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Features For The Naked Man Project

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

Classic black and white male nude torso with penis emerging out of darkness.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.

This was originally printed in the blog with this images on 1/4/11, the first week I began the project and has become the most read blog in the project. 

Cinema: Priscilla Review

Movie poster for The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

1994, Australia, 104 min

Stars: Hugo Weaving, Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce

Director: Stephan Elliott

Rating: ★★★★★

This is a hilarious road trip of a movie that, once it snags you, takes you on an often-outrageous adventure through the Australian outback.  Filled with charm, wit, style, and memorable music from the 80’s as it’s three central characters find more than they bargain for in themselves and each other.  Guaranteed to make you laugh so hard your eye lashes will curl all by themselves.

 

This is one of those movies I put in when I am feeling down and it always brightens my day.  I probably watch this movie a couple of times a year and have been since it came out and it totally cracks me up every time I see it.  I always recommend it to the younger crowd and it amazes me how many of them have never seen or have ever even heard of it.   So, though it is an old stand by for many, it is a surprising sleeper if you are not familiar with it.  It’s basically about three performers from the Sydney cabaret circuit who go on a road trip across Australia in what they christen a budget Barbie Camper they call Priscilla.  Movie still from The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.Two of them drag impersonators one a cosmetics salesman (Hugo Waving) and a spoiled youthful beauty obsessed with ABBA (Guy Pearce) and the third a post operative transsexual (Terence Stamp) who has just lost a sympathetic husband she has finally managed to snag who hits his head after passing out from the fumes while trying to peroxide his hair.  The deadpan humor of this brilliant script is nonstop.  As many times as I have seen and anticipate the dialogue it still makes me laugh.  These three actors play so well off each other along this crazy road trip to unexpected places warming their way across the outback as they make their way from Sydney to the remote Alice Springs.  It is filled with stunning musical production numbers and some of the best makeup and costumes in the history of film, going on to snag an Oscar for best costume.  The film is often touching with a good balance of drama and over the top humor. All of it’s actors catapulted into stardom.  It later became a long running Broadway musical. It is a classic that once you see it you will come back to over and over.

Cinema: Time to Leave Review

Movie poster for 'Time To Leave'Time To Leave

(Le temps qui reste)

2004, French, 81 mins

Stars: Melvil Poupaud, Jeanne Moreau

Director:  François Ozon

Ratting: ★★★★

This is one of those rare movies that reach into the depth of our souls to show us a poetic portrait of our humility and ultimately our humanity.   This movie captures that bittersweet journey someone diagnosed with cancer must tread in order to come to terms with one’s own mortality.  This is a beautifully written, masterfully directed, and superbly acted film that takes you on an extraordinary voyage into the heart. 

Movie still from 'Time To Leave'It follows the story of a very successful late twenty something photographer (Melvil Poupaud) at the prime of his success in Paris named Romain who is diagnosed with cancer and how he comes to terms with it as he tries to put his life in perspective.  Filled with heart wrenching masterful scenes especially the one where he goes to visit his grandmother played by the great Jeanne Moreau.  I saw this movie several years ago after I faced my own diagnoses of cancer and spent a summer undergoing chemotherapy that was successful as it is now in remission.  To reveal anything else about the story or plot the lines would interfere with the journey it takes you on as a viewer.