Category Archives: Pornography


Porn: as a Mirror of Ourselves

I recently bought a book called “Porn: from Andy Warhol to X-Tube” edited by Kevin Clarke which is a visual guide following the history of gay porn both in publication and multi-media formats and it’s evolution.  It’s actually quite a wonderful book that is put together quite nicely with lots of images of porn stars, cover art, advertising, quotes, and fascinating well written articles by people in the business.  It begins with an opening quote by IC Adams from the Gay Porn Times “Porn is an interesting reflection of what goes on in our culture”.  The book is then divided into four sections “Porn as Pop Art”, “The Golden Age of Promiscuity”, “Boom Years: Porn as Safe Sex”, and finally ending with “Grab Your Dick and Double Click”.  Reading and reviewing this history I see how sexual and sensual pornography was at one time.  I think it’s what drew me to do the work I am currently doing from the beginning.  It was about defying normal and celebration of our freedom as a culture.  This book reminds me of all the things I found sensual in my youth and how the leaders of porn industry really seem to have a soul at one point.  I have only read the first half of the book when it was in its golden age, where any and everything seemed possible. It was more of a mind set and truly was a reflection of our humanity and growth as a culture.  It just seems recently in the past decade or so, I am thinking possibly with the advent of video and over saturation of product and its evolution as a cash cow has lead to its fall.  It seems to me this is the point I remember it becoming so homogenized, where suddenly everyone was looking the same, doing the same, becoming the same.  It became a cookie cutter formula that was bankable.  This is the point where I seem to have lost interest and it failed to arouse any kind of reaction within me.  What made the early porn so fascinating was that it was literally a cinema verite in which the subjects where actually engaging in the actual act of sex, where as now the emphasis has been put on them as performers who are acting, and showing us what they think we want to see, which doesn’t engage us at all.  I mean the act of sex is about the connection, bonding and intimate sharing of one’s self physically with another person.  We learn from the art we are exposed to and if all we see or experience become superficial, performing instead of engaging, the imitation of life from that art begins to lack its genuine connection to the actual humans with which we are engaging.  It is this lack of connection from which my own personal quest for art grows.  I still love the idealism of old fashioned romance, of gazing in to my partner’s eyes and seeing his desire for being with me.  To watch a man undress, to reveal himself, the see their vulnerability exposed, trusting someone with your intimacy, and that intimacy becoming a sacred gift.  The emerging and mingling from and within the darkness where desire and intimacy bind us.

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.

A Distinction Between Art Or Pornography

Last night a group of us got into a heated discussion about what constituted pornography and what separates it from art. Can pornography be art and vise versa? Since I began this blog the number one post every week that everyone looks at is “Does Showing a Man’s Penis Make An Image Pornographic?” It seems to be the question everyone who works in this field seems to ponder. I know I certainly as an artist explore and often cross that edge. The dictionary definition of pornography is: “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings”. I think the operative word here is intended. Though I don’t really see many of my images as sexual and am not sexually motivated to create them, I became aware last night the impact they have on others. Who views the images and how they interpret them becomes subjective. We all have different interpretations of what we find stimulating or what excites us sexually. When I was younger just seeing a man’s skin exposed got me aroused and stimulated. And yes there was a time in my 30’s I was obsessed and possibly addicted to porn. But as I get older and I become desensitized by so much experience and exposure, I now rarely find things stimulating in that manner. Now it becomes more of an exploration of what it is I remember about that sort of stimulation. Some of my subjects are not prone to exposure and that line never gets crossed, some people are just so damn sexy with their clothes on, how they wear them, and the shapes and textures they create with their presence. Hence the power of fashion. Yet some people look exceptional fully exposed. Everyone is different and the exploration becomes unique for each of them. My role as a photographer is to expose not just their nakedness, but also aesthetic and emotionally. I perceive we live in a culture where we are getting away from our sense of sensual desire. The desire encompasses the entire being and not just parts of that being. My work for me becomes a compass that reminds me of that romantic idealism that has begun to erode from my life. It becomes about how I see myself in relationship to my subjects and sometimes that intention has been to erotically stimulate. So by the dictionary term my work is pornographic. But because I show a man’s penis does not mean the image was intended to stimulate. I have seen so much great male nude art in my life that I no longer zero my focus in on what dangles below, but absorb it for it’s aesthetic feeling. This is why I love art and am fascinated by my necessity for exposure. I got my first glimpse of a man’s penis in National Geographic magazine showing naked aborigines when I was a kid. I remember how sensational it was. I was possibly too young to be stimulated by it then but there was something forbidden about seeing something that needed to remain hidden. Here some 40 years later, I am still pondering its mystery.

Sex vs Sensuality

I have spent a great deal of my life trying to differentiate between sex and sensuality. It feels like it is often a fine line that I have often crossed without really understanding which side of the line I was actually on. Some guys are just naturally oozing with a raw sensuality while others are very mechanical and get stuck in a pattern. One of my favorite lines from the play Chicago when they are in court is describing Amos making love to Roxy as he’s twisting his hands, as if rubbing her boobs but in the motion “…as if adjusting a carburetor. I love you honey, I love you”. I feel like most of my life has been lived on the sensual side. I love romance, soft light, am passionate about kissing, lips gently, but aggressively playing off your partner’s mouth, the tenderness of our lips colliding, wrapping, wet, licking, tasting. I like to look deep into the eyes of the person I am with to watch the expression on their face as you make love to them. I have recently fallen in love with the cover art from old romance novels that are illustrated in the most perfect vision imaginable. There is a passion, the embrace, the woman with her neck back, extended, bare as the man holds her in a firm embrace with a raging intensity in his eyes and a soft supple boldness to his mouth and lips. Those cover images just take you to that place and you can feel the sensuality oozing out for you to pick it up and buy it. Unfortunately, we don’t really see this in gay literature of this sort. So why is it that when men are together it is portrayed so differently? Recently my friend Alison, whom I adore, asked me if I would be interested in creating a cover for her upcoming book, about three men in a relationship. She has a basic outline and I love where she is going with it and I think the cover somehow should hearken back to those days of the old torrid romance novels, hence my research on the subject. Of course it will be about beautiful light. So does beautiful light make an image sensual? Men have sex in small cubical in the back room of a video arcade lit merely with the flicker of porn flashing across the screen. Is this actually just sex or does it cross the boundary of sensual. After all they are generally strangers and the light though artistic not necessarily romantic. In my mind’s eye I live and dwell in that world of the romance novel cover from the 50’s or possible 60’s. It’s my vision of my world and I see how much of this I bring to my work in the studio. I think most of my images are sensual without being sexual. Sometimes I work to the verge of those images crossing into a sexual nature. I have always been leery of seeing a man’s penis exposed in the image, because for most that distinguishes the line moving toward porn and I began this year with a questions “Does showing a man’s penis make an image pornographic” which turns out the be the most read posting I have written all year, so there seems to be a lot of people interested in the subject as there is no right answer because of its subjective nature in the mindset of the viewer? Some cultures are conditioned for it and some against. I know I discard an awful lot of images to get to the ones that really capture the essence of view on the subject. But it’s really what makes this sort of imagery fascinating and pulls us in. Pornography gives us the wanker; we are either wowed by something extraordinary in it, or merely click on searching for something better to ignite our fantasy. I am captivated by the images that make me want to linger and pull me in igniting something deep within myself. To me this is what this sort of art should be and what I am committed to produce with each image I work.

Does showing a man’s penis make an image pornographic?

When I was first getting into photography and still shooting on film, I had a young gay man come into my studio whom I wanted to shoot nude.   He was very excited by the prospect of seeing what we could create together.  His only stipulation was that he did not want any pictures where he would be naked and show his face in the same image.  He was okay with doing nude torso images from the neck down or face pictures from the waist up.   I agreed and said I would work within those parameters.   Hey, I had a live model who was willing to strip down and allow me to light and explore him naked through my photographic process.

He had a classic form and moved and stood in such a way that I knew would be reminiscent of a Greek sculpture.  I worked very hard to create a lighting design that would make him look fantastic. We had an amazing session and both were excited by what we had created.   I processed the film and printed the contact sheets.  Though the images on the contact sheets were raw still, but I could visualize the beauty which would emerge from the prints.   I called the kid and arranged a meeting, excited to show him what we had created.   When he saw the contact sheets, he too was excited and seemed quite pleased.  I gave him a set to take home because he had a boyfriend he wanted to show.   I headed back into the darkroom and began to work on one of the images. It totally began to come to life.   I printed it on a beautiful flat silver gelatin paper so that the tones and flesh had a smooth velvety finish that looked as if they were actually emerging from the darkness.  Everything fell exactly where I knew it would.  The print was remarkable.  I felt like I had created a masterpiece that could hang in someone’s bathroom, or in an open space, or maybe even a gallery – very classic in its pose, form, and structure.  To me it represented perfection for this type of image.  It captured the essence of the pictorialist style of the photo-secessionists from the early 1900s.   I had been studying the photographers and the movement from this era and was particularly drawn to the images of Fred Holland Day.   I had succeeded on every level to create his style of imagery.  In structure, light fall-off, and soft focus beauty on the flat paper.

I called the kid back and told him what a remarkable image we had created.  I immediately knew something was wrong by the tone of his voice.  He did not want to see the image and did not want to work again because he had shown the image to his boyfriend who said it was pornographic.  His boyfriend did not think he should lower himself to the standards of creating porn.  I was stunned and shocked.   It really got me questioning the distinctions between art and pornography.  It has been a question that has haunted me for most of my photographic career.   In my mind’s eye I had created a remarkable piece of art, yet someone else had seen it as pornographic.   Because there is a penis in the image, does it automatically become pornography?  In a sense, this kind of hurt me creatively.  I felt like I was heading in a positive direction and this reaction made me fearful of asking anyone to pose naked again.  If people saw what I was doing as porn, I would get that kind of reputation, and it would kill any chances of finding models to work with, in our small town.   It also put doubt in my approach and stirred a question in the back of my mind every time I worked with nude images thereafter.  It took me a long time to ask someone to pose nude again.

The kid never saw the final image.  I put it away in a box to be lost with other worthless images I had created.  Now to be pulled out many years later and finally shown here today.  Wow, what was I thinking?  How could I allow someone else to influence such a great part of my creativity and hinder my creative process.