Category Archives: Photography as Art

Aspects of dealing with photography as an art form.

The Creative Path Less Followed

It seems far easier to be creative then it is to actually market or sell your creativity. This is becoming the lesson of this week. This is the greatest leap in my creative endeavor so far since this project began. I think back to the beginning of when I was first getting into photography and the greatest hurdle was just getting my self to the creative table. The beginning of a creative existence is filled with self-doubt and anxieties surrounding whether we are good enough or even talented enough to create. It happens in baby steps. For me doing “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” a 12-week program by Julia Cameron which created that leap in my head that said it was OK to be an artist and the acceptance of myself as a creative being. With each success your confidence grows. The consistence of creating good stuff begins to outweigh the mistakes and, believe me there are lots of mistakes, you reach a tipping point where you become a master of your craft and nearly everything you work on is at least interesting. But it is a long voyage of forcing yourself to the creative process that continually nudged your way to that point of this clarity. The next hurdle seems to be exposing what you create and putting yourself out there for judgment and criticism. Of course this has been my greatest obstacle because of what it is I want to do and the acceptability of it in the culture I live. The first Friday evening of every month all the galleries in Missoula have a gallery walk where everyone is open late and you can wander from shop to shop and see all the new work that is up for the month. It has been a huge success in Missoula because they typically entice you in with wine, beer or some sort of edible treat. But these shows mostly only contain images of western themes or landscapes, the usual sort of paint pealing off the old barn sort of work. If I where to display my sort of imagery I am afraid I would create a scandal sort of thing and my studio would possibly be fire bombed. So this has become a huge leap in my own creative acceptance. The next phase that I feel I am on the verge of overcoming is creating a presence. This is the culmination of the process of this year and the process of search for a place. This phase has been far more creative and certainly more work then the process of creating art where the process of art began. Along each step there is a huge growth and a better understanding of myself and the things that seemed insurmountable in the beginning are now trivial in the end. Why does it take most of us our entire lives to become what it is we desire or aspire to become? Is it that we just don’t know the pathway? Does it become a battle with our own self-doubt? I began this year asking the question from many of my artist friends “Are we born to be artists or is it something we learn?” I now see what a tremendous amount of time and perseverance it takes to create anything. But so many of us put that amount of time and effect into things we are apathetic toward as a means to an end, just to make a living. When the real question becomes what is it that really satisfies and makes us happy. I know most of my life has been lived in uncertainty. But I have had this impulse all of my remembered existence and somehow at this stage it all seems worthwhile.

Idealistic Explosion of Talents

It’s like suddenly The Naked Man Project is kicking into overdrive and I am in heaven. Everyone in Europe and patrons I have been meeting through my social networks had all advised me that I needed to create a presence for myself, to begin to define and refine what it is I want to do. This is the most essential step of my process before anything else can happen and before I make the next step. In less than one month that presence is beginning to emerge and I am seeing a remarkable wonder and extraordinary beauty I have not recognized in myself in a long time. And yes I did get outside yesterday and worked in my garden for a couple of hours; as I transplanted delphinium and cleaned beds, suddenly, all that I have been doing came into sharp focus.

Now that Stephen has done all the housekeeping on most of the image files, I have begun working through each shoot, subject by subject. Wow, what an incredible group of people I had the privilege to work with and explore my creative process with over the years. And they are all here, from Montana. I am now skimming the cream of the crop of each series and extraordinary things are beginning to reveal themselves. I now am beginning to see more what others have been saying about the images for some time. I am often reluctant sometimes and find compliments hard to receive. It’s part of my backstage personality of those years in the theater where I remained hidden, but was the controlling force that kept the show and companies running each night. I tend to also be a fairly humble guy, who believes in keeping everything low key and simple, not the case anymore. This is becoming one of the greatest adventures of my life, every day now is filled with excitement, joy and wonder. My time in the garden yesterday also taught me that this does not have to happen at breakneck speed and to actually savor and enjoy the process as it unfolds. I am so jacked for when I will get to reveal this creation, but know I do not want to rush it or get sloppy.

I met with a new intern yesterday that I am actually jacked about having him join us. His name is Stopher, another gay kid that is funny, witty, smart and cute. He is going to take on the blog element of the site. We have found a module that will import this existing blog into the new site without much loss, and minimal adjustment. The new blog will become easier to archive and search for things. It still amazes me how massive my thoughts have exploded into this format. To be honest I thought we were going to have to start over, or somehow painstakingly transfer it one posting at a time, so I am much relieved to know it will be quite simple.

The Naked Man Project is now becoming a team collaboration of local talents and distant advisors. It feels much like creating a show in the theater where all of us function at our most brilliant capacity and are having a blast pulling it together. We challenge and push ourselves each day to see such huge progress. A show in the theater takes months of planning, preparation, rehearsal and tech before the curtain rises. I need to remind myself each day of this process and take a deep breath as I step into the beauty of this extraordinary work I have created, with which I have now surrounded myself.

Requiem of a Dream

I began to realize yesterday what a dream life I have. I am creating and living in a fantasy world that many people only dare dream to enter. Though some of the imagery may not always be that interesting, it is the process of creating it and the connection to the subjects that is really the fascinating part of this type of work. Since my regular work schedule has now shifted from mid afternoon to early evening, I am having to shift my shooting schedule to later evenings. There is something about shooting in a dark studio that becomes seductive and alluring. I mostly use a strobe system that over powers all light so it does not matter if I am shooting in a studio filled with daylight or at night only using the modeling lights from the strobes. I know the effect and how the light works so well, that I can perfect it without even seeing the actual results on the subject. But at night when the subjects are surrounded by darkness and they can only see themselves in the mirror across the room in the beautiful light I have bathed them in, something magical begins to emerge from their personalities as their inhibitions begin to drop. I tend to choose music that many people do not know, that has a hypnotic quality to it that allows the subjects to become lost and delve deeper within themselves. When the subject looks away and becomes unaware of my presence in the space and lets go of themselves these become moments I really look to capture.

Last night I was working with a 24 year old guy on the subject of alluring glances. That moment when you are in a dark, possibly a crowded space, and see someone across the room you desire, how you target your entire being into pulling them in and seducing them with a look. Once they connect, the hunt is on and the more powerful that seduction intensifies, through our eyes and body. At first I found it difficult to relate this concept to a 24 year old, because it’s not the way the younger generation connects anymore, but it was of my generation. But he soon got where I was trying to get and his alluring nature became intoxicating. The balance of light, the beautiful rugged texture of his clothing made me long to reach out and touch him, to hold him, to desire him, to pull him closer to me, and to enter his world physically, emotionally and mentally. It is this moment where the reality blurs into a sort of dream state, where all our senses become heightened and that passion of desire begin to reveal itself. When the photographer and subject can connect to each other on this level the imagery becomes very powerful, even to the unknown subjects who will eventually view these images. These are the moments I have always longed for and found most captivating within my own life. These are the moments I was most keenly aware of how powerful my presence and seduction was to others. It was a moment where the magnetism drew us closer, strangers in a dark lust, disrobing each other with our eyes, risking everything to expose our souls to someone else. Sometimes we have the courage to pursue it and cross the room to make that connection, but more often than not we don’t because we are inhibited by our insecurities. But the moment of that first glance, more often when we don’t connect with them in those sorts of situations, is what leaves an impression that sometimes can linger in our thoughts for a lifetime. I am at my prime when I reach this moment of memory in my photography when I can commit it to my imagery and that dream becomes a reality to someone else viewing.

When I met Glenn, 14 years ago, in this same sort of situation, and we were both young men, I remember vividly this is what pulled us together. That first kiss in the middle of a crowded room was breathless and the world around us stopped. It’s was that moment in West Side Story where Tony and Maria, who shouldn’t be together, do come together and the magic glow of a dream defying all odds begins. Unfortunately, that one ended in tragedy, but the beauty of that moment lingers forever and it’s what we remember most about the story and become haunted by, in the histories of our own memories.

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.

“The World is a Showplace”

The art and importance of networking and collaboration has been my focus this week. The Internet is incredibly awesome for networking. I have vaguely been familiar with a lot of people out there, but feel I have been too busy, or insecure to actually make the connection. I am beginning to meet so many people that are going though a lot of the same issues and struggles I am. Suddenly this blog seems to generate interest or curiosity in a lot of people. The first one, ten days ago, started with just a couple of friends and yesterday there were a hundred and ten. The model search is going coming along slowly, as it always does. I have been working the heck out of networking some of our local sites to connect with potential subjects. Monday I had three, but it all seems to take time. My goal is to begin working on new images next week, in the meantime I have become obsessed with networking and rallying with my artist friends and organizing and cleaning through the files on my computer, an arduous task I always do this time of the year when everything else slows down and I have some time.

I have always felt my art is collaboration. Working in theater was certainly a collaboration. When I work with a model; it’s us coming together to create the image. I always value others input into whatever I do. I think I am very good at taking criticism, and it becomes one of the greatest tools for growth and finding new inspirations. I don’t necessarily allow it to define my direction, but I do ponder the relevance of what is said and consider the source of its origin. I know the value of others experience and insight and hope and respect that they will treat me as fair as I will treat them. My life has been defined by my ability to adapt and change. I look to many sources for inspiration. I used to love to look at magazines and tear out the pages of images that excited me. I collected all kinds of images. Now that inspiration is the Internet. Sometimes I am drawn to just a line in the image: a texture, a color, a style, an eyebrow, a face, a pose, a connection, and a look. When I begin to work with new models I always suggest they begin to collect images they relate to, bring them in, and this become the basis for a common visual dialogue that becomes the basis from which to leap. It brings us to the same page. I am a very visual person and have a studio full of books and other visual references that fill my “creative well” from which I can draw. I don’t imitate others but rather draw and build upon them. I explore how it relates to my style and then find what will make it unique to me.

One of my new goals since I have begun this project, is to look at one new artist each day, connect with that artist and begin developing a relationship and dialog with someone outside of my world. To create a collective, yes sort of like the Borg, to learn and assimilate what wisdom and inspiration they may have and to impart some of that experience into these daily blogs. Thank you Internet! There is already a great host of artist residing in cyberspace on a site called Red Bubble. I joined it one rainy day last May and it has changed my life. I began to slowly filter some of my images, I had been working on in isolation for a decade, onto the site. Mind you no one had seen any of my images, except the individual models I was working with. I was dumbfounded by the response the images received by like minded artist on Red Bubble. Other artists began to comment on what I was doing and giving me feedback. A breathed a deep sigh of relief because I had always feared what the response might be if I ever revealed them publicly.  I live in a place in the universe where a great painting is a landscape with a snow covered mountain in the background. The new connection and feedback from others began to instill a confidence within me. Suddenly I had found a whole world of people who were just like me. I began to correspond and ask questions and make connections. Everyone was so genuine and heartfelt in his or her response and feedback. Then I got busy with all my summer projects and jobs and had to let it fall by the wayside. I tend to over work in the summers, save up and then feel secure enough just to focus on my creativity through the winter.  Hence this project was born. When I occasionally find time in my schedule to work with a model and actually do something artistic for myself, the results was amazing. The new found confidence was helping me to go beyond any thing I had ever created before. Every shoot was a step up from what I had previously done. It was almost like it had some purpose or meaning to what I was creating. It all began to click and I was bringing a remarkable quality into all my other photographic work: weddings, senior portraits, but the nudes are what really popped. So here I am on the precipice of something extraordinary and making the leap. For those who know me, you know my motto has always been, LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR.

I found the perfect picture on Red Bubble this morning that captured that feeling.  BLIND FAITH  I hope Thomas doesn’t mind I made the link.

The bottom image by George Lynn Platt from 1954 became the inspiration for today’s image. Suddenly Dinah Washington came on singing “The World is a Showplace” and I know the universe cosmically is connecting to what I am doing.

I think of this blog as a collaboration. Obviously there are a lot of others drawn into my project and I would like your insight or perspective on topics or interest. We have so much in common that we can share with each other. I would love to hear from you and know more about who’s here. Feel free to ask questions or suggest things you would like to see or issues you would like to see me explore.