In Amsterdam one of our cohort introduced me to the limited edition Polaroid DuoChrome film. I immediately fell in love with its aesthetic so ordered a few packs to try out for studio work.Incorporating this product into my portfolio meant finding a way to utilise it to capture the nude male, as very little of the work I explore does not expose the male in his vulnerability.
As with a great deal of my work I also needed to consider anonymity. The chances of me capturing the face of a full-frontal man are invariably few. Still to this day there is a degree of shame about taking your clothes off even if it is in the name of art….” only prostitutes would have exposed themselves to public scrutiny” (Hammer, 2007, p.41).
(Fig.1 & Fig.2 above) Initially I posed the models but I realised the inherent falsehoods in this approach. The Polaroid has the capacity to represent the truthful nature of photography as, unlike digital, the chances for hoodwinking are limited due to the nature of capture. So instead I sought to portray the naked male as opposed to the nude. As Berger points out naked is natural, whereas nudity places itself on display (Berger, 1972, p.54). Nakedness ‘equalises’…who is the lawyer & who the lowly workman. Where is sexuality here? Spot the straight guy…what’s the difference between these men? Who’s straight, Bi, Bi-Curious or a perfect Kinsey 6 (In the Kinsey report it states that 6 percent of men are exclusively homosexual throughout their lifetime) and why does it matter? Stripped of our clothing and trappings of society we are all just a ‘naked ape’ (Morris, 1967).
There is also a power differential… the intimacy of the space where the model gives themselves completely to the photographer. Their vulnerability & need to place complete trust in me is highlighted in these images. A situation the male is not brought-up to be accustomed to. The reference to the back pages of top-shelf magazines of the 70’s & 80’s where readers would send in Polaroid photos of their wives in suggestive poses is also in mind when I am creating these. Although mine are less pornographic there is still the shift in power from the male being the viewer to him becoming subject (from objectifier to subjectified).
Ordinarily I do not like the ‘decapitation’ method for retaining anonymity in a model, but it could be the most apt way for this project. I considered other forms such as hand-made masks or Halloween masks or even a black cardboard rectangle the subject could hold over their face to reference the use of this masking method in media to protect the identity of the innocent. But all of these interfered with the naturalness of the image…I need the male to speak on his own without distracting obstructions.
So far I am content with the results. They are intimately personal while also being unashamedly vulnerable. For the most part they are relaxed as if taken my a lover as opposed to a photographer; only the one looks particularly awkwardly posed & yet another submissive. I shall continue with these while I have stock & build up a collection from which to edit the best. I have two packs of Yellow & two of Blue to carry on when the Pink run out so there should be a wide range of images as well as tones.
Hammer, M. The Naked Portrait (National Galleries of Scotland, 2007)
Berger, J. Ways Of Seeing, (London: Penguin Books, 1972)
Kinsey, A. Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male, (Indiana University Press, 1948)
Morris, D. The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal, (New York, The McGraw-Hill Companies, 1967)