The Eve of All Hallows

Studio Nude, 2008

Tomorrow is Halloween – the time when our world becomes inhabited not only by people wearing masks, but also by witches, ghouls, skulls, werewolves and disembodied heads.
Here is a blog post to acknowledge these spirits of the day…..and the dark night.

Studio Nude, 2006

 

Studio Nude, 2010

 

Studio Nude, 2007

 

Studio Nude, 2005

 

Studio Nude, 2004

 

Studio Nude, 2010

 

Nude, Ohio, 2005

 

 

 

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Ashgabat: A Walk in the Park

Cotton Candy, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2019

The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan – bordered by Iran to the south, Afghanistan to the east, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to the north and the Caspian Sea to the west – is not a country that many people have visited.  In fact, gaining access is not the easiest thing to do.  Many countries require visitors to obtain a visa for entry, but Turkmenistan also requires one to first apply for what I call a “pre-visa,” which I think is technically called an invitation to apply for a visa.

Family, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2019

Then there’s the fact that being granted a visa is not guaranteed.  The Lonely Planet guidebook to Central Asia indicated that its authors had to get their information about Turkmenistan from other sources because they themselves were not able to gain access.  On my own tour there, our guide (from another country) said that he had to stay on to act as guide for the company’s next tour group because that group’s guide was not able to get a visa, for some reason.  When entering the country, not only does your luggage need to be x-rayed (as some other countries require), but you have to open your bags so the security personnel can look through your belongings, too.

I Love Rock N’ Roll, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2019

Then there are the odd things you discover once you do get in.  For example, Turkmenistan was formerly part of the Soviet Union, and since it gained its independence, it’s been ruled by its presidents as a cult of personality, and the people in my tour group whose hotel room windows faced the street were told that they had to keep the curtains closed between 6-8 am and between 6-8 pm as those are the times when the president rides by.  (I’m not sure if this was to avoid anybody seeing his car or to maintain a look of uniformity in the hotel.)

Two Women, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2019

The capital city, Ashgabat, is also an unusual place, as the new section has more buildings constructed of white Italian marble than any other city in the world, as well as some other interestingly shaped, very modern looking buildings.  (The country has a deep reserve of oil and gas to pay for it all, apparently.)  Our local guide also told us that the nickname for Ashgabat is “Ash Vegas” because of all the neon lights that one can see there at night (though the comparison with Las Vegas ends there).

Three Friends, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2019

Still, when you come down to it, people are people regardless of how the country is run.  One day, during my trip there last year, we were given some time to spend in a park in Ashgabat to see how the local people live.  As in some other countries, women all wear traditional outfits while men do not, nor do girls, who dress like they would anywhere else.  As I like taking photos of people, that’s what I did, so here are some of them.

Dart Thrower, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2019

 

Throwing Darts, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2019

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Another Trip to Utah

Nude, Utah, 2020 – with Sienna Hayes
I had written previously that I had traveled to Nevada and Utah in the second half of the month of August.  The Nevada trip was to visit family, while the purpose of going to Utah was to take part in another art nude photography event organized the people of UTadventure.
Nude, Utah, 2020 – with Meghan Claire
After self-quarantining for two weeks after I returned home, I have finally gotten all of my film developed.  It looks like I made some good images there and I have begun scanning them, so hopefully in the upcoming weeks and months I’ll be able to post them here on the blog.  For now, here are three, each featuring one of the three models at the event – Sienna Hayes, Meghan Claire and Femina.
As always, stay tuned.
Nude, Utah, 2020 – with Femina

 

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La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia

Outdoor Cafe, Venice, Italy, 2017

In my last blog entry, I posted some photos of a model wearing a mask that I had purchased during my last trip to Venice, Italy, in 2017.  I wrote that I still had a lot of photos of Venice to scan from that trip, and scanning some of those photos is what I have been doing this past week.
Here, then, are some of them, taken from my wanderings around the place once known as “La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia” – the Most Serene Republic of Venice.
All of the photos are from the same roll of 120 film.

Gull, Venice, Italy, 2017

 

Gondolas, Venice, Italy, 2017

 

Shoppers, Venice, Italy, 2017

 

Gondola Ride, Venice, Italy, 2017

 

Canal Doorway, Venice, Italy, 2017

 

Boaters, Venice, Italy, 2017

 

Around the Corner, Venice, Italy, 2017

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Eyes Wide Open, or: Stanley, Sergio and The Flame

Studio Nude, 2020

As has been the case for many people this year, most of my travel plans have been either cancelled or postponed – and I had planned a lot of photographic trips for my 25th year of photographing art nudes.   The only trip that I was able to make was the one to Hawaii at the beginning of March, just as the pandemic was beginning to come to the U.S. (or so we thought at the time).
However, I came back home almost a week ago from photographing models at a group photo event in Utah, which I combined with another trip to visit family in Nevada.  As I am now in the midst of a 14 day quarantine required by New York State for people returning from those states, it will be a while until I can go out and bring my film in to be developed.  (Hopefully I’ll be able to do so before this month is over.)

For this blog post, I’m going back a month before the Hawaii trip, when I photographed the lovely model Ivory Flame in my home studio set-up.  As I’ve probably noted before, my little studio doesn’t allow for much variation and it’s hard to escape the feeling that I’ve done it all before, so I need to try to add some things to the mix to avoid making yet another photo of a model standing in front of a backdrop.
One of the types of props that I use are masks, and in this case, I decided to use the most magnificent mask in my collection, which was made by the master Venetian mask maker, Sergio Boldrin.  You may not be familiar with his name, but you may be familiar with his work, as he created most of the masks used in the erotic masked ball segment of Stanley Kubrick’s film, Eyes Wide Shut.
When I traveled to Venice as part of a tour of Italy in 2017, I had no intention of visiting Sergio’s small shop near the Rialto Bridge.  In fact, I didn’t even know about it – but when our tour guide indicated that the owner of the shop made the masks for that film, as a big Kubrick fan, I just had to go in.

There were a lot of beautiful items for sale, but the one seen here was one that I just had to get.  It was expensive, but I justified the expense (as if I really needed to) by telling myself that I would use it as a prop for my photography.  The mask is actually a replica of the mask worn by one of the main characters in the scene – the woman who “saves” Tom Cruise’s character – and as she was nude in the film, using the mask for an art nude photograph seems entirely appropriate.
As for Venice itself, I still have lots of photographs of the city itself to scan, so hopefully I’ll find the time to get to that.  As it’s one of my favorite places in the world, I do hope to return before too long – especially during the famous Carnevale, when many people walk through the city all dressed up and wearing masks.  I’m sure that a visit back to Sergio’s atelier will be in order, as well.
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25 Years of Art Nude Photography

Untitled Nude, 1995

Twenty five years is a long time to do anything, I suppose.   Sometimes people do things with the intention of doing it long term, while other times – well, it just seems to happen, one year after another.
It was 25 years ago today that I made my first art nude photographs at a workshop in Woodstock, New York.  I had no idea that I would be continuing to photograph the subject this many years later.  Having just finished four years of working full time and going to school at night – taking two classes per semester for three semesters a year – I wanted to do something important now that I had free time again.  It turned out to be photography.
Attending some workshops seemed like a good way to try to get started again, and when I saw that the Center for Photography at Woodstock offered weekend workshops in the summer, I decided to give it a try.  One of those was on photographing the nude figure, which I had not done before, so I drove up to Woodstock without any intention of doing it further after that weekend.  However, someone I met there invited me to join him and some other photographers in photographing some models the following weekend, which I accepted, and things just kept rolling from there.
Five years ago, on my 20th anniversary, I was able to get nine models to gather together with me in Woodstock, New York, to do a celebratory photography session at the very place where it all began 20 years earlier.  I had hoped to have another multi-model celebration this year, too, but with the situation being what it is now in the world and in the nation, I’ve decided to place safety before celebration and have not planned anything.  (Being a major anniversary year, I had also planned to photograph a lot, too, but of the four trips I had planned to undertake, only one actually happened.)
Ten years ago, on my 15th anniversary, I began to post photos from each calendar year that I have photographed art nudes (though I somehow forgot to do it last year!).  Over the years, I have tried not to repeat the photos, but as this is a major anniversary, I thought that I would post a series of my personal favorites.  (Of course, all of these photos – from 1995 right up to 2020 – were all made with black & white film.)
Hopefully, I’ll be able to try to put together a major photography session for my 30th anniversary five years from today.
Before I finish, I just want to give a big thank you to all of the models who I have worked with and all of the photographers who I have collaborated with over these past 25 years.  I could not have gotten this far without you.

Untitled Nude, 1996

 

New Mexico Nude, 1997

 

New Mexico Nude, 1998

 

Untitled Nude, 1999

 

Nude, Provence, 2000

 

Nude, Colorado, 2001

 

Untitled Nude, 2002

 

Nude, Nevada, 2003

 

Nude, Scotland, 2004

 

Studio Nude, 2005

 

Nude, Nevada, 2006

 

Nude, Ohio, 2007

 

Nude, California, 2008

 

Nude, Oregon, 2009

 

Nude, Nevada, 2010

 

Studio Nude, 2011

 

Nude, Nova Scotia, 2012

 

Nude, Iceland, 2013

 

Nude, Iceland, 2014

 

Untitled Nude, 2015

 

Untitled Nude, 2016

 

Nude, England, 2017

 

Nude, Utah, 2018

 

Nude, Mexico, 2019

 

Nude, Hawaii, 2020

 

 

 

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Genbaku: 75 Years After

Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima, Japan, 2005

Today is the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan – a day that truly changed the world like no other.  I therefore think that it’s appropriate for me re-post the blog entry that I made about the event in August 2008:
On August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan – ushering the world into the age of nuclear combat.

The View from My Room, Hiroshima, Japan, 2005

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and – a few days later – Nagasaki, most likely saved a lot of lives, both Allied and Japanese.  The alternative was a full scale land invasion of Japan, and the Japanese would not have given up easily at all.  Even after the two atomic bombs, a faction of the Japanese military dedicated to fighting to the end tried to find and destroy the surrender papers before Emperor Hirohito could sign them the following day.  (They failed, of course, but killed the captain of the palace guard in the process.)
Nonetheless, thousand of people were killed by the blast – about 80,000 directly and perhaps more than 100,000 in total by the end of the year from the effects of radiation and injury, according to one study.  Most of them, naturally, were civilians.

Before and After, Hiroshima, Japan, 2005

In May 2005, during my second visit to Japan, I visited Hiroshima for a few days.  Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I wrote to friends and acquaintances giving my thoughts about the visit to this city forever linked to world history.
“Hiroshima is, naturally, a city of some contrasts.  I arrived a bit after noon today, following a nearly five hour rail journey from Tokyo.  It`s a modern city like any other in Japan – but of course one with a past.  I saw that past immediately when I looked out of the window of my 12th floor hotel room.  There below me was the river.  Across it was the island containing Peace Park and the Peace Museum, and to the right on my side of the river was the Genbaku Domo – known in English as the A-Bomb Dome – which (as you can see in the photo above) was the local Industrial Promotion Hall that was near the epicenter of the blast and has become a symbol of the city.

School Group Photo Op, Hiroshima, Japan, 2005

One thing that`s hard not to notice is the presence of school children here – there must be more school kids here per square meter than any other place in Japan excluding schools themselves.  The kids are really cute.  As I was walking through the park, some of them approached me for a class assignment, so I answered some questions, followed by a whole series of photos being taken with different cameras.  After going to the stadium to buy my ticket for the (baseball) game, I walked back to the park to go to the museum.  A bit of reality came to the fore – in front of the Cenotaph memorial to those who perished here 60 years ago, about two dozen very elderly Japanese people, all in wheelchairs, were wheeled in turn to the monument to make an offering and say prayers.  I have to think that these were survivors from that day and it gave me pause to think.
Indeed, I had thought earlier of my visits to Berlin before and after the wall had come down – how standing at Checkpoint Charlie today one cannot really imagine what it was like back in the days of the divided city.  For Hiroshima that lack of true understanding must be even greater.

The Cenotaph, Hiroshima, Japan, 2005

The Peace Museum is of course something of a misnomer as it`s mostly about the effects of atomic war.  At first I was a bit disappointed.  The museum tells of the history of the city, the atomic bomb explosion and the current nuclear proliferation in the world.  It was mostly cold numbers.  What grabbed me was the final part of the museum walk-through, with stories of individual people – many of them junior high school age children – who perished in the blast and afterwards.  We see tattered clothing that they wore, items that they used – the only thing that is left of them.

Peace Museum photo: HIroshima after the Blast

All stories are heart rending – I constantly was reaching for my handkerchief to wipe my nose – but some stand out, like the mother who always blamed herself later for killing her teenage daughter by making her go into the city when she didn`t feel well and wanted to stay home, or the story of the woman who went searching for her missing husband, finally climbing through the rubble of his office building to find a skeleton sitting at his desk.  Then there`s Sadako, the girl who died of leukemia ten years later, having folded paper cranes believing that if one folded 1000 cranes, one`s wishes would come true.”

Paper cranes made by Sadako, Peace Museum, Hiroshima, Japan, 2005

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Another Year in PHOTO France

Nude, Mexico, 2019

One of the mainstays of the photographic calendar for me is the annual competition by the French magazine PHOTO.  This is a competition of note as it draws submissions from over a thousand photographers around the world, there is no fee to enter, the selected photos get published in an internationally distributed magazine and it’s not afraid to include nude photographs.  (As a matter of fact, there is a section dedicated to nudes.)
However, things have been different this year, even before the pandemic hit the world.  The issue in which the contest results are normally published is the January/February issue, but that didn’t happen this year.  For several months after the October/November issue, nothing was heard from the magazine.  Finally, though, there was an announcement last month that the magazine is under new ownership and that the results of the Concours Amateurs (amateur contest) would be published early in July.

The one thing that’s frustrating about the whole process is that if someone’s photo is included, the magazine does not notify the photographer – so the only way to know if one’s work has been published is for that person to actually see a copy of the magazine (or to have someone else look).  That may be fairly easy if you live in France, but here in the U.S., it’s a bit different.  Typically, it takes two or three months for this issue to reach the U.S. after it’s been released in France, and with all that’s going on this year, I wonder if it will get here at all.
However, I was fortunate in that a friend in France happened to see a copy of the new issue and he was kind enough to send me a photo of my photo in the magazine – so now I know that one of my photos did indeed make it in again this year.  (Thanks again, Raphael.)
Regarding the photo itself, it was made in March of last year when I went on a trip to Yucatan, Mexico, with UTadventure Tours.  The models are (left to right) Kate Snig, Dasha U and Sienna Hayes.  The location is an old, partially ruined hacienda that we arrived at following a long drive on a rough and bumpy road, so it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

However, this photograph was the end result of a series of steps and some planning.  This building had three balconies such as the one in this photo, so initially each of the three models was occupying and posing on one of the balconies.  For these photos I was off to the side, as the other photographers in the group were probably closer to the center and I wanted to have a different angle.  Then all of the models got together on the central balcony, and I continued to photograph from off to the side.

Finally, after the photographers in the middle seemed to have finished getting their photos, I decided that it was my turn to take the center position, so I picked up my tripod with the camera on it and moved over.  When I got to this spot, I saw something distracting in the background that I didn’t like – I believe that it was light coming in from a part of the back wall that was missing – so I again picked up my tripod and moved closer.  By changing my angle, the bright light coming in diminished, until finally the background was totally dark.  The other effect of moving closer was to be photographing more upward than before, which was not really what I was seeking to do, but it also got me closer to Kate, Dasha and Sienna so that less cropping of the final image was required.
As the magazine chose to publish this image, I guess what I did worked.
Getting back to the magazine, this is the tenth time since 1999 that one of my photos has been published in the Concours Amateurs issue.  One of my earliest goals since I began photographing art nudes in 1995 was to get one of my photos published in this magazine, and as I stood there at the newsstand on the concourse level of the now destroyed World Trade Center here in New York City, holding that copy of the 1999 magazine in my hands so many years ago, staring almost in disbelief at my photo on that page, I could not have imagined that years later I would have as many as ten published.
Back when I began submitting photos, things were a lot more difficult than they are now, as I had to send a dozen 8 x 10 inch photographs that I printed myself in my darkroom across the Atlantic Ocean to France, never to see the prints again.  It’s much easier now, as all submissions are done online, but it’s still great to see one of my photos published in a real print magazine – and in this case, out of the 12,334 images that were submitted.
Here are the other nine photographs that have been printed in PHOTO over the years.

1999

 

2000

 

2003

 

2004

 

2007

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2019

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Three by Three

Nude, Utah, 2019

It’s always a difficult choice for me to decide which of my photographs to scan from the original film.  I just have too many to work on for the time I have in which to do it.  Most recently, I’ve been working on the photos that I made on my trip to Egypt in 2018, as I’d like to use them with my Egypt photos from 2107 to put together a book of photographs of that country.
Before that, I was scanning photos from my trip to Istanbul last year.  Yesterday, I noticed that from my 15 day trip to Japan in 2005 – other than one roll from which I scanned all ten negatives – I had scanned only six photos from the entire trip (and I know that I had gotten a lot of good ones), so I’ve got to get to work on that, too.

However, I find that I seem to scan a greater percentage of my art nude photos than my travel photos.  Perhaps it’s because I feel a greater human connection having people that I know and worked with as the subjects and I want to show them the results of our collaborations – but whatever the reasons, there it is.

I had scanned a number of photos from my trip to Utah last August with UTadventures shortly after I got my film developed, but I knew that were more that needed to be done, so before I began working on my Istanbul photos, I scanned some more from the first day of our trip.  Here are three of them featuring our three models – Anoush Anou, Muirina Fae and Viribus Femina.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.  Let’s hang in there and get through this together.
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Rudy

Rudy, New York, 1999

It’s now been about three months that much of us have been in lockdown, and as it is with many things, there is the good and there is the bad.  For me, the good is working from home, as I can stay in bed more than an hour later in the morning, I don’t have to deal with commuting on the subway and when I finish work, I am already home.
The bad?  Well, I miss many of the things that New York City has to offer, like museums, galleries, concerts, the opera, restaurants and so on.   “Don’t you know it’s always so, but you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” Joni Mitchell wrote, and I guess that’s the case here. At least it should give me an incentive to go out and do more things when it’s possible to do them again.
Another thing that I miss, of course, is photography.  I was able to get to Hawaii in early March, but my subsequent photo trips planned to Morocco, Iceland and Great Britain were either cancelled or postponed.
Still, perhaps I will be able to combine exploring New York City again with photography.  I usually tell people that almost all of my photography is done when I’m away from home on vacation.  For my art nude photography, there just aren’t any really good locations with privacy here in the New York City area, and for my travel photography – well, I need to be travelling.
On the other hand, New York City is one of the most interesting places in the world to photograph, and many exceptional photographs have been made here, so why haven’t I tried to photograph my home town more frequently?  I suppose much of it has to do with time and attitude.  When I’m on vacation, I can devote all of my time to photography, which gets me into a photographic frame of mind.  Here at home, I spend most of my daytime hours working, and when I’m not, I’m busy taking care of other things, so that attitude just isn’t there.
However, even before the lockdown began, I was thinking of starting a New York City photo project – perhaps just with my Holga, so I could feel a greater sense of freedom compared to carrying around a heavy camera and bag.  (I did this in London and it felt great.)
The truth is, though, that I did once take photos of New York City, as I used to carry around in my bag one of my two old point-and-shoot film cameras – a duo lens Olympus Infinity Twin and an Olympus Stylus – loaded with black & white film.  I didn’t really seek out photographs to make, but if I happened to come across a scene that looked interesting, I’d take the camera out of the bag and make a snap or two.
Here is one of those photos, showing a protester in front of City Hall Park in New York City.  Though there is no date on the print that I got from the lab, it dates to 1999, when then New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani wanted to set up an art decency commission and cut off funding from the Brooklyn Museum because of an exhibition there that included a controversial painting by African (and Roman Catholic) artist Chris Ofili titled “The Holy Virgin Mary” that used elephant dung among its materials.  Listening to Giuliani, you’d have thought that it was a traditional religious painting of a white woman splattered with shit, but that is definitely not the case.  (I also wonder how much of the controversy was because Mary is shown not as lily white but as African.  You can see it and read about it here and here.)
Of course, Rudy is still in the news these days, as Trump and his lap dogs have just fired the US attorney in New York who had been looking into possible wrongdoing in Giuliani’s dealings.  (Jee, I wonder why.)
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