present. Perhaps it is all the sex, fear, anxiety, insecurities and anger that masks and keeps the true nature of our selves hidden so we can’t see it. And I have to question this morning where would I be today if perhaps I had not made this leap and come on the journey of this year. My desire has changed and so have I. I take delight in that thought and that maybe that streetcar, though still functional, just transports us to new neighborhoods, perhaps we just need to get off and explore.

Eternal Bliss of a Creative Mind

Last night was utter bliss. I am back to shooting again. It is the first time I have shot since I returned from Europe and it is some of the best stuff I have done to date. An old friend, John, who was one of the original people I began photographing 2 years ago, after I had finished the studio was the subject. It was kind of the turning point for me when I was getting serious about shooting nudes of men. In fact he is the first person I coaxed off Manhunt to come and work with me. We have done several shoots over the years. He disappeared for a long time going on a very long walkabout across the lower western USA for about half a year, so I had not seen him in a while. We just instantly began working and I felt a connection to the process that I have only seen in the works of others. While I was in Berlin I had met a photographer Dragan Simicevic who left quite an impression on me. His approach and style was so simplistic yet contained such magnetism: he only chooses a couple of images from each shoot. I began to feel that deeper connection to John last night and everything we shot was golden. I did not feel my regular compulsion to over shoot, but had felt satisfied with a minimal amount of shots. This is the way I used to shoot when I was working in film, mostly because of the expense and time it took to develop so much film. Last night the focus was stronger and John was right on with feeding me exactly what I needed. He has such a natural presence that he is just fun to watch even when we are not shooting. It turns out he is homeless, so I have offered him the loft above the studio where is can crash for a short while until he can get back up on his feet and he is willing to work around the inconvenience of my shooting schedules.

The new intern, Steven, and I spent the afternoon earlier in the day completely cleaning the studio out and set up the staging and lighting for last night’s shoot. I have worked with assistants in the past on my regular photography but not on this private type of stuff. It is awesome the intensity that he bring to the process, it was awesome to have someone who understood and was as excited as I was to make it happen. Once everything was set up, I used Steven as my subject to begin a series of test to really hone our lighting concept. As we looked at those photos I see what a remarkable subject he will also make and will now work on a shoot of him as part of his learning process. This really allowed me to focus the shooting process for John and allowed for us to jump in so easily because everything had already been set and tested.

The third piece of what made yesterday so remarkable was that the website template finally got loaded and I was able to work on the website last night, loading stuff into it. It is more remarkable then I envisioned. It is fast it is easy and we are going to have a blast putting it together in the upcoming weeks. I am going to target the end of the month to open it on the web. That gives us 16 days to pull it all together.

I also sent a message to John Douglas in Australia to see if we can somehow revive the old Man Art site. I think it’s the same system I am using for my current site and Julian my web guy could totally make it happen.