At the F Club – a collaborative fetish shoot

It was back in 2009 that I became aware of a new ‘alternative photography’ Meetup Group which was going to be operating in London. I felt that I could contribute, and because it was new, it would not already be shaped by a clique and be fresh and exciting.
Me, a little bemused by the play equipment on offer!
So here we were upstairs in a London pub, a diverse group of about 20 photographers and models and models / photographers trying to work out how we could collaborate together to produce what was a vision for all of us, eclectic alternative art.
Although it was slated as one of the main potential subject matters, it soon became clear that there was little interest in shooting the nude. Perhaps this was because so few of us knew each other and being naked in front of strangers with cameras is just a little too personal.
However what seemed to unite a large proportion of the group was an interest in fetish photography. Now, this is something I knew very little about and I confess that I was initially disappointed at this particular direction. People started chatting about ‘dungeons’ and ‘play equipment’ and I just had little to say. However it was soon clear that this was going to be a wildly interesting subject to shoot if I approached it in my role being an editorial photographer, recording what was going on rather than pretending that in any way I could set the agenda. I will note that in many ways it seemed to me to be as personal as shooting the nude for here were people willing to be shot participating in an alternative lifestyle which tends to be kept confidential.
The F club in South London was chosen as the first venue for a collaborative shoot. I googled it. The website characterised it unequivocally as a swingers club, but what was clear to me was that in this group of people there was going to be no swinging. There would certainly be acting, posing and performing.
We hired the whole place and having agreed in principle what could be done with the images we pitched up and set about being creative. Despite the numbers in the club, the images you see were mainly shot on a one-to-one basis, a few with people who I had never met before being friends of those at the first meeting. It was very dimly lit and I refused to use flash but nevertheless I got a lot of images, some noisy, some blurry, which would feature within a list of what I might call the best images that I have, capturing raw emotion.
Everybody was so gentle and respectful and open to ideas. In my case it was more about making it clear that the individuals could express themselves, which they did. Thereafter I was not afraid to shoot, sometimes in a most intimate way.
Dean
Dean
Angelbrat
Angelbrat
Ivy and friend
Ivy and friend
Dean
Nurse Miko
Nurse Miko
David and Angelbrat

Dean
An anonymous encounter
An anonymous encounter
An anonymous encounter
Ivy
Ivy with Alex
Ivy with Alex

 

Ivy with Alex
Ivy with Alex

Leanne
Leanne
The nearest we got to swinging
Ropes set up by Alex

 

Angelbrat
Angelbrat

 

 

Ivy – blood to the head
Angelbrat
Angelbrat
Angelbrat

Starting (again) – the first nude self portraits

It’s been a while since I blogged anything, but here I am, starting out on WordPress with a relatively clean slate as to how I take things forward. In what is a profoundly logical move, I am going to start by going back to the start; Toronto in 1986.

One day I decided to put the camera on a tripod, undress, crank the self timer and arrange myself within ten seconds such that the first of my many male nude self portraits was captured.

In fact, it might even have been 1985 that this story started. I was not fastidious about recording dates and I have been looking for other clues but so far have found none. Irritatingly, because of my lack of care many years ago in recording detail, I cannot pin down now which of two sets were first. This means that my first ever nude self portrait could be this one:

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Or it could be this one:

Neither image was ever going to garner much favour from yours truly and both in different ways are really a bit rubbish! However, despite its general blurriness the former does get included in my Timelapse gallery, in this case recording a 30 year examination of how my body compares then and now.

The latter image, which I have a certain fondness for despite its somewhat awkward and forced pose, gets shown here purely for authenticity. Of all the images taken then it does best capture the skinny physique which I think today might get categorised as that of a ‘twink’ were it not for the rather pathetic mustache that I had cultivated purely because I thought it made me look older and less effeminate. In fact despite my preference for ‘cool’ fashionable clothing, it merely made be instantly uncool whatever I was wearing.

If the latter photo was my first effort then on that same day I thankfully proceeded away from the bed and took 12 more images at the window. I reproduce half of them here. Back in 1986, I really had no reference points as to how an artistic male nude should look in a photo, and no preview screen to show me what I was creating. I am pleased that I appeared to be trying to make something vaguely artistic.

Although I take almost all my images in colour, much of the time I tend to convert them to black and white. But this was colour film and having thought it through, I used to take the film cassettes to Sooters, a down-market but busy photo processor operating out of several shops in downtown Toronto. I figured that the cheaper and busier the shop was, the less likely they were to go inspecting the images. When I nervously collected the images, there were no silly smiles or snide comments and when I furtively inspected the prints they will have looked something like what you see here.

Nobody else would see these images for at least a year. I am pretty sure that some of these here will in fact not ever have been seen by anyone other than me. They were taken just for me. They were not taken to be seen by you and in no conceivable way could I have imagined that they would be out there one day as part of a written piece about the taking of male nude self portrait photos, a piece able to be seen by everyone on this planet.

The fourth image of the six appears in the nude self on film gallery in my portfolio. There is artistic license in starting the otherwise chronological timeline there with a mirror shot, a mirror nude selfie ahead of millions that probably exist now, but I do know beyond doubt that that photo was NOT the first;  it came from late Autumn 1986.

The private exhibition

I have just completed my annual revision to “all a blur“, my most personal gallery. I have added new images from 2015 as well as adding some and cutting others from previous years. In doing this I think the collection is now stronger and I hope the rationale behind the images is clearer. However, in case of murk, I’m picking out three images to talk about here.

Firstly, I brought together some of my most provocative images from 2015 for this imaginary private exhibition, which may distract attention from the original image of a coy nude in the bathroom.

The 'prints' are image manipulations, the walls actually carry rather more modest images.
The private exhibition (2015)

Secondly, I had the courage to bring into the gallery some more images from the days of film. Flowers feature heavily, as does the penis, which makes a rather more flamboyant showing in the other photos than in this image from 1998.  Taken in my Kentish Town garden, whereas exhibitionists get excited about the possibility of being seen naked in public, I can assure you that I am quite the opposite! I am glad I came up with the title, which confronts certain people from my past, as well as my own insecurities.

In the garden in Kentish Town
In the garden in Kentish Town

Bully, for you (1998)

Thirdly, an up to date combination of two images reflecting how I constantly wrestle with myself on what to present on this website.

20150924-_dsf8404-2-2 Not a lovers’ tiff (2015)

On both of my websites, scottyh.com and here, I write about “my strongly held view that there is nothing offensive about any aspect of the human body, especially when presented in a way that makes an artistic statement or conveys its beauty”. It is because of these conceptual, some might say confusing, images that I recently added the italicised words.

I need to say, for those that do not know me, but maybe primarily for those that do, that in making this particular artistic statement I’m not afraid to construct some images which have very little to do with the way I really am. In this final image, the title is a clue, because although there seems to be a dispute and there is some erotic charge between the two men, they are not lovers. It is merely a provocative way of presenting myself and my internal arguments over content, and right now it appears that he who is not afraid of the erotic is the more confident presence.

Which leads us back to the first image, my private exhibition of my private masculinity, which includes the lovers’ tiff photo but also two other images that you may well never get to see otherwise exhibited, carefully cloned into the frames. The ‘prints’ are image manipulations, the walls actually carry rather more modest images. The cloned figures seem to me a world apart, but are as real a representation of me as the figure with the flowers in the garden.

Some years on from the jitters in that garden, it will surprise some that I still get a little nervous when taking my clothes off in public, say on one of my World Naked Bike Ride appearances.  The Naked Bike Ride is an event that is partly about demonstrating body confidence so it’s vital that those like me who have had issues participate. With the knowledge that I have now, that I am as much a man as those who teased me many years ago, I can participate with confidence, even if the bike wobbles. So bullies, I ride for you!

Choosing a path

This is a blog about an idea which didn’t really work!

I have a new project, Open Access and I shall shortly have to write more about it. I had the idea in my head about 18 months ago when I created this image…

This was intended as part of a project called "Open Access" http://www.allablur.co.uk/#/open-access/, but this was a part which did not quite go as planned as I discovered that hooking a bulb release to my Pentax 645 in such circumstances was fraught with difficulty. Unfortunately the slightest vibration in the cable set off the shutter and with the Pentax 645 being equipped with motorised advance 14 of the available 15 shots on the roll were expended while I walked towards the place where I stand here, me out of shot in all of them! There was one frame left and, tipped off about the sensitivity I figured out how not to waste it. I included the release cable to help tell the story and that one shot captured this slightly stressed expression. The location is the intersection of footpaths just off the South Downs Way footpath near Plumpton.

While this was intended as part of my project, this was a part which did not quite go as planned as I discovered that hooking a bulb release to my Pentax 645 in such circumstances was fraught with difficulty. Unfortunately the slightest vibration in the cable set off the shutter and with the Pentax 645 being equipped with motorised advance 14 of the available 15 shots on the roll were expended while I walked towards the place where I stand here, me out of shot in all of them! There was one frame left and, tipped off about the sensitivity I figured out how not to waste it. I included the release cable to help tell the story and that one shot captured this slightly stressed expression. The location is the intersection of footpaths just off the South Downs Way footpath near Plumpton.

This was part of a shoot which did not quite go as planned as I discovered that hooking a bulb release to my Pentax 645 in such circumstances was fraught with difficulty. Unfortunately the slightest vibration in the cable set off the shutter and, with the Pentax 645 being equipped with motorised advance, 14 of the available 15 shots on the roll were expended while I walked towards the place where I stand here, me out of shot in all of them! There was one frame left and, tipped off about the sensitivity I figured out how not to waste it. I included the release cable to help tell the story and that one shot captured this slightly stressed expression.

The film has languished in the camera since that day and was only developed this week. A quick look at the Open Access link will reveal how my thinking on that project has evolved over that time. There is the naked human, but he is smaller in the image; there is a timer involved, but is is not a cable; of course there is a camera, but it is not necessarily a film camera; and there are areas of light and shade, but they are in colour.

The Access Land location is at the intersection of footpaths just off the South Downs Way near Plumpton, East Sussex.

The return of allablur…

I’ve had a go of trying to post as my real self for  several months now, posting nudes to my flickr account, my mainstream Light Touch website, G+ and Instagram, all with the name scotthortop or similar. But it’s awkward – I still think too hard about who might see what and it definitely cramps my style.

So allablur.co.uk is back. Not that it’s ever gone anywhere, but fitting the content that slips so easily in here into Light Touch alongside all those stock photos and the commercial art simply does not work. I should have known it before I set off in that direction, but live and learn.

The other thing I have learnt is that I do not have to post any of my professional work or more commercial art here. I don’t have to prove my ability in those very different conditions – it’s a world away from my artistic vision and it detracts, so it’s gone.

What I now have is a newly designed site with space for the first time to place words besides images, and what is more all content is also presented on the mobile site is a way which makes the most of the small screen and weakens nothing with everything in the right place.

It’s only been in place a few days but it all seems to work, so I am pretty happy. Click on the logo or go to my home page to see what it looks like.

(Update Nov 2016: this page was originally written when the blog was in a different format, but the sentiments still apply)

2014: Nudes // A personal selection

2014: Nudes // personal selection // digital – film // gentle – provocative – male – female – home – environment – portraits – edgy – vulnerable – classical – collaborations // Sharon – Natasha – Self – Louise  – Steve – Lee-Rex – Violette – Betty // colour – monochrome //

Despite their favoured status, I have omitted to load a number of these images to my portfolio. I am rectifying that alongside this blog and all will hopefully link through by the time you read this…

Sharon Smithers, as part of my Life, at Home project
Sharon Smithers, as part of my Life, at Home project
Fuji Acros 100, Pentax 645 + 45mm f2.8
Fuji Acros 100, Pentax 645 + 45mm f2.8
With Steve Ritter and Natansky - Kodak Tri-X 400, Pentax 645 + 45mm f2.8 developed in Rodinal
With Steve Ritter and Natansky – Kodak Tri-X 400, Pentax 645 + 45mm f2.8 developed in Rodinal
Kodak T-Max 100, monochrome, Pentax MZ-5 with 50mm Pentax-F f1.7 developed in Rodinal
Kodak T-Max 100, monochrome, Pentax MZ-5 with 50mm Pentax-F f1.7 developed in Rodinal

2014-13003

Betty

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Broken (2014)

From Black Cap
From Black Cap

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Violette Rose being drawn by Adrian
Violette Rose being drawn by Adrian

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Louise

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Testing the split screen rangefinder ;)
Testing the split screen rangefinder 😉

Preparations for a scrub (2014)

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To avoid exposure, disconnect…..

The title of the latest image added to the allablur self portrait page, an image captured a couple of days ago….

Testing the split screen rangefinder ;)
Testing the split screen rangefinder 😉

Facebook is omnipresent. You might think that in setting up an Instagram account on your smartphone is a fictitious name with a different email address and nothing to identify you with your mainstream Facebook account you could rely on a degree of privacy for what you put there. But no.

Facebook owns Instagram and that, it has taken to mean, gives it the right to own what you do on your phone too. I never connected the accounts. I never loaded an Instagram image to Facebook. But I added an Instagram app to a phone on which I had a Facebook app.

At some stage a couple of weeks ago Facebook  decided to send out messages to all of my Facebook contacts who had Instagram accounts that they could now follow somebody called scotth_allablur. At least four of my contacts did just that. My Instagram profile linked here, all of which would have been a little bit of a surprise to these or others who may have had their curiosity piqued.

Now I have no real idea whether this blog has new readers or not. If it does then I welcome you, do mention to me that you have visited but don’t be a gossip! I am glad you see the whole context of this nakedness (do peruse the whole site) rather than some individual image bouncing around the ‘net.

Since Facebook will no doubt communicate again with my contacts I have changed the Instagram account into my real name and linked the account to lighttouch.photoshelter.com/ rather than here. There is a photograph of the naked me on the home page there too which, as it has done for more than a year now, links through to images of the totally naked me in the environment. I am happy for those to be seen by anyone – they are just not quite as personal as the images that are here.

It may well be the best thing that ever happened to me if Facebook sent out the link to this website to all my contacts. But that should be an action for me to decide on, not Facebook.

I have disconnected the Facebook accounts from my phone and iPad. That will also have the benefit of avoiding me being forced into using Facebook messenger. I can still use the phone/iPad browser to check on things going on. One day I hope to dump Facebook altogether – I am fairly sure that my life used to be more productive without it.

So hello to my latest social media addition at ello! https://ello.co/allablur Could you be the new dawn that allows us escape from the clutches of censorship and intrusion?

To Black Cap again, and darker than ever

I am constantly drawn back to this place. There is something that I find inspires me and yesterday, although I went with no plan, my mind took the landscape as its prompt and as a result two new images have just been added to the elemental collection of environmental nudes on this site

I returned to the mountain bikers trail that I had discovered on my last visit to Black Cap. There’s always a chance of somebody turning up in this area to disturb the shoot. This makes me a little more nervous, I’ve never yet had to explain myself to anyone but there is always a first time and like my shoots, I have nothing rehearsed.

It pays to look around to see if somebody is following behind you, and that is what I was doing when I spotted this location. I was drawn to the somewhat desolate feel of the ground. It will not show as well in the image but to me there at that time it almost seemed cratered by war.

Untitled (2014)
“To another place”

I set up the camera and as usual strode naked into the scene, sometimes striking poses, sometimes behaving naturally. Just before this point, I did not feel that I had anything particularly interesting so, aware that I had set a slow shutter speed, decided to stand as still as possibly, looking straight at the camera, but moving my arms up and down. The result you see here, a naked man with head slightly raised and arms dissolving into the environment, Reflecting the ethereal feel, I entitled it “To another place” implying perhaps something mystical.

And I did move on. I remembered a nearby location from my previous visit where people had been abusing this environment and its easy access from a nearby road by dumping all sorts of human manufactured debris that really belonged at a recycling centre. I was thinking about finding a way to dump myself amongst this mess but with some glass on the ground I thought better of it. Then in a bowl in the landscape I spotted a small lone and quite dead silver tree which stood out in a glade. I connected that tree to Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane, the notorious scene from the poster where Sebastiane was tied to a stake, naked, and his body peppered with arrows….

Untitled (2014)“Bound, lost, abandoned”

It turned out that the tree was in a small hollow. I would have preferred to have seen my feet in the image but the mess in the landscape in front of me was more important. It also turned out that this dead tree was leaning backwards, hence the recline in the pose, and my weight against it was making it lean more. It would have toppled with me on it had I stayed longer – with my legs crossed to feign being bound at the ankle and my hands held as if tied behind the trunk above my head it certainly was not comfortable. But I had this image out of it. The binding is not rope but elements of the landscape cloned into place.

In titling the image “Bound, lost, abandoned” , I wanted to highlight that this unfortunate soul, now a small element of what was dumped into this landscape, is not lying on the bank but is joined to that silver tree never to escape…

Today…..

I decided that if my 26 year old VW Westfalia camper passed its MOT then I would take a slight detour on the way home and head to my much visited haunt at Ashcombe Bottom in the South Downs. It passed. But I also took a walking diversion on the way never got there. I stumbled upon a really interesting location and captured these images…

20140618-img_0584 Broken (2014) 20140618-img_0622

From Black Cap
From Black Cap

20140618-img_0674 20140618-img_0696 20140618-img_0698 Under Black Cap 20140618-img_0757

Of darkness in the child

I have just finished watching Nymphomaniac: Vol. I, Lars von Trier’s movie which IMDB describes as “A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.” To illustrate the emerging sexuality of Jo, the main character, the writer and director von Trier has her recount two experiences from her pre-teens.

In one, she described the feeling she had when climbing ropes in a gym “with the rope between my legs, the sensation, we called it”. In the other, she described “playing frogs”, sliding clothed on her front over the tiles of a soaking wet bathroom floor with legs splayed.

Given his notoriety, I half expected von Trier to come up with something more sensationalist than this. After all I have grown up to be in many ways the complete opposite of a nymphomaniac but I share very similar childhood experiences with Jo, the ropes in the gym, (I assume we have all been there?) and I played frogs once, but perhaps more daringly, in the pouring rain in my back garden. The things we do when growing up. I just did not expect two of my experiences to be echoed in a Lars von Trier film.

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“On the tiles (1997)”

The image is not me ‘playing frogs’ although it does have erotic undertones, which were not intended when I captured it on grainy underexposed film in Kentish Town in 1997. It’s completely unretouched, part of a series of images I chose to call ‘dirty film’. That title, some would suggest, does have something in common with Nymphomaniac: Vol. I, but that does von Trier a dis-service because his films are rather deeper than that.