Friday, 12 November 2010

The Male Form

We see far more images of the female form in the media and on the web than the male, both clothed and unclothed, but does this mean that the male form cannot be equally as artistic or appealing to the artist / photographer, or to the viewing public ?
Some say that the female is more attractive and therefore as there may be more male photographers in the world so it would follow that there will be more images of the female form, but what about other artists such as painters, drawers, and sculptures etc where the gender spread is more even. I also suspect that in today's enlightened world there are still some reservations with a male form being displayed and in particular one male finding the naked male form attractive especially in the world of photography .. in the purely artistic sense, but is this not rather narrow minded ?. if a male or female artist wishes to study one particular gender form does this assume their gender preference or personal/social status ?
For a female to be a model is considered somewhat natural, possibly healthy to many, however a male model can be thought to be more vein, especially by other blokes, but thankfully the world is changing with more attention to clothes and also cosmetics for blokes being more acceptable and male models are not assumed to be anything less than a red blooded male. Have done a lot of outdoor work with nude females for print sale, and on several occasions women have said "now, if that figure was a bloke I would buy that " - worth taking note !Certainly with regards to artistic full frontal nudity the female body is just about accepted in most cultures, some more than others, whereas the naked male is still somewhat taboo, a wee bit 'naughty', understandably as there is more on display? Working with the male form can be more challenging to keep things discreet, but this should not make the subject anything less of an art form. What it may require is an alternative approach to lighting and posture if we are to explore the subjects masculinity as many art nude images of the female are seeking to portray the form as soft and sensual, or maybe strong feminine, but not very often as masculine. However some images exploring a woman's masculinity can be stunning.
So, is the female form considered more attractive for artists, and what is more acceptable for a nude image for general viewing ?
Maybe the smoother skin of the female and less body hair can create a more pleasing subject, and maybe the curves of the female create a more appealing shape, but a fit male with little or no body hair and good muscle tone can be equally appealing to the artists and the open minded viewer.
Also with life drawing subjects it seems that the female is often preferred and there do seem to be more ladies available, I feel that's partly down to demand rather than men being more reserved. Possibly for younger students the ethics of a naked man may be an issue, but there are many professional males accepted for their form and professionalism.
With female nudity breasts are pretty much accepted in film, tv, and magazines, more so in Europe than the UK during daytime. As for the ladies 'front bottoms' these tend to be kept away from public display until certain times of the evening, that's so that the young are not able to see something they shouldn't ?? but the most we see anyway in normal poses is a tuff of hair or a curved profile, anything more revealing can be considered erotic or pornographic. We don't actually see anything sexual in natural poses, its the fact that she is exposed that seems to be the issue ? Interesting that in countries like France and Italy full frontal female nudity in tv ads is accepted at any time, far fewer artistic camera angles in their shower ads !
A bloke being seen topless is fine (for most) but sight of his tackle can cause a certain amount of discomfort and controversy, to some they may not be the most attractive part of the human body and their appearance can vary with emotion and the the 'climate', its all a matter of taste and acceptance.
Then there is the real taboo subject of the aroused male, often considered to be in the erotic or pornographic corner, but can this still be art ? personally I think its the way the body is portrayed and the message behind the image that makes it artistic or erotic, and that can apply equally to dressed figures

My own work with the male form has been rather scarce, partly due to there being far more lasses around to point a camera at, and also maybe due to images of the female form being more accepted. Most images have been taken during sessions where we were with other folk or play sessions, a few when doing portraits or guys wanting to 'give it a go' . But I may just change that and actually try a few serious sessions, maybe with another female photographer to explore how we see the subject as alternative genders (anyone out here, let me know). I recently had the honor of working with a couple of lady photographers working with female art nudes and found the experience very interesting as their eye was somewhat different to mine. We also did a couple of sessions with myself as the subject which was great to see them working in their own styles from the other side of the lens. Have done life class sittings and a few 'model's revenges' but it was an interesting departure in doing a serious photo session, I believe we should all try stepping out of our pigeon holes and see life from other angles.... it helps us move forward. Bloody photographers, why do they take so long fiddling with their toys !!.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

When is a Portrait not a Portrait...???

... when its a figure study ??

I am always intrigued at the definition of a portrait, an age old question maybe, but still unanswered. To many the definition of a Portrait is an image of a person, simple eh, but when we look at art nudes and in particular a figure study the question becomes more of a mystery.
So, following this logic an image of a torso surely cannot be a portrait as the subject is anonymous, its basically a body part.

Ok, lets include the head but use lighting or a viewpoint that conceals the identity of the person, still anonymous so still a figure study. Easy. But is it ? At which point does the subject become a recogisable person, an individual with a sole and not just an object for art or a subject for artistic appreciation ?

There is another school of thought that preaches that for an image of a person to be a portrait then the subject must be fully recognisable and maybe even with eye contact to the viewer, in which case is this a portrait ...??
... or these ??
If you are still with me you may be asking where this is going, and also who really cares ... good point.
Well, actually I care for one simple reason. Going back to the beginning I shared the view that a portrait is simply an image of a person, and this I agree with, at least when I am creating a 'portrait' for a client or a friend, and it's that word 'person' that is key. To me a portrait needs to show the character of or something about the person, it needs to be personal, it needs to portray their personality or their lifestyle be it real or fantasy. And to achieve this whether or not they are recognisable or fully visible is not important, what is important is does the image tell me anything about the person, their life, or their fantasies ?
This recent shot of model Joceline does not allude to her as a person, well, apart from me happening to know that she has a passion for sitting on old tree roots in the buff and going all windswept but that's for another day !!Now take another model Raphaella, these were shot for my portfolio as a sample of a style of portraiture, whilst to me this does represent her romantic character she is actually modeling so arguably it is an acted rather then real personality, but so what, a portrait can be fantasy.And finally some natural and personal images of Jelly, a student (at the time) who wanted to try something different, no posing, no pretending, just Jelly being Jelly seeking liberation through a nude photo session.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Plinth Figures - the end of a project ?? - maybe

"I know what I need for a portrait session - a plinth" I thought, and this kick started a body of work that has lasted a couple of years, and gained a qualification along the way.
'Plinth Figures' as its become known was my have a go at creating a statue figure for a fine art portrait, nothing new or groundbreaking but I believe that we should all try everything at least once so this was me giving it my own style. So, digging out some suitable timber from the workshop, an hours cutting and bashing then out with the paint produced my own plinth - a posh work for a square painted wooden box.

Early sessions were with various models and life sitters, and despite a few personal portraits the shoots were looking to create either anonymous of non personalised images, figures rather than people, shapes, life drawing poses, human sculptures, anything that would work in isolation to the studio environment. Lighting kept simple to create a believable natural image rather than once crafted with lighting, a style that received some criticism from a couple of respected fellow photographers, but hey, we all have our own styles.This images was one of the few that were actually planned in any detail as much of my work follows the inspiration on the day with the subject. I remember arranging my studio for this shoot with Jocelyn who I had never met before but was excited at the prospect of working with her after seeing her work. Now, my studio is not exactly huge, big enough but lets say it relies on a creative use of the space. I remember when Joc walked in for the first time and seeing how tall she is my reaction was "think we are going to need a bigger studio", but thankfully with her patience we achieved what looked to be the impossible.
The first phase of work was used in early 2009 for a rather unsuccessful submission for an Associate Qualification with the BIPP, it was thought to be a bit off base for this organization and that risk proved to be bigger than expected, a gamble that fell flat on its face but we have to push boundaries whenever possible, playing safe is the thin end of the wedge in killing creativity.
However, after the work was seen by a Fellow from the RPS and with some gentle persuasion it was suggested that the RPS would be see the images as Fine Art. So, this time a reduced panel of 15 with a couple of new images to balance things up and bingo, the award of an Associate Distinction in Visual Art with the Royal Photographic Society followed last October. The theme for the panel was a study of form and space taking the discipline from life drawing studies.
With this renewed interest phase 2 used slightly stronger lighting setups for the finals to be finished as colour rather than monochrome, and new subjects including couples. I did consider developing the project into a fellowship distinction but at this time it is not considered to offer the required diversity for what is accepted as the highest level of photographic qualification.So, what now ?
I feel that I have gone as far as I can with the project in terms of creating images for portfolio, competition, sales or qualification. I did start to use outdoor locations and the plinth did share a recent 2 day trip to the Isle of Arran with photographer Tim Pile and Model Karen with the idea of working on a beach, but we settled for a hillside shoot. Apart from further use for portraits or non figure work the plinth is now a useful prop or tool in the studio, but I am sure if I get inspiration then who knows, never say never !
My thanks to Hannah, Holly, Justin, Joc, Graham, Eenia & Tony, Malcolm & Fiona, Joline, Karen, Chrissie and the last addition to the project young Binks.
Link to a comprehensive set of images -

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

7 days... 5 models ... 2 photographers(+1)

Well, when Tim Pile asked for me to suggest a few models and locations for his trip to Scotland who would have thought how things would end up. I was keen to help out and this enthusiasm turned into something of an epic week. So far we are at the end of day 3

Sun was working locally with Ivory Flame.

Mon and Tues were with Chrissie Red and Rory helping out gadding about Fife and Perthshire finishing with a day on the beach.

Tomorrow we are off to Arran for 2 days with Bonnie Scot, Friday a day in the highlands with Ivory Flame and Madame Bink. And to round the week off (travel permitting) will be a day locally with Joceline.

Plan is to get a few location art nude shots, if we cannot get some great images with this line up of models then our cameras will be on ebay at the weekend !!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Not a bad year behind me...

Guess its like the proverbial bus, nothing for ages then 2 come along at once....
Not long after gaining my Associateship distinction with the RPS (Royal Photographic Society) in Oct I had one more go at a similar qualification with the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography) and this time was successful after a rather failed attempt earlier in the year. I was working towards a submission in the spring of 2010 but an opportunity for an early board in Scotland came up so off I went... and so glad I did.
The panel was from a series of fine art environmental figures using both indoor and outdoor settings, some started out as personal commissions for print sale whilst other were model portfolios. There were a few client shoots but these did not make it into the final panel of 20 images.
The subject was again chosen for me and many thanks to those that offered all the right advice, but the best thing for me was that like the RPS distinction this was using a body of work that was starting to get a bit long in the tooth so again the qualification was a fitting way of drawing this to a close, well, not completely as am sure I will do more of the same style, just now for fun or profit.
Thanks again to all the poor models that got wet, frozen (and both), bored, bitten by insects, or just had to put up with me trying to create my art in rather inhospitable conditions, but it was worth every frame ..... well, it was for me :-)

Link to full panel..

Finally a big Ta to Ivory Flame, Miss Luna, Katie L, KatyT, Genna, Hannah and Eenia.
Also to ChrissieRed and Raphaella whose work was short listed but didn't make the panel for reasons nothing to do with their ability.