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Welcome to the Pleasuredrome

Back in the early to mid nineties I used to visit Rios, “London’s Leading Naturist Health Spa”, maybe a couple of times a year. It was ten minutes walk from home and Mrs H. very occasionally would come along too although I think the third time was probably the last for her. The propensity of the male clientele (and 90% were male) to follow her wherever we went was too much and I certainly did not enjoy it.

If it felt a little seedy with the bar with the topless female staff then this was exacerbated by the little signs installed in the sauna cabins instructing men that there would be no tolerance of them playing with themselves. Those signs were not there at first but appeared on later visits. Were they there on my last visit? Then I had one guy come and sit inches from me in an otherwise empty warm pool with space for 20 others without saying anything but nudging my foot and then later another guy strode out of the same pool sporting a rather magnificent erection and not the least bothered about it.

In those days Rios did not describe itself as it does now as being “for liberated people aged 21+ where you can enjoy the company of likeminded adults” but with ‘private rooms’ upstairs it certainly catered for that clientele. I found it off putting that it was not clear why people who may or may not engage with me were there. There were undoubtedly ‘genuine naturists’ which is the basis on which I went but there all sorts of others including were men who were there with women who I think had been paid to accompany them and gay men who were looking for more than naturism.

I had difficulty in enjoying this place where for one group of people it means one thing and another group something else.

So as an experiment I went to Pleasuredome at Waterloo.

A gay sauna.

Why I should take this action to help me learn more about my self is difficult to pin down and maybe will be the subject of another blog, but go I did.

Initially I was surprised that just about all the men wore towels most of the time. But soon I found myself in what was probably a 12 man sauna cabin with benches either side and there one man sitting opposite me and another sitting a foot to my right. We were all naked and we were all masturbating openly.

I can’t remember how it started or finished in terms of who arrived first and left last but I do know that at least while I was there there was no physical contact. It was dark, but not that dark, and the lack of mutual touching may have had a lot to do with, at least on my part, a total aversion to making eye contact, but in this confined space with these two men I was very aroused and I knew the reason for my arousal was watching these two erect cocks being stroked while having two men watch me stroking my own.

What surprised me, and I remember the feeling clearly, was how I felt so relaxed there in that sauna. We were three fit men not hiding anything from each other, not communicating in any way other than through providing visual pleasure to each other, and I did not feel out of place.

I explored further. I enjoyed being observed fully aroused in the shower and I then walked the dark corridors. It was in an alcove in these corridors that I encountered what I can only describe as a pile up of bodies squeezed into this obscured area. I was curious at this first encounter with sauna sex but instinctively I was not wanting to make the physical contact required to find out what was going on.

In the steam room, smaller than the sauna and almost full, I encountered more action. I sat, pleasuring myself and observed.

And so it went on and it was after about two hours that I departed. I had barely made physical contact or had eye to eye interaction with any man in there. And I was probably one of the few not to have used the visit to reach orgasm.

I knew I would return, if not here then to try another gay sauna. That was Chariots in Shoreditch, much roomier with pseudo-Roman decor. I told Mrs H. about this new experience and how it was possible to visit such a place without getting hit on and how it was somehow less seedy than Rios. It even had a decent sized, really pleasant swimming pool.

I went back maybe five times in five years. Each time it became less enjoyable. The strange innocence with which I had thrown myself into Pleasuredrome became wariness of these men around me and self consciousness of my desired nakedness when others wore towels. I never craved the physical contact which others were there for and the (for me) delightfully erotic scenario in that first sauna cabin was never really repeated; I found myself wanting to leave after a short and shorter time.

All that was in the 90s. I have had two gay sauna experiences since in new venues, one not so good, but the last two years ago, when I somehow found confidence to take control on my own terms, was very enjoyable. However despite thinking at the time that I would be returning almost immediately I have not yet done so.

Vulnerability to the male gaze

I have been randomly posting a full range of my images to my twitter account, https://twitter.com/allablur. They do not need to be censored for twitter, and are not. I was very conscious however that on posting this particular self portrait, only taken in 2017, that I took it upon myself to adjust this image rather more than I do most:It was not in my head at the time I posed but in the final result I was conscious that the raised leg revealed a little too much detail. I accordingly shaded between my legs but let me state unequivocally that I still feel a sense of sexual vulnerability here that I do not feel in almost all of my other self portraits. This is curious because in many ways this is more natural than other more obviously erotic images of mine but in those other images I do not feel this same vulnerability. Why is this?

From 2010

This photo was cropped not only to avoid the sensitivity that I feel in the previous image but also for the pure aesthetics of the composition.  In my mind the form of the male genitals can possess a non-sexual beauty whereas to create the same with a photo that includes the anus is far more difficult. I feel comfortable with this image.

From 1995

I’m also comfortable with images like this. It’s unmanipulated, not too revealing but crucially I am not looking at the camera so even though I am presenting myself in what could be considered an inviting way to an aggressive male, that invitation is not extended through my eyes. This is what concerns me most about the first image.

My feelings about that image are I suppose as close I will get to the feelings of the woman who is willing to present herself totally nude. I realise that I have seen it now in many images of models involved in nude art photography – while confidently looking at the camera in many poses, when it comes to the more revealing then looking away from the camera avoids the possibility of that look being interpreted as an invitation to the insatiable appetite of the male gaze. When the look is confident and defiant such images can be empowering to some models and I am sure that even I may carry that strength in some of my images. Just not this one.

The streets in black and white

I really should do more street photography. I wish I had done it in the 70s and 80s because it is only the unposed images from a time that capture the truth about how we are. Or were.

Man in cafe.  Rue Francois Premiere, Paris.

The Bull Ring, Birmingham

Couple kissing, Carnaby Street, London

Island House on Fazeley Street Birmingham

Coffee @ 33, Trafalgar Street, Brighton

Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Business types on the streets of Madrid.

Sexy Undies, Brighton Beach (2)

Sexy Undies, Brighton Beach (1)

The Gherkin building, City of London

Evening Standard newspaper stand outside Bank station London.

The Bullring, Birmingham

Brighton seafront, 2005

Lewes Bonfire Night

The Fugitive Hotel, Northern Quarter, Manchester

Bonfire Night 2012, Lewes,

Roupell Street near Waterloo station, London

Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London

Ramillies Street, Soho, London

Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester

Market Street Tram Station, Manchester

Waterloo Bridge, London

Live music

I used to keep the ticket stubs (I still have many) to record the gigs I’ve attended but now I tend to take a camera and at least once during a set push my way towards the front to form a new log of the live music I’ve enjoyed. My biggest regret was not taking my camera to a Sex Pistols gig when I was one of an audience of about 30 people – I’ve vowed not to make that sort of mistake again…

Here’s some rather more recent music photography:

Haley Bonar, live music at the Green Door Store, Brighton

Flyying Colours from Australia at The Komedia, Brighton for The Great Escape 2015

Billy Bragg at the first Together the People festival in Brighton

Savages play live on stage at the Concorde 2 venue Brighton

Temples on the Radio 6 Music Stage, Latitude Festival 2014

Neil Cowley Trio on the Film & Music Stage, Latitude Festival 2014

American artist Julia Holter performing live at the Concorde 2 venue Brighton

Brett Anderson and Suede at Together the People festival 2016. Brighton

Anna Calvi playing at The Brighton Dome during Brighton Festival 2015

Italian heavy metal band Exilia on stage at the O2 Academy, London

Joe Brown with guest Dave Edmunds at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention music festival 2008

Axes at the Prince Albert, Brighton

The Vulgarities

Curst Sons at Brighton Komedia

Ray Blk live on stage at the Brighton Dome, Great Escape Festival 2017

Rag’n’Bone Man at the Brighton Dome, Great Escape Festival Brighton 2017

Dirty Bombers at Brighton Komedia

Kate Tempest at the Corn Exchange-  The Great Escape 2015

Thurston Moore on the Radio 6 stage at Latitude Festival 2015

Tom Robinson band on the Radio 6 stage at Latitude Festival 2015

Steve Diggle of The Buzzcocks at Vintage at Goodwood Festival 2010

Glen Matlock, Mick Hucknall, Ronnie Wood and Ian McLagan of The Faces perform at Vintage at Goodwood, 2010

The Caezars on stage at Vintage at Goodwood festival 2010

Shingai Shoniwa with The Noisettes: Vintage at Goodwood 2010

Jessie and the Orbits at Vintage at Goodwood festival 2010

Captain Sensible playing with The Damned at Vintage at Goodwood Festival, 2010

“Vintage”

Mrs H. has more than a passing interest in historical costume and because of this I find myself at various events aimed at those who enjoy music from and go further by adopting authentic dress from the last century – retro or vintage, whatever you choose to call it, but usually great style!

For 2011 Wayne Hemingway centred his Vintage festival in the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

Vintage festival in the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

2011 Vintage festival in the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

Vintage festival on London’s South Bank.

2011 Vintage festival in the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

Vintage festival on London’s South Bank.

Vintage style living room complete with David Essex vinyl.

2011 Vintage festival in the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

2011 Vintage festival in the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

For 2011 Wayne Hemingway centred his Vintage festival in the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.

Reserving deck chairs in the picnic meadow, Vintage at Goodwood festival 2010

Vintage at Goodwood 2010

Couple at Vintage at Goodwood festival 2010

The funfair area at Vintage at Goodwood festival 2010

Actress playing actress at Vintage at Goodwood festival 2010

People resting at the fairground – Vintage at Goodwood 2010

Carousel at the Vintage at Goodwood festival 2010

Happy campers – Vintage at Goodwood 2010

Vintage at Goodwood 2010

Vintage at Goodwood 2010

Three actresses dressed as US Army women in uniform at Vintage at Goodwood 2010

Super sexy VW camper at the Vintage Car Boot Sale on London’s South Bank. Tri X Film in a Pentax MX with 50mm f1.4 lens. 

Vintage Car Boot Sale on London’s South Bank. Tri X Film in a Pentax MX with 50mm f1.4 lens. 

Vintage Car Boot Sale on London’s South Bank. Tri X Film in a Pentax MX with 50mm f1.4 lens. 

Partying at 2011  Vintage festival on London’s South Bank.

Daisy Lowe at the Vintage fashion show on London’s South Bank, 2011

Vintage South Bank.

Vintage festival South Bank, 2011

Vintage  South Bank.

Fashion show at Vintage at South Bank

Paul Donald Rae and Ralph Randell at Vintage at Southbank Centre 2011

A model for another

I’ve always wanted to have another photographer shoot me naked – I’ve participated in nude group shoots and many other naked activities but have never been asked by another to be their model. It is also true that I have never pushed myself forward in this respect even when given these opportunities. In the back of my mind I knew that it would have to be somebody who I identified with and who was a talented artist in their own right. When the opportunity came to be shot by fotografm (on flickr) I took it.

In June 2017 he was visiting the UK from Berlin to take in the London and Brighton Baked Bike Rides. I was participating in neither due to two VERY important party invitations but on the Monday, because I happened to be driving towards his next destination I offered him a lift and the opportunity to do some nudes in the Sussex landscape.  We also took the opportunity to take some shots at my house.

The apparent confidence in these images is because underneath it all we already knew enough about each other to know what we would like to shoot and where our boundaries might lie. As two photographers that deal with a wide range of nude self portraiture in our work including the artful erotic it was in fact almost business as usual, but with more flexible camera angles and an added creative mind!

 

The street in colour

I want to have a range of photography featured here, not just the nude which will stay as the focus of my main galleries. So here is the first little diversion into other subjects, some selected street photography – or photos taken in my street photography style – here all in colour rather than my more usual black & white.

Trafalgar Square

Tube travelator

Trafalgar Square

the london paper is no more – Regent Street

Hanging out in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

London Oxford Street Christmas lights 2010

Maastricht, Netherlands

The Joe Strummer Subway

Festival Hall, London

Banksy Kissing Policemen Graffitti – Prince Albert Pub, Brighton

Brighton beach scene

Castor & Pollux, Brighton promenade

Venice – scan of a negative from 1983

Cafe in Montmartre, Paris

Jardin des Tuilieries, Paris

Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Boulogne sur Mer, France

London South Bank

Cliffe Bonfire Society, Bonfire Night 2012, Lewes

Rue des Abbesses, Montmartre, Paris

Soho, London

Body acceptance and naked bike riding

In what I will with temerity describe as my art nude self portrait photography I have complete control over how I allow myself to be photographed. Some images are very much about body acceptance while in others I am able to turn myself into something that can appear quite different. Indeed in the latter case and in isolation many might wonder what possible body issues I could have.

The most significant statement of body acceptance that I make is through my participation in naked bike rides in my home town of Brighton. To be out there as a skinny, non-muscly and under-endowed male is a display of self confidence that I would not have been capable of when I was in my prime.

With all the cameras and this being my home town, there is some nervousness and to compound this it’s usually cool, 14C – 18C, with a breeze coming off the sea which in June is still cold. My variable manhood is always at its most modest in such circumstances and in many ways this is good for a scan of the thousands of images that finish up on the internet suggests that most participants, particularly the many young people taking part in the Brighton ride, have little physical reason to lack confidence in appearing naked.

It would be great if more men like me took part. But while we are under-represented it makes being out there ‘flying the flag’ more important. One object of riding for me is that the people in the crowds on those streets can see that they can more positive about their own bodies. Occasionally there is an unkind comment overheard but only once or twice on any ride – almost everyone is supportive.

Because of the nature of this blog I have dwelt on the most personal reasons for my participation. But importantly, I do the naked bike ride for other reasons too. In fact the only time you are ever likely to see me on a bike in Brighton is in the naked bike ride. I’m a very poor cyclist and would cycle in Brighton if more cycle lanes were in place. Less traffic, less SUVs, more public transport would ultimately mean a better future for the delicate planet on which we live. These are the more substantial reasons for riding and they can unite everyone participating.

At the start of the Brighton World Naked Bike Ride 2016

See – I can load a film camera! Photo by funkdooby on flickr. (2016)

2016 was cold on that seafront! Photo by bbana on flickr.

 

Riding a bike is rarely flattering! Photo by faye kinnit on flickr. (2016)

Striking a pose for fotografm (on flickr) – before the start of my first Brighton WNBR in 2013

 

At the start of the 2015 ride, still not warm enough to be fully naked – for me anyway! Photo by faye kinnit on flickr.

In the North Laine, 2013. The logo should have read….
Drive an SUV? “sigh…” but I had a change of mind at the last moment that reduced the impact.

Photo by funktionhouse on flickr which could be entitled “He’s just washing my back!” for I had been asked to remove the WNBR paint. This was the Hastings WNBR in 2015.

With my police escort in 2013 – photo by bare witness on flickr

Being somebody else (revisited)

Back in 2014 I made my first blog post on the subject of “Being somebody else”.  http://allablur.co.uk/2014512being-somebody-else/

It’s time to pull a few images on this theme together. To paraphrase what the original post said…

These are self portraits so this is me and only me, but at the same time I am none of the people you see in these images. I have total respect for the people who through choice or because of the way they are born find their lifestyles reflected here. This is me giving free range to my creativity, with frankness and hopefully with a little humour – these images do not represent fantasies of what I want to be or do other than in a little act for the camera. They are meant to be provocative, even confrontational.

I am a fan of other artists, often introverts like me, who put themselves out there “being somebody else” seemingly all of the time. Because they are known for it they usually have the confidence not to have to write the preceding paragraph. These are my efforts to be somebody else too.

Hotel room – single occupancy

The audition

In his dreams

A naturist tiff

War and peace

Now back to the routine (from my original post)