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

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:

n7y16-1

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.

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

Cool couple

n7x03-2ndscan-002
Kentish Town, London, 1995

My partner for over 26 years, my wife for almost 25, Mrs H. stands by me in this image from 1995 with a perfect expression to match mine, indifferent to the absence of clothing from the waste down, looking at the camera with confidence and at ease.

We did not discuss how we were going to pose, perhaps that helped. We just stood there and the self timer whirred and the shutter clicked, capturing the moment with no-fuss frankness.

At the time I worked in the City of London. My expanding portfolio of nude photography was still private although the internet was soon going to provide an anonymous way of sharing the art with others. In contrast to my own passion for photography of the nude, Shirley was then, and still is, ambivalent to nudity and the idea of being a model. It was something she was content to go along with but was not going out of her way to do. I eventually got the message!

I respect her for trusting me in the first place and for allowing me to share what we created together in the same way she respects my enthusiasm to work with those who are enthusiastic about collaborating with me.

I affectionately called this photo ‘cool couple’. And cool with each other.

Don’t scratch that!

I have been using film a lot recently for street photography, have posted some results but have lots more images to come. Yesterday I had three shots left on a roll (you will have to wait a few hours to see Croydon!) and for the first time in perhaps 12 years decided to use them on myself. With just three shots, no review, no concept (other than to quickly use up the roll) and zero preparation, the result was never going to be high art.

Now my memory goes back 27 years because that impromptu way of finishing a roll was perhaps how the first nude self portraits were captured. Then I did not develop the film myself. This time I did, but rather stupidly used a squeegee on the film. The softness is due to my use of a scratch removal filter. Lesson learned.

The title is a mixed reference – the thought went through my mind of not showing the image because of the alleged lack of ‘high art’. But (at a risk of boring those who have read this before), the art is in the long term project! It’s nice to return to film.

Nude self portrait captured on Ilford FP4 film.

Captured on Ilford FP4 film. Pentax ME with 50mm f1.4 lens.

The Sapling

A cleared area in a Forest in Limousin, France, replanted in 2013 with tiny saplings midst the previous destruction. This follows a theme you may come across in other images of mine, the nakedness and vulnerability emphasise how hopeless those of us that seek to protect our environment can feel. I feel that the relative fragility of the model (it is myself) for once works to add strength to the image.
Naked self portrait in forest clearing with fragile sapling