In my last post featuring Robert J. Guttke's blog Exquisite Pain, three beautiful, and completely naked models, were scaling the walls of the old ammunition factory in order to pose, dangerously high in the air on a thin beam jutting out from the structure. Today, the location may be a bit safer, but no less of an adventure. Robert J. Guttke should be shooting the Stade Rugby Calendars. His images, EPIC, and I would kill to see the video with all the behind the scenes work and stories that go along with the final photographs. I will begin the story here, but head on over to EXQUISITE PAIN to finish the journey.
'Dressed in shorts, fisherman waders, camera bag slung over shoulder, and dosed with layers of mosquito repellent we trudged across the mud flats, threading through cattails and thick reeds, around decomposing stumps and headed for the island. Low clouds would break with multiple shafts of Biblical light adding to the humid, atavistic atmosphere. At one point the shorts chaffed the model so much that he ripped them off. Thus the journey became the start of the photo session...'
Photographer Keith Ingram's choice of the word gaze nailed precisely what happened when I came upon his images with Tom. To gaze means to look intently with great curiosity, interest, pleasure or wonder. It goes beyond just glancing, and even beyond staring. It reflects not just the time allotted that one devotes to an image, but as well the connecting emotion.
I was instantly taken with this set from Keith. There is an ethereal quality about Tom, his facial features and fine hair and tight, fit physique. It is almost as if my Legolas fantasy came to life, and like the fictional Legolas, Tom also appears to be a fierce fighter.
San Francisco based freelance photographer Keith Ingram has lived nearly half his life on both coasts of the U.S. Originally from New York, Keith studied film making at New York University, then spent most of his adult life working and pursuing his creative interests in California. He has worked in independent film/video production for nearly 15 years, and has honed his portraiture skills via wedding and corporate in-house promotional photography.
His passion for male physique portraiture stemmed from his early appreciation of the classic beefcake photos of the 1940's and 50's, coupled with the "life-changing" influence of late 80's era Bruce Weber. "O Rio de Janeiro and Bear Pond were ground breaking monographs! High end coffee table books devoted exclusively sexy males were not as common back then as they are today" says Keith; 'When I picked up Bear Pond and flipped through it at my local Barnes and Noble, I knew right then and there that that was what I wanted to do with my camera.'
Never really attracted to the high pressure, highly competitive world of commercial photography, Keith likes to think of himself as a "weekend warrior" photographer, who enjoys a laid back attitude of shooting who he wants and when he wants with no editorial deadline to meet. He has built a considerable 'body' of work, of which he has occasionally exhibited in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. At his very first group show, Keith ended up selling one of his male nude figure studies which was a great source of encouragement to continue!
Keith took a break from photography for a few years, and now says he's back with a vengeance, shooting in a fresh style, and updating his MM portfolio. 'I feel like beginner all over again and I'm working to re-establish my online presence'. Currently MM is the only online showcase for his work, but a new blog or website are in the works as well as working on self-publishing his first book of male physique portraits.
'I connected with Tom, a young martial-artist from northern California a few years back, and at the time, he was just starting out and open to any type of style as long as it presented his athletic form tastefully. I was more then happy to accommodate! - Even though I am the director of the shoot, and I know what type of photos I want to see in my portfolio, I like to treat the model like a client - I always ask " how would you like to you see yourself portrayed?". Establishing a comfort level is very important when your model has only known you for half an hour before he has to start stripping for your camera.'
'Tom had very long, baby-fine hair, and of course our location turned out to be the windiest spot in the city. I kept thinking about Ansel Adams and his "decisive moment". I kept waiting for that 1/125 sec window for the wind to die down long enough to get a good shot - I was still shooting on film back then, so I prayed that these shots were usable! We were laughing about the strong wind all throughout the shoot. I like making my models laugh. It would've been a crime to not capture his great long hair.
Once we got back to my studio, things didn't get much better. I had terrible lighting problems that day, and I had him standing in front of a black backdrop. Once again, his hair was the issue - I couldn't get a good highlight on him, so the shadows really overpowered his beautiful hair! Luckily, his physique more then made up for it. I think my shoot with Tom really captured the essence of why I do what I do. I captured moments from a fun afternoon in the life of a young guy just starting on his creative journey.'
'My portraits are a celebration of the male mystique in all of its wonderful diversity and complexity. My favorite photos are the ones where my camera asks "who are you?" and the subject responds with "you tell me!'
Up until my twenties, when I finally had my own Internet account in the mid nineties, I would have considered my self a bit of virgin when it came to gay culture. I live in a small town in a rural area and with the exception of Playgirl, (which back then was still pretending to be a 'women's magazine')I really had no clue or experience with gay themed images, art, books or movies. My computer, followed by e-bay, Amazon and the world, opened my eyes, and my wallet, to a world beyond the small town I lived in. It is hard for some to understand that until the net, there were many of us who really had no idea how large the community really was.
I am still learning about many of the things I missed. This past June, I was looking for some old ads for my post Under Where The research for that piece resulted in me saving many images and discovering many magazines I had never heard of before. I profiled the first, Butt Magazine, last month.
Some of the ads I saved from that first post had 'Honcho Magazine' typed in small letters at the bottom of the page so I had to find out more! Like Butt, I had never seen, nor heard of Honcho until researching the piece. Honcho served up it's first issue on April 1978 and it's last just about thirty years later on November 2009.
The appearance of many of the models and layouts in Honcho are interesting to me. Many remind me of members of the Village People as many of the posts are almost butch themed by connecting gay men with traditional masculine stereotypes like cops and cowboys. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to push the envelope and push the boundaries, especially during the late 70's and 80's.
It is amazing how far we have grown as I am sure there were many people who would have been appalled 30 years ago at gay men as police officers or fire fighters. The style and look of the magazine seems beautifully dated and although not everything I saw during my research was my taste, but I loved how the magazine seemed to have a 'fuck you' attitude, something I am sure was needed to make it into the magazine stores at the time. Playgirl's covers were usually tame and more of a tease tease, but Honcho's sexual nature was in your face, loud and powerful. Something I am sure was very much needed at the time.
It is interesting to me, and maybe also a little sad, that in Honcho, looking natural is much more closely connected to sexual desire than it is today. Today, models and images seem more generic and targeted to a specific audience. Being organically sexual is now not enough, and more often than not, airbrushed and photo shopped to a point of impotence.