Does seeing a nude photo of a dude make me gay?

5th and 51st, NYC  061314

I recently read a friend's writing on how overall there are few artistic photos of nude men, but there is a recent trend of male celebrities doing "implied nudes" or slightly covered nudes.  It got me to thinking why there are few nude art photos of men.  My thoughts of this have evolved from the obvious to a more nuanced and even bigoted reasons there are so few photos of nude men compared women. 

In the past, I felt the reason was that men have external bits compared to women.  The obvious penis draws the eye instantly and seems much more extreme than just being able to see the pubic hair of women.  It makes us see him as not only nude, but naked.  If he has anything more than a purely flaccid penis, it adds so much more charge to the image.  A woman's arousal is much less immediately obvious visually.

Recently, I've evolved my thoughts on this topic.  My new thoughts come from the realities conveyed in photography vs. paintings and other media.  There are many paintings and statues of nude men, many showing penises, some even have erections.  It is a different world for photography.

Let's say I recreated through photography a classic painting that had a nude male.   During this recreation, I match color, lighting, even the model looks as identical as possible.  I am willing to say that photo would be judged more harshly because of the reality of photography.

If I paint someone, I am taking what is perceived in my brain, through my eyes, and then I transfer to the canvas with brushes and paint.  It has been reduced in realism by being filtered through my brain and hand.  People feel a disconnect to the subject as being real because they know I could have changed any details, grand or subtle, due to the freedom of a blank canvas.  They know this is how I saw and recreated it, not a direct capture of the moment.

If I photograph that person, you are seeing a literal visual recording of that person.  We trust photographs to be true (even though Photoshop is causing us to question that now) at a logical and instinctual level.  That "realness" makes us feel an immediate connection as a witness to the moment, not just a viewer of a recreation.

Now, let us take that to photographing nudes versus painting them.  If I paint a nude, it means I could of used a photo as inspiration or had a live art model in front of me, or just recreated a memory or a creation from the ether of my mind.   If I photograph a nude, that means I was in the same room, the same moment with that model.  It is proof!  It brings up questions of my intent, my interactions, my relationship with the model.  It is much more personal.

Let us now say it is a male versus female.  We get into the physical external and visible parts while not seeing the internal parts.  We are seeing a real penis vs a woman's pubic hair is much more obvious in a photo than a painting.  This photo then feels and is perceived as real.  What does that mean?  It means I am making the viewer share a moment with that naked model and his nudity.  This can make many people, especially men who are uncomfortable with homosexuality, and anything that could feel "gay", even if the photo is not erotic.

Now I am going to go to a recent non-art world example.  Video and photos make us feel intimately close to the subject.  When Michael Sam, an openly gay football player, found out he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams he kissed his boyfriend in celebration.  So many people thought it was disgusting and that Sam was forcing his "gay lifestyle" into their faces.  It was too real for them to handle.  If it had been a cartoon or a painting of their kiss, it may not have been as shocking to some.  The double standard though is that if he had a girlfriend and gave her the same kiss, no one would have cared or complained.  For many, this homophobia may live below their conscious level and be more of a visceral, primal reaction that influences their cognitive thinking.

For many, that realism of photography makes them share a space with a naked man (or a football player kissing his boyfriend) and sadly so many can't get past that and just truly evaluate and appreciate the art for what it is.  This is true for nudes of women, but due to so many millions more photos of nude women being out there and also with less perceived feelings of threat by their nudity, the feelings may feel more directed as wanting a connection to the female models*.

Maybe someday we will see enough nude men that those of us threatened by internal homosexual phobias and bigoted beliefs that lay below our conscious minds will get past our initial reactions.  I hope this is changing sooner than I think it really is. 

 *Please note, I am only scratching the surface of how women are objectified in all aspects of our culture and also how it is accepted as "normal".  I don't mean to diminish or trivialize those issues, challenges, and problems.


Can art be separated from its creators?

False Idols - 022814

I read a dark humored piece at The Onion concerning the recent trials and tribulations of Woody Allen and the allegations by Mia Farrow's daughter, Dylan about his sexually abusing her as a child*.  In this satirical piece, the Onion makes us confront a difficult question - how do we reconcile our appreciation of Allen's creative greatness and the quandary his alleged actions puts his fans and supporters in? I recently read a piece about a similar conundrum about appreciating the musical production genius of Phil Spector while contending with his sick masochistic nature.  My internal question is, can we still appreciate their art?

There are multiple artists in most genres that have created critically acclaimed art that was tarnished by their actions, behaviors, beliefs, etc. Along with Spector and Allen, Roman Polanski fled to exile to avoid a trial for raping a 13 year old girl.  Polanski also created the masterpiece, Chinatown. I still relish watching that movie, but wonder if I should watch it due to Polanski's history.

Maybe there are two questions.  First, can someone be redeemed by their art?  Second, if they can't be redeemed by it, can we still appreciate it as its own entity while not heaping praise upon its creators?

I believe in redemption, but it comes from actions to mediate and remedy the sins.  The guilty must make amends before redemption.  From what I've seem, none of these accused have taken a step toward redemption through their art.  So, that answers the first question.

Should we separate art from the artists?  When I create art, most of the pieces have no title and at most a brief artist statement on the series.  I don't have a reputation beyond a few friends and fellow artists, so my art is not viewed and commented on as a piece by Karl, but just what the viewer sees, feels, interprets, and comments upon.  I greatly appreciate hearing feedback on my art without my name tinting the view.  When I am the consumer of the art, I enjoy taking it in without being influenced by the artist's legend following it.  By doing that, I can better relate to it and find my own meaning.  Sadly though, when the creator has a big reputation, regardless if it is good or bad, will influence my reception of the art.  Even more sad, I will have to try to account for his/her sins when consuming the art.

So is there any way to view art this way and appreciate it?  I may have found a way by actually bringing the artist into it.  I plan to start looking into the art to see if the artist's sins can be found in their creations.  I am not trying to be an investigator or anything, but trying to understand if some elements of what makes him/her evil lives in the art.  By looking how evil either explicitly or subtly gets into art we may be able to learn where our own sins seep out of us.

* Woody Allen has not been convicted of the allegations brought against him in this post. 


Personal choices on grooming

Karl - 021314

In my last post, I revisited an old post from my old blog about comments I received concerning a model I photographed and her pubic and underarm hair.  Today, I want to share a bit about my own journey with hair grooming and how society views it and the tough challenges I have had against it.

During my late teens until I started a new job that made it difficult to have, I had a mustache.  I grew it in college so I wouldn't be carded when hitting the bars.  I kept it for twelve years out of the habit and routine of having it.

In 1999, I was thirty and had just started a job in the manufacturing area of a biotech pharmaceutical.  They had no rules against facial hair, but because of having one I had to wear a beard/mustache cover while on the near sterile manufacturing floor for up to 10 hours at a time.  I soon decided to shave it off for comfort.  My wife had not seen me without a mustache and it took her a bit of time to stop staring at my top lip.

For the next 14 years, I happily remained clean shaven (except for a brief experiment with a goatee).  Last fall, we had a Halloween party at work and the theme was TV characters.  With my love for the show, Breaking Bad, I grew a beard and mustache, then trimmed it to match Walter White's menacing facial hair.  While growing it, I started to get some compliments from a number of women and a few men.  After the party, I promptly shaved it all off, with instant regret.  My unique face went back to being unremarkable in anyway.

In December, I started growing it back and am happy I did.  Not everyone shares in those feelings.  Some friends and family tease me (which I do not mind and often laugh with).  One relative said if her dog saw me, she would give me the "DANGER STRANGER" bark.  Other friends teased that I look like Grizzly Adams.  One gay friend said that I became an instant hot straight bear.  Rawr!.

Not all of the receptions of my beard have been so warm.  My dad worries that I don't look professional anymore.  One manager at work (not in my chain of command) asked, "So, are you really thinking of keeping that?"

All of these slights and hardships are a joke, really.  I haven't gone through a the tiniest fraction of what others have had to endure due to race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, and many other differences that can not be accepted by other.  My beard is truly a choice, my age isn't.  My gay friends didn't have a choice, nor all of us that are growing older every moment we breath.  So everyone, quit hurting others just because they are older or younger than what you consider the norms, love someone that you can't, or are not of your gender, faith, or race.

PS - I am keeping my Hemingway beard.

PPS - In high school, I went as a "beard" to a spring prom with a friend who is lesbian.  She and I went out of friendship and wanting to ride in a really cool limo.  It is kind of sad I didn't have a romantic date, but it was tragic she couldn't be her true self and go with her girlfriend.


Hairy issues.

A friend recently mentioned one of my old posts (from an old, extinct blog) that I wrote about criticism I received concerning a model I photographed that had underarm hair.  Below is the image and my original response to the criticism.  I still love photographing models that chose their grooming practice they want, not what is expected of them. 

What the fuck?
Katie - 012314

I just got on my post about working with Katie. Some anonymous cowardly hack wrote:

"She needs to get a razor. Yuck!"

I almost didn't publish it because of how disrespectful it was to Katie. I decided to publish it because this type of ignorance / stupidity / ... grrr. I am running out of adjectives I am so mad. I understand if you have a critique about my photo, (too dark, too light, lousy composition, wrong model for the setting, bad exposure, wrong media, etc.) but what the fuck are you getting at?

Is your view of beauty only limited to women of Maxim and Playboy that do not have an extra hair anywhere and where they have hair, it is in the absolute perfect place?? While I appreciate those types of photos, they are not the only types of beauty in this world. You are missing out on seeing so many beautiful people if you feel this is the only type of beauty.

I think the trend for women to be completely shaven is one of choice. While it is the current trend, I find great beauty in shaven women as well as "natural" women. When did we get so narrow minded?? I am so pissed right now. I am going to go for a walk after posting this.

Followup post

Got Hair??
In continuation to my "What the Fuck?" post yesterday, I am dedicating today's post to women who choose/chose to keep their hair. Somebody wrote a rude comment about a model I photographed that did not shave her armpits or pubic hair. Here are some more photos I am sure commentor will not like, but I find are beautiful.

A friend mentioned a very famous photo of Tina Modotti in her comment. Here is Tina photographed by Edward Weston. Tina was also a great photographer as well as writer, model, actress, activist and role model. She was also very beautiful.
Tina Modotti
Edward Weston
Edward Weston took a number of photos of his wife Charis. This very famous photo has some interesting history because her pubic hair. After the photo below was released, Edward and sons Cole and Brett were nervous about sending prints due to laws concerning obscenity sent through the mail. They took out a magnifying glass and had to see if any pubic hair was showing and if so how much due to the laws. If you look closely, she also has hair on her legs. I am glad Weston captured her beauty in this photo.
Nude, 1936
Edward Weston

So, I tip my hat to everyone who controls their bodies and how they choose to celebrate their beauty. If you are happy shaved, hairy (armpits, pubic, head, anywhere), tattooed, pierced, or any other form of free choice, I support you... and I would really like to photograph you to show how uniquely beautiful YOU are, not what the popular culture thinks is beautiful.


Good-fucking-bye 2013

Thistle - 010714

For the past three holiday seasons, I've spent them in my new home in Las Vegas.  A few days after the New Year started, I would have to make my nine hour drive back to the Bay Area.  As I drove south on I15, past the M resort, I would look in my rearview mirror and would say goodbye to Las Vegas with a bit of sadness to leave it.  2013 is something that I would have tried to run over if I didn't fear that it would hang on to the bumper and spill over into 2014.  I have never had a year as bad as it.

Since January 1st, I've read many Facebook friends sharing their relief of seeing 2013 pass.  I just read a friend's blog that expressed it as well.  At the water cooler, many coworkers shared the same feelings about it.

There are two parts of my hatred to 2013.  The first is witnessing my aging father in-law and mom both go to the hospital from nasty falls and their health slip.  Both of these well-spoken, brilliant people are shells of their former selves.  It saddens me how something like a fall can so quickly hasten a spiral down that doesn't seem recoverable.  Both are now in assisted care homes.
Jacqui- 010714

The second is of my own creating and living through.  I got myself into a crisis and had to claw my way out of it.  It was my own stupid arrogance and greed that got me there.  Even worse, I hurt others that I care about and lost a good friendship.  It took a many months of therapy and licking my wounds to start to feel human again.  By the end of December, I realized and owned how I ruined and lost a relationship and permanently tarnished the other ones.  I am finally starting to get back into creating art, but it still feels hollow and tarnished as well.

My hatred for 2013 was for witnessing the quick frailty that takes over people at the end of their days and for which I may live to see in my loved ones and die from myself.  I can't control the aging of loved ones, so it is my uselessness that hurts in that case.  My other pain is both self-inflicted and that which I inflicted on others.  This is what I hate most.  I hate that I caused the hurt.  Once again in my life, I have to deal with the fact that I am not the good guy.  I hurt others and was "that guy".  It sucks being the asshole.  I have to keep reminding myself though that as sorry as I feel for myself, I need to make right by the others and not wallow in the self pity.  Guilt hurts, but complaining about it doesn't feel right either.

I know 2014 is not a promise that the future will be sunshine, roses, and all beautiful days.  It will probably hold the last days for some people close to me, my continued stumbling movement toward healing, and other hardships.  On the other hand, I hope that through the wisdom I am gained that I wont be the cause of pain again.


Fourth time is also a charm.

Candace Nirvana - 010214

Late last month I got the opportunity to create with Candace Nirvana again for the fourth time.  She has moved to the Bay Area and owns/runs the studio, Lighthouse in Berkeley.  On top of setting up many Meetup events with a focus on education and art with nudes, she also is behind the camera creating amazing work much more often.   I am blessed to have her model for me since she is getting very selective of her work in front of the camera.

Candace Nirvana - 010214

I have a number of photos to push through.  You can also see a few more from this shoot at my partnership blog, Shadows Exposed.

Happy New Year everyone.

Candace Nirvana - 010214

PS - Candace is the first nude model that I've worked with four times.  I greatly appreciate her quiet grace and elegance she always shares with me.