Long Ago and Far Far Away

Way back in my younger days, days when I was finding who I was…, what I wanted to be when I grew-up…, there was a girl. Her name, details about her are not important except that she was a lovely young woman, very kind. Ultimately we wanted a different sort of lives and loves. When we first got together she knew that I, at heart, was a photographer/artist…, I am not sure she understood all the baggage that entails.

She was adamant, if I wanted to shoot nude models she was more than willing to pose for me. I took her at her word, she became my live-in muse. All the ideas I had, but had never found a willing model she was up for. So I tested out my ideas, then tested them again till I got what I was trying to capture. Many long hours of getting her into position, getting the light just right…, and the dark. Always the dark, dark side of me, dark side of my life, and my art.

Once after posing for hours, I told her she could get dressed, I thought I had what I wanted. She looked up at me, said that I could shoot all the nude models I wanted to. I was so surprised I almost dropped the piece of gear that I was putting away. Not wanting to look a gifted horse in the mouth, I had to ask how come. Because you weren’t looking at me as a woman was her reply. No I said, the angles, the light, the darkness…, I tried to explain how I was seeing her, but not HER. She stood, patted my arm, kissed me on the cheek and said to enjoy myself.

So I did, I got a studio, brought women to the house to pose. Even got a couple of her friends to pose. I kept my part of the bargain, I was in it for the art of what I was trying to learn. All was fine for a few years, then they weren’t. We started bickering, then all out arguing…, we were no longer the people that we had started out being. I started to miss the life I had lived, the single life, then I found someone.

My muse and I decided we needed a break from each other to clear our heads , to think about this life we had together. She booked a room downtown, I stayed at the apartment, each of us were closer to where we worked for the week. By an unspoken agreement we each did out own things with who we wanted. For me it was that taste of freedom I’d wanted, a few nights with the new woman.

This woman I’d met didn’t want a commitment, she had plans for her life. She was content that I had a live-in girlfriend. I was perfectly fine with that…, except that it wasn’t fair to the live-in girlfriend. At the end of the week she came back. Then came the hardest talk I have ever had with a woman I once loved, still did in my way. It may seem cruel, I said I wasn’t leaving her for anyone else…, that I was leaving for me. That we weren’t happy and I didn’t see how we would ever be again. I was honest in that I missed my freedom, that I just didn’t want to be in a committed relationship anymore.

I was reminded of this phase of my life while listening to Sam Smith’s Midnight Train. How do you tell someone that you still love, that you do not love them in that way anymore. Which way is less cruel, staying with someone you don’t love,or to tell them why you are leaving them so they can move on with there lives?

Anyway, this image is from better days with my muse. Days in which I did love her, still do in my own way even after all these years have passed. I hope the life that she wanted turned out well for her. She still has a special place in my heart and mind. This image of a lovely part of her anatomy I always thought was very pretty. To be shared and not sold, just a special part of her that I was allowed to capture.

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Maya Angelou

BACK-LIT: MS RUBY

 

 

A twenty year old college student, so full of herself and her sexuality, she had dabbled in the porn industry a bit. When we met to discuss a possible shoot she came off as a world weary pro. But the quality of my work and the ideas I present intrigued her.

By the second shoot she was comfortable with me, the way I worked, and the way I respected her space. I’d told her that we would again be working out at the farm, but way off in a very rustic area.  Took her to the family graveyard, three old graves, a wooden fence surrounding the plot. This was to be a completely nude shoot. She worked very well, good poses, good movement. These are among my favorites, back-lit, motion, and soft focus. Arty shots.

I Love what I Do!

 

In this piece I wish to convey the absolutely respect, admiration, and love that I hold for these women who trust me with their image and reputation. Because I shoot film it is difficult to show them before hand what I am after in my work. Because I shoot film I have a much greater resolution at my disposal, I can choose to use that resolution for good or harm. These women, some of them quite young in the span of what we know of adulthood choose to trust me. For me to return that trust with anything less than is unfathomable.

In the matter of a Seurat, I begin with a high-speed film, in the darkroom or Photoshop I manipulate the image. I base those manipulation off the brightest point in the piece, just as I exposed the film. Then I craft the image, lighten here, darken there…, just a touch! I love the gestalt, where “the sum is greater than the whole”. The seeming magic I call upon in “seeing” the final piece in mind-eye, of exposing and finally crafting the piece to come as close as I can to what I envisioned.

It is all magical to me, from that first moment I meet the woman for the first time, opening my book and my mind so she can judge in intent of my work. That moment when she agrees to pose…., then the time I get to see her in the eyepiece of my camera. All is magical, the way it happens, the actual shoot, all that goes into to making it a magical experience.

I love what I do, I love and respect the model’s…, most of all I love the trust. These women trust me to do right by them at that moment, and for those moments to come. Film last forever, reputation does not. I choose to do the right thing, the magical thing. I choose to let me my work stand for an idea, and not a graphic representation of womanhood.

Holiday Season

 

File under long ago and far away, my friend before she was Jean.  From our 2nd shoot, much more relaxed and poised just a nice nude young woman enjoying being photographed.  We’ve know each other for some 7 years now, and I still enjoy working with her.  As the old cliche goes, “like a fine wine she has aged very very well”.   Thank you Jean.

Trust

 

Latina Angel a new treatment of a softer variety.  She was having fun and being treated right so she could relax with me, be the kid she really was.  Now about the piece, my work is meant to appeal to everyone, specially women.  So a softer approach was suggested, hints offered…, I’d have been a fool not to listen.  I value the women who choose to be in my life, both professionally and as a more personal nature.  Women are my friend, always have been, always will be.  Thanks to you all!  Ciao

“Moonlight over Atlanta”

 

From the files of long ago, Willow “Moonlight over Atlanta”.  One of those darkroom magic to an otherwise vanilla image.  My friend whose darkroom I was printing in saw the original print at near the end of a long day of printing, suggested it might make a better print darker.  Did a test print…, hours later in the wash I had this.

Latina Angel “Girl”

 

A freshly minted 18 year old, so full of herself (as we all are at that age). Her shell was tough, but after we made friend’s she was just the kid she was. She had other photographers she worked with, some even put film in they’re cameras. Her online model site was filled with images of mainly her pubis, just a very few showed the person who owned that pubis.  I showed her that there was an art to photography, and that some men would treat her with respect.  I asked for permission to shoot any sensitive areas, she agreed, but not for publication she said.  I agreed, I had no real plans for the images at that time.  Years later when I discovered the images, and how I could manipulate them I sent her finished pieces so she could see what I’d done.  Again I asked for permission to use them, to donate them to organizations I support.

In this day and age, new age of harassment and outright rape in the industry, I have kept to my belief to treat people fairly, with respect.  I have been granted the privilege to explore my art, and freely create images both my models and I can be proud of.  I feel that this is an honorable way to create the images I do, it’s the cleaner way, if not always the easier way to operate.

Ruby at the Churchyard

 

With the Harvey Weinstein and Terry Richardson cases making headlines I fee the need to say something about how I work. The problem is that young women and men are not prepared to understand or handle a situation like this. An older man with power and influence carrying on, saying this is the way its done in the business. That is the concern I have about expecting young models to think through all the ramification of posing nude. The problem I have is thinking these “kids” as fully grown adults. That they should be treated with all respects at any age is a given. Early twenties they are still kids in so many ways. I haven’t wanted to take advantage of them, I do run the risk of being seen as patriarchal, I feel that is well worth the risk. Yes I will shoot women who have reached the age of eighteen if they are willing, However my preference is twenty-four, I feel that by this time they can make a more informed decisions. Yes I do get a release, but that does not give me the right to ruin anyone’s life because they agreed to shoot with me. It doesn’t mean I can use the images indiscriminately, I ask the women who are in contact with me if I can use their images for whatever I am trying to accomplish. Those that decide to not keep in contact are still deserving of privacy, and should be kept from their lives harmed. Noting the developed my own brain has given me an appreciation of the not yet fully developed brains. I know a lot of photographers who say “well I have a release!” To my way of thinking, yeah you do, but you should ask first…, maybe she has a reasons (like kids) not to want to be exposed like that, or to use identifying information with an image.

I had a model who was twenty-four at the time, but a young very naive twenty-four. She came from a farming background, wanting to make up for lost time. I could see that she was testing herself, testing her limits. We’d been shooting nudes for quite sometime

, she was bored with that, not a challenge any more So I said, partly in jest why not masturbate? NO she said, but I could see she was thinking about it, was she brave enough. Now don’t go jumping to conclusions, I knew she was ripe for someone to take advantage of her. I also knew the way I worked, knew that I would be willing to protect her and her images. She said yeah but I have to get comfortable. So I got some really lovely images mainly because she didn’t know any better than to fake it, when she left she was happy as a clam. Only after she had second thoughts, asked her friends, they told her she was nuts, that her job was in jeopardy. I told her not to worry, I wasn’t going to do anything without asking first. I kept my word, but still her concern was what did I think of her.., what kind of girl did I think she was. Finally a few summers ago we had the chance to really talk. Told her that I didn’t think that she was that kind of girl either, that I respected her, that I was still protecting her and her images. She was relived that I didn’t think poorly of her. We went though the images again, told her how proud of was of her, that she needed an outlet at the time that wouldn’t harm her. That I had thought of all the ramifications before we actually shot, that I was willing to protect her, while someone else might not. I still have hopes she will come for another shoot, but she has other priorities now.

Not everyone works the way I do, with my past mistakes of my own, made when my brain wasn’t fully developed. I have learned a hard lesson, and would really hate to be held accountable for mistakes in judgement I made in my twenties. I think of a shoot as having the features of the Stockholm syndrome; a model gets so comfortable with a photographer so she wants to please him or her. Then has second thought, but by that point, the damage has been done if she has signed that release. I don’t want to be that photographer…, ever! I want to do the right thing by my models then and now. I think that’s the reason I haven’t had problems. I do the right thing, even if it cost me money. I have found that the rewards far outweigh any monetary harm.

Afternoon at the Farm

 

I’ve been asked more than a few time if I worry about working with nude models alone. To tell the truth I have never given it much consideration because of the way I work my craft. I offer references, give the model a straight forward idea my style of work, now I give the access to my website so they can see what I shoot, and them what to expect. I am very welcoming to significant others check me and the studio out so that everyone is comfortable. I make it clear before any shoot happens that I expect to work with my model’s undivided attention.

For my part I am very respectful of the models rights, and my responsibility. When I work with a nude model I realize that their personal space is much more important for them. To date I have never had a model who even thought I have done anything in the least bit inappropriate. Once I had a younger model who I plan to work with at a friend’s farm. On the way over I told her that I wasn’t sure who else would be there, I assured her that she was not going to be put on any shows for anyone. That if worst came to worst we’d have the nice meal I had brought, and just call it a day. At the risk of being called paternalistic, I wanted her to feel at ease. That’s is the problem though, the same preparations I use to make my models comfortable, are the same tactics predators use to lull their victims into a false sense of security.

Then there is the matter of the release, I want my model or subject to see everything I have captured before they sign. I want for them to be comfortable with what we’ve gotten, after all we work in a collaborative manner. Many times I work without a release at all, preferring to be able to get in touch with the person, tell them what and were I want to use our image(s). Since I use real film this can get quite expensive, a few times the model decides to not sign. Those few times the whole shoot has been an expensive waste of resources. I can only use the images for display only, no sales are permitted, really that is fair. Now not everyone works as I do, my models work with the anticipation of sales to follow. My work is sold in galleries, or used in books, my website, or I donate it to various organizations that foster a positive sex culture.

Again not everyone works this way, but I feel very strongly about my images, and the way I work. I work very hard at my craft, I get some beautiful images in the pointillist manner. I am proud of my work, the people who chose to work with me…, how could I not take the steps necessary to make it a beautiful experience for all.