Category Archives: Working with Models

All aspects of models and working with models

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.

A 20-something Experience

I was invited to a party last night for one of my 20-something model’s boyfriend’s birthday. I was hesitant not sure I should go, because I knew I would be completely out of place. But this is a kid that I have really connected with in the studio and we have always gotten extremely good images. And, he had emailed me a couple of times throughout the week inviting and reminding me so I felt like I had to at least make an appearance. When I arrived on the street there was no place to park, it was dark and I was not quite sure where I was actually going? So I parked and walked with a case of beer in search of the place. It was easy to find because of the music and I could hear the chatter of people. It was a small apartment with not much furniture jammed full of people, young 20-somethings everywhere. I ran into Shey, the birthday boy as soon as I came through the door and delight filled his face as he gave me a warm hug and was glad that I had actually shown up. He quickly found George, his boyfriend who also came to welcome me. I opened a beer and guzzled it down and began to take in my surroundings. It was a lower level, possibly two-bedroom apartment, with festive decorative stuff strewn all about the room for the occasion. I quickly began to recognize many faces I had only seen on line or had occasionally chatted with on Facebook. Everyone seemed to be filled with such a drunken happiness. Suddenly, I felt like I was transported back in time perhaps thirty years earlier and as I began to mingle and fit into this 20-something crowd, I really began to realize how much out of touch I had grown from this generation. What became even more apparent was how much my photography does not fit into or with the group of subjects, that I am trying to really explore. Everyone has always entered my world and mostly seen what I am doing from my perspective. I began to look at images on cell phones of parties and postures and gestures that were fun, alive and full of energy. Even George, who I adore photographing, seem to have such life working the crowd. Why don’t I capture that? That is the vitality of youth! It suddenly smacked me right in the face that I truly am not capturing the essence of these kids at all. I still love to beauty of what I do, and I have a greater appreciation for them wanting to enter my world but I realize what a hermit I have become in my own mind. How my vision may not extend beyond myself at all, and how much I love in my memory. Hence this blog project, I guess. To enter a Spartan world of the 20-something kids, and see their lives filled with such joy, to live in such humble settings, I see how much I have grown over the past so many years and what has brought me to this place. My studio is a luxury place by comparison. How did I suddenly get here? Is it just the years of accumulation of stuff, of refining, defining, and the orchestration of life? I have always seen myself as a minimalist. I had very little when I lived and worked on the road. I prided myself on being able to live out of one suitcase. Didn’t have a car for a long time, didn’t need one. The process of growth has been enormous as the simplicity has disappeared. I am so lucky to be exactly where I am even as I try to awkwardly try to explain the means of my existence to strangers in a crowd where most of them are struggling in the end to just get by. As I crawled into my big comfortable bed with soft linens and down pillows I felt satisfied that I had ventured into that unknown, that my life has been well earned.

Maintaining the Artistic Integrity

Are you getting tired of hearing about the website yet??? It’s all I can think about anymore and seems to consume my every thought. The process is as frustrating as it is exhilarating. I am not a techno geek and am more of a goal-oriented guy so when I hit a block, become very frustrated. There are so many settings and possibilities for options that I just don’t grasp and I can waste hours on one thing that turns out to be so simple. Julian who helped us set up the system seems to have abandoned us and we are left to flounder as we learn and try to figure it out. On the other side, we are making major leaps every day. We are finally loading the galleries today and I think the overall look and functionality if very impressive.

The fun part is that I have continued shooting through out this web process and had two shoots the other day, both vastly different, which means I had to reconfigure the set up and lighting scheme for the studio. The studio just seems to become a hubbub of activity constantly now. The shooting is becoming more focused as I now have a cleaner vision of what I want and need. I have been mostly working with subjects I have worked with in the past, so it’s easier to jump right in and get going. I am still maintaining and need to keep my focus on the original integrity of where I began this process and have not deviated from that, but the images are improving with each session and subsequent shoot.

Many years ago I only dreamed of being in a place like this and now here I am in the middle of it all and things are coming together. Having the assistants is making a huge difference in how I create. It’s actually allowing me to focus on my process as they work through so much of the detail and I get to jump in and oversee it for maintaining the artistic integrity.

Don’t worry I will be back to some of my interesting stories soon, once we get this thing rolling and I can begin to focus on other things.

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.

A New Study Begins

I am starting to reconnect with some of the subjects I have shot in the past and this week will begin shooting with them again. It’s always fun to go back and shoot with people I have worked with before, because you already have that instant working relationship. I have a strong desire this week to get back to that Caravaggio lighting style I began working with at the beginning of the year. The staging and set up for this style seems to take the entire studio space to create the balance of light I am looking for. It’s not just lights, but layers of scrim filters upon filters. More goes into blocking and controlling the light to a confined space then actually allowing the light through. I have today off without much distraction. We were supposed to begin putting the web site together and I had scheduled all day to work on it, but we are having a problem loading the templates and are waiting to hear back from the designers, who are in Europe. Most of the information has been gathered and written and is ready to insert once it’s installed. This gives me today to focus on research and looking through old paintings to find that inspiration for the upcoming shoots this week. This is really the favorite part of the process, researching and figuring out what it should or needs to look like. I saw so many paintings in the Louver while I was in Paris that seemed to contain the feeling and essence of where I want to go. It is to touch the core of raw emotions and get to what makes us vulnerable. One of the patrons I have met suggested that I need to begin a series of self-portraits, exposing myself in my own style. The shooting this week will become an exploration of where that self-examination can begin, of looking at how I fit within the structure of my own process. I am hoping to see a more positive image of my physical self begin to emerge. Sometimes this is the hardest thing an artist must do, set aside their preconceived ideas of who they have become and see who they actually are. Mapplethorpe was brilliant at this, to face himself so unafraid without compromise. I began the year and the first blog with a self-portrait of myself and now it’s time to revisit myself once more.