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Forever young

At 19 years old, or thereabouts…

I have never been keen on getting old, but once I was desperate to age. When I was 11 years old I cared not a jot about my appearance but when I was 16 and still looked 13 I started to worry a lot about how I was different to my rugby playing contemporaries. At 19 I still had not shaved. My anxieties about this  were then greater than my better documented and (now I know) unnecessary anxieties about my penis size – but my penis was not on display and its appearance to others in the world could be controlled.

Although there was nothing camp about me, and carrying around a silent but amazingly strong crush on several of the girls around me at school and university, that I’m sure they will have noticed, there were boys who decided that I must be gay. I guess around 1970 the gay stereotype was very far removed from the macho gay image we often see today. Then it was straightforward: macho = manly = heterosexual. Different = homosexual.

When I was about 15 years old I remember a conversation with a group of my male classmates when one of them chuckled and as part of a big joke described me as asexual. Maybe I actually would have preferred to have been called a ‘poofta’, because at least that would have conferred me with some sort of sexuality.  The comment wasn’t presented vindictively and would not have been so cutting if it had not come from an individual who, other than having sideburns of sorts, certainly qualified as being pudgy and camp. I am sure now that he himself might have felt some pressures himself because of his own differences.

As was the fashion at the time he was one of the many boys of my age who were growing sideburns. Beards and moustaches were not permitted at school so this was a way of teenagers demonstrating their masculinity. Occasionally my face in front of my ears used to be stroked by other boys, looking for a sign of change that was not emerging.

Even if friends realised that I was attracted to girls, many of them had a clear idea that the attractiveness could not possibly be reciprocated. Sadly this rubbed off on me and my perspective of myself. A boy who was a close friend gave me a card with a condom in it for my 18th birthday. “Have a luxury wank” he said, deciding that it was never going to be used it for its intended purpose.

He was absolutely correct, but I should be thankful to him for, following his instructions and much to my surprise, it actually fitted snuggly. This was the first real evidence I received that my erect penis was actually of a perfectly average size. It was however evidence that I did not accept, imaging that there must be another 6 inches of latex somehow wound up in that remaining tight band at the base of my penis, but it was a crumb of comfort.

Elsewhere I shall probably write about how if only I had better information I might not have carried on into life with a complex about the size of my penis. Anyway, at that time it was more about my lack of ‘masculinity’; this was never then considered by me to be bullying and despite its impact I continued to be naturally sociable, sporty and generally happy with my lot. But I now recognise it was bullying because although I was resilient at the time there has been a long term low level hurt.

 

An appreciation of the lurker

As somebody who can be a little geeky, who appreciates the power of statistics, I’ve been looking at my Twitter analytics for my @allablur account:

It seems that my nakedness engages you! I say that in a jocular way, even if I have not added a smiley. But despite what I see in these results, believe it or not every time I post a nude self portrait, elements of self doubt kicks in.

  • Do people really want to see more of this naked 30 – 60 year old man?
  • When does the expression of vulnerabilty become exhibitionism?
  • When does the need for self-assurance become narcissism?

Now I am fully aware that some of my followers might actively seek out exhibitionism and narcissism but I know most certainly don’t and at the root of things that is not why these images are made or posted.

Despite the engagement with what I put online, relatively few comment. Yes, I’m very aware that I am neither young and female or a kitten.  I am also aware that in an entirely public space with subject matter that is not exactly appealing to populism there are many that might not want to raise one’s head above the parapet. And that’s fine, I often find myself being a lurker, not wanting to be too forward. That’s where these statistics here and on other sites come in to help make this exposition of my art worthwhile.

You can’t click through above, but the two images in the chart above are:

and

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

The shredding of the vanities (1988, modified 2010, 2016)

The three photos that make up this artwork were taken by me of me on film in 1988, my first images with the more controversial subject matter of the erect penis. In 2010 I printed them, immediately shredding the prints as a symbol of rejection. I then photographed the result on a red background and published it on flickr with a somewhat vulgar title “Shredding the stiffies (1988 reprocessed 2010)” together with a five paragraph account of what was behind the image. It’s still there and public but you’ll need to be a member to see it; it was in colour and only shredded once so a broad mind and a sympathetic character helps too.

Today in 2016 I decided that that image was not sufficiently defaced to make the point I wanted to make, so I shredded the image again, this time in a different direction. Again I photographed the result and converted to monochrome and that is what you see here.

Three photos of an erect penis put through a shredder.

Those three photos were my first images attempting to deal with the problematical subject matter of the erect penis and render it in some way artfully. An alternative take is that it was my first attempt to address my insecurities head on.

When I photographed the original images, I know my intention and the way the light was used absolutely meant that I was trying to do something artistic. The shreddings years later are symbolic of the fact that that those original images did not really work as art, but nevertheless there was art in there somewhere. As in 2010 there is a desire to publish the images because they were so important in my personal development.

If my photostream were one of the new crop of art movies for general audiences that feature real sex then these images would be the ones that the director included because they were of vital relevance to the plot, but which tabloid film critics would tear to shreds. At the time they were taken these images were helpful in making me realise that perhaps the playing field was not as stacked against me as much as I had imagined.

While it’s always difficult subject matter, I can now look at a penis as just another thing which can be photographed beautifully in its own right. Equally it can be an important part of an emotional portrait of an individual. The dividing line from crude porn is however seldom straightforward and some will never see it.

Those words about the original image “trying to do something artistic” are important and as I state on my home page, I believe “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“.

Because the originals were an important development in my photography, I still regard them as art. Creating them was an erotic experience with artistic intent. The end result that you see here is I think a development of that original flawed art and I believe carries a rather more profound artistic statement.

But maybe, perhaps, it was the performance of shredding the photos that was the real art?

The naked self – thirty years of aging

Two male nude self portraits taken 30 years apart
Nude on bed – Toronto 1986 / Brighton 2016

Two self portraits of the naked me taken thirty years apart, the second photo taken yesterday, 8 November 2016. Just as in 1986, the new image was taken just for me; why the first was taken was probably for different reasons to the second but still I cannot easily explain why either might be here.

It might be easier to address how this juxtaposition makes me feel. Unfortunately it tends to validate my feelings 30 years ago that my body was quite different then, because the image on the right seems somehow more normal.  However, I know now what I didn’t then, that I should have embraced the difference in my body, that there are people out there who are attracted to boyish skinny men, that not all of them are gay, and that being in possession of such a body did not make me gay, but it certainly made me confused!

At 144 pounds or thereabouts, both bodies are the same weight, a weight I have been, plus or minus 3 lbs, all my adult life. On the left the weight is muscle weight, not a lot of muscle but very little fat. On the right is a body with rather more fat, still skinny by most standards but probably less actual muscle than that on the left. The broader body behind the arms and all around the waist is where most of that fat lies.

The one on the left might well have been the first nude self portrait photo I took, I can’t be sure. It’s awkward and I don’t like it as an image on its own but perhaps doing this gives it new meaning as an artistic statement. It’s interesting how it clarifies that it’s the shoulders up that bears the brunt of the aging experience, in my case anyway. I even suspect that many, if they knew nothing about these two images and cut off the faces, might express a preference for the body on the right.

The bed sheet is the same; the watch is the same, but no longer works; I’m glad I got rid of that mustache but would certainly like to have more hair on my head.

 

 

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

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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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