Vulnerability to the male gaze

I have been randomly posting a full range of my images to my twitter account, 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.

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 and what I now know to be called ‘secondary sexual characteristics’. At that time being treated differently dues to my lack of ‘masculinity’ was never 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:


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?

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 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! Could you be the new dawn that allows us escape from the clutches of censorship and intrusion?

Hone Office v. Mobile Office

Today I’m doing something which has long been intended but never quite auctioned – the mobile office….

So here I am sitting on jerky bus armed with phone, laptop, mobile broadband thingy – and G11 camera – trying to write an introduction to proceedings. Trouble is that if I do it too long I’ll throw up over the phone…

Home office 1 Mobile office 0

2010 – A year of radical change, when nothing much happened!

Nothing much happened in terms of my actual photography, BUT it’s been a year of physical relocation for my wife and I to Brighton and the year in which the second of my offspring went off to university. The radical change that these changes have brought on has been in my mindset, the freedom to be more open about my edgier work, even if not to do much of it!

In starting this blog, twittering and the facebook malarkey, even resurrecting my deviantArt account, I’ve decided to put myself about in new online communities and to the extent the community is local the physical community here in Brighton. In London my openness about the my ‘alt’ work was shared with a smallish defined community (fundamentally the London Alternative Photography Meetup group), in Brighton it’s now anyone who is active in the wider arts in Brighton or further afield.

Everything I do which is not for a commercial client or commercial stock photography may get featured in this alternative arena. So it’s not just about photographing fetish or the nude, it’s also about street photography, landscapes and the occasional more oddball image I might capture. It’s about photography as an artform to be enjoyed and an hugely important part of art is sharing and acceptance, not for producing easy art but something that can be more challenging, that causes people to think about the whole rather than an individual image.

On the commercial side with all the changes it’s not been a great year. But then I’ve not been pushing. I still don’t think I can mix the alt side in with the commercial ‘Light Touch’ photography because of the nature of that commercial photography – if it were fashion (say) then there would not be an issue but the people who buy my services are generally rather conservative types and I really do think that images of Japanese bondage or naked men would be too much! (Mental note; must update the portfolio for the more fetishy stuff).

So what’s ahead?

I’m not really a fetish photographer. Unless you pull in the self portraiture and call that a fetish! That’s more about easy access to a compliant model:-) But it’s an important element of what I do even if I’ve been making myself a smaller part of it. For the next year what I want to do is get out into the environment with an accomplice (or two, or three, or ten!) to do more environmental nudes, making the body/bodies a small part of the landscapes, because in the end that’s all we are.

I would like to do some of the more personal nude photography of others I practiced about three years ago. With Brighton in mind the tag ‘straight eye for the gay guy’ has occurred to me! Finding the right person(s), either sex, is an issue because I don’t want outright exhibitionists as models (all too easy to recruit!) or indeed established models but people who are pretty confident in their skins and have ideas of where they want to go with self expression. Self portraiture with a half decent photographer to make sure that the photography side works is how I’d describe it. Whether that makes sense to anyone else is another thing!

The landscapes lie ahead – they don’t need people, clothed or otherwise. And the streets; they need people. And maybe an excusion again into what I called ‘people panoramas’. And I have a small stock of 120 film!

2011 lies ahead and I’m excited. And a little nervous. But if I was just excited and not nervous then I know I wouldn’t be pushing myself…