Archive for August 2010

I made a trip to Ohio last week to visit my good friend Dave Levingston. I had been there several times before, but what was different about this trip was that I drove there, rather than going by air. I think this was the longest distance I’ve ever driven in a single day – about 630 miles, done in nearly 12 hours – topping my previous long drive from Brunswick, Maine to Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Sadly, this trip originated as a happy one but ended up being bittersweet. My primary reason for going was to see the six photos of mine that were put up on display at an art gallery close to where Dave lives. I had visited the gallery quite a few times on earlier visits, and when I was there six months ago, I brought along a bunch of 11x14 fiber prints with me, to show to Rob, the gallery owner. He selected six of them that he liked, which he later matted, framed and put up on the wall. It was those that I was going to see.

Tragically, Rob passed away from cancer just a few weeks ago and his family closed the gallery. So, rather than going to see the photos on display, I instead went to pick them up to take them home.

Still, it was a positive trip overall, with both the company of a good friend and the opportunity to photograph some nudes in different locations. One model I worked with was Kelsey Dylan (who I like to call “Kelsey Zimmerman,” or “Zimmy,” for short), who had stayed with me here in New York the week before I left and accompanied me on the long drive out to Ohio, her home state. We had been taking turns choosing songs to play on my iPod, but when we crossed the border from Pennsylvania into Ohio, we stopped what we were listening to and put on an appropriate song for the occasion by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young:

“Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in O-hi-o.”

I had never worked with Kelsey before, and Dave was good enough to take me to a couple of beautiful locations that he had used previously. The day before I photographed her, Dave did a studio session with her, during which time I went out on location to photograph Revielle, who I had worked with in Dave’s studio on my previous visit in February. I worked with Kelsey the following day.

Last Thursday, August 19, was a special day for me as I celebrated my 15th anniversary of photographing nudes. (See my previous blog post to read about that.) So, I went out with Dave and model Jypsie Nahmana to do a 15th anniversary photo shoot. I had photographed Jypsie, along with another model, at the very same location in February. The big difference was that there was snow covering everything and it was freezing cold back then. This time, thankfully, the temperature was a bit warmer and more conducive to being nude outdoors.

All of my serious photos from these sessions were made with medium format black & white film, but I did make a few quick snapshots of the models with my little pocket digital camera, which you can see here. I was going to put one of the nudes at the top, but I’ve decided to dedicate this post to Dave L to thank him for his hospitality in allowing me to stay with him for several days and for taking me out to a few beautiful spots for photography.

Therefore, you’re seeing the face of "The Beard" (as some of us like to call Dave) at the top. He had asked me to take a few photos of him at his studio as he wanted some new portraits, and as he was wearing a black shirt, I asked him to stand in front of a black background to try to achieve the ‘floating head’ look. I think I succeeded here, with the aid of some burning in with Photoshop, to reach that. He’s illuminated by some of the very nice window light that his studio gets.

The other photo of Dave shows him standing on a rock with a waterfall in the background, during our outing with Kelsey. As I have noted before elsewhere, Dave is the photographer who invented the genre of photographing naked chicks on rocks, so I think it only appropriate that he be photographed on a rock himself. (Thankfully he’s not nude. Trust me on this one.)


Kelsey Dylan

Kelsey Dylan

Jypsie Nahmana


In other news, I’m thinking of doing something this weekend that I haven’t done for months: develop film. Come back next week to find out.

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Fall, 2010
Katarina Ivanovska for AerieKatarina Ivanovska for Aerie

Katarina Ivanovska for AerieKatarina Ivanovska for Aerie

Summer, 2010
Katarina Ivanovska for AerieKatarina Ivanovska for Aerie

Model: Katarina Ivanovska

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Swimsuit collection by Marjana StanojkovskaSwimsuit collection by Marjana Stanojkovska

Swimsuit collection by Marjana StanojkovskaSwimsuit collection by Marjana Stanojkovska

Swimsuit collection by Marjana StanojkovskaSwimsuit collection by Marjana Stanojkovska

Swimsuit collection by Marjana StanojkovskaSwimsuit collection by Marjana Stanojkovska

Model: Marjana Stanojkovska
Creations: Marjana Stanojkovska
Photos: Robert Spasovski, Vladimir Georgiev

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Today, August 19, 2010, is the 15th anniversary of my very first nude photo session.

It was at a workshop in Woodstock, New York. Though it happened 15 years ago, the story actually begins about five years earlier. That was when I made the decision to attend graduate business school part time while I worked full time, as I saw the limitations inherent in my job at the time.

I always considered myself more of an arts and humanities kind of person, and I still do. As an undergraduate at NYU, I double majored in Near Eastern Languages and Classical Civilization. At the Yale Graduate School, I got an M. Phil. in Near Eastern studies, with a specialization in Egyptology. Despite that, I was willing to bite the bullet and attend graduate business school just to get a better job.

Back to NYU I went, this time for business studies. For four years, including the summer semesters, I went to work during the day and did school work at night and on weekends. There really wasn’t time for much else. The only time off from school was a few weeks of intersession in December and January, plus the month of August.

I majored in Finance, with NYU’s Finance program being among the top ten in the country, and its part time program being rated #1. Despite having an M.B.A. from a top program like that, I never was able to find a new job. A year of going through on-campus recruiting, followed by a few more years of looking, proved fruitless. It seems that when all of your work experience is in the public sector (like mine was) and you try to go into private industry, nobody gives a shit about you.

So, after four years of hard work and after spending about $19,000 of my own money on tuition (supplemented by a scholarship that covered about 55% of the full tuition cost), I was still stuck where I was before I started. To put it mildly, I had had enough. After four years of doing what I felt I NEEDED to do (and going nowhere with it), I felt that it was finally time to do what I WANTED to do!

That thing was photography. Most of my photography up to that point had been 35mm color slide work that I did when I was on vacation. A lot of people who had seen them thought that they looked to be of professional quality, so I decided to give stock photography a try as a way to perhaps pay for some of my travel costs.

The first thing I did was to buy a Fuji 6x7 medium format rangefinder camera, as I’d read that medium format is better for stock photos than 35mm. I had planned to get a 6x4.5 SLR system, but I just fell in love with those big 6x7 color transparencies and couldn’t imagine getting anything smaller. So, I got a Pentax 67 system instead.

Like my attempt at finding a new job, the stock photography idea went nowhere. (Does anybody see a pattern here?) After taking a couple of years worth of travel photos to some agencies, I was told that my photos were good enough, but I just didn’t have enough of them. In the stock game, apparently, quantity counts, and with just a few weeks a year to devote to photography, I couldn’t meet that count. While I could provide a few hundred, they wanted a few thousand.
So, how did I start with nudes? In the fall of 1994 –shortly after getting my M.B.A. – I went to the annual photo equipment show at the Javits Center here in New York. One of the exhibitors was the Center for Photography at Woodstock, and I saw that they offered weekend workshops in the summer. I figured that this might also be a way to get back into photography, as Woodstock is a few hours drive from me, and I thought it might be a good excuse to get out of the city for a few days.

The first figure workshop I attended began 15 years ago from today. I have written before that my first “keeper” was the eighth frame of film on my first roll of film that day – not too bad for a beginner. It’s the second picture here – the one with the girl with the bobbed haircut, leaning forward and looking off to the right – and I’ve posted it online before. You can see some other photos from that first weekend, too.
What I have never posted before, and never even scanned until now, is the very first photo on that first roll of film. You can see it at the top here, the one of the legs. Not the best photo I’ve ever made - upon scanning, I saw that it's not even focused properly! - but hey, we all have to start somewhere.

My art nude photography may have ended there were it not for some other people I met at Woodstock. I became friends with another workshop attendee who was staying at my small hotel in town, and he invited me to join him and a couple of other photographers who were planning to photograph a couple of models the following weekend at a nearby location. I accepted.

Later in the year, through these people, I was able to attend a one day, invitation only workshop with three models at a Victorian era house in Troy, New York. With their encouragement, and with my photos continuing to improve – not to mention my enjoying what I was doing – I decided to stay with it.

Fifteen years later, I am still staying with it. Sure, photographing models can seem repetitive at times, but I am always searching for that elusive “great” image among the good ones, trying to bring some beauty to the world. That - and the friendship of people like Dave Levingston, Terrell Neasley, Bill Ballard and Unbearable Lightness - is what keeps me going.

To celebrate and highlight these last 15 years, here’s a portfolio of images covering that period – one photo for each calendar year that I’ve been photographing nudes and highlighting some of the places where I’ve done it. Enjoy.

Untitled Nude, 1995

Untitled Nude, 1996

New Mexico Nude, 1997

Nude, Tuscany, 1998

Untitled Nude, 1999

Nude, Big Sur, 2000

Nude, Provence, 2001

Untitled Nude, 2002

Nude, Nevada, 2003

Nude, Scotland, 2004

Nude, Ohio, 2005

Nude, Prince Edward Island, 2006

Nude, Michigan, 2007

Nude, Joshua Tree, 2008

Nude, Oregon, 2009

Studio Nude, 2010

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Sometimes, you look at a photo and you just don’t think too much of it. Then, when you have the chance to look at it again, you think better of it.

Such is the case with this photo here. I took the photo in a small town in northern Vietnam called Phutho. It was just a stop on the way from Sapa in the hills down to Hanoi in 2006.

I guess I liked the photo enough to scan it, though typically I do that only seeing the negative without a contact sheet. (The scan, in effect, allows me to see it as a positive.) Even though I scanned it, I must have not thought of it enough to prepare it for web posting.

Lately, though, I’ve been going through my scanned images in preparation for making postings to the new website that I’m working on. Looking at this image, perhaps more carefully than I did before, I realized that I liked it more than I did previously. It still shows an older woman with a hat and a wrapper around her head.

What really appeals to me now are the two onlookers in the background. Just look at the face of the man (her husband?) standing back there. I mean, his face is positively beaming with pride that I have selected the woman as a subject to photograph. The smiling young woman adds a nice touch to the image, too.

Perhaps that’s one reason why I like going to southeast Asia. People there often seem generally flattered to be photographed, at times becoming the point of conversation for the people around them.

It makes me think about something written by a noted landscape photographer who likes to work in Japan. In that country, he wrote, nobody ever hassles him about taking photographs – unlike in the United States, where some folks have threatened to blow his head off if he didn't pack up his camera and leave.

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Untitled Nude, 2002, #5

Here’s one of my more unusual nudes. Here’s the story behind it:

In the summer of 2002, I received a phone call from a photographer who I had met at a workshop a couple of years or so earlier. He lived in New Jersey, and told me that a model would be coming over to his apartment to work with him, and he asked me if I’d want to work with her, too. I don’t think I had anything planned for the day, so I said yes. He told me that I should get to him around the middle of the afternoon, after he’d had a chance to photograph her himself for a while.

Fine. I did as he asked and arrived mid-afternoon. It was a very hot day, but for some reason, my friend did not have the air conditioning on at all in his place. I worked with the model for a while in the heat, and then I decided that we should move into a room of the apartment that was pretty much completely bare and empty. I think it had carpeting, but not a stick of furniture or decoration.

Being as hot as it was, I really needed to drink some water, so I asked my friend for a glass. Before I took a drink, something gave me the idea to try photographing the model through the glass. I think I got a small table from another room and placed the glass on the table. I was set.

Looking back over the negatives today, I saw that my initial photos were of the glass pretty much filling the frame of the image. Then, I obviously decided to recompose the image, including just the top half of the glass with the model visible out-of-focus in the background.

As you can see, the model is not only visible out-of-focus in the back, but her midsection can also be seen in the water, yielding a double image of sorts which I like.

After this, I moved back and photographed the model standing next to the table with her hand on or near the glass on the table, but none of those were as interesting as the one you see here.

By the way, my friend did eventually turn on the A/C when I mentioned how hot is was. Why he didn't do it earlier I wasn't quite sure.

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Iva Mihajlovska / Ива МихајловскаIva Mihajlovska

Born: 1991
Place: Skopje
Height: 178cm
Bust: 89 cm
Waist: 64 cm
Hips: 96 cm
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Agency: Crnokrak

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

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I’m going to step out of my normal routine of posting photos of mine, sometimes with an explanation of how I made it, in favor of writing about something else: censorship.

I’ve been thinking this over today, and it seems to be that perhaps there are two types of censorship. One of those is where a particular type of expression is clearly and plainly prohibited. For example, in the Soviet Union, taking photos of soldiers on duty was prohibited. You may not agree with it, but at least you know exactly what the rule is. The line not to be crossed is clearly drawn.

Then there’s the type of censorship that’s harder to get a handle on. These are the types of prohibitions where the lines not to be crossed are not so clearly drawn, due to vague wording (sometimes intentionly so) of the rules.

In these cases, the question then becomes, “Where do I put that line in practice?” A lot of that depends on what the penalty is for crossing the line. In the case of Federal regulation 2257A (I wrote about it last year here and here), which is supposed to be about combating child pornography but is so vaguely worded that it can also include the work of legitimate artists among its banned works, the penalty is being labeled as a ‘sex offender’ and spending up to five years in the Federal pen.

Given that, can you blame artists for staying very clear not of the where the line actually is, but rather, where they imagine it to be?

I found out recently that this type of censorship extends beyond the visual arts. Earlier this week, while listening to the radio, I heard the Pink Floyd song “Money,” from the great album “Dark Side of the Moon.” One of the lines in the song is

“Money, it’s a hit,
don’t give me that goody good bullshit.”

Well, on this occasion, as on earlier recent occasions, the work “bullshit” was broadcast as “bull___.”

I decided that enough was enough, so I went to the station’s website and wrote this message:

I recently heard you play the Pink Floyd song "Money."
Instead of the line "don't give me that goody good bullshit,"
I heard "don't give me that goody good bull____."

This is the standard way you play this song now. Why? Is
the government forcing you to do this, or is it the work of
some corporate bluenoses? I certainly don't think it was Pink Floyd’s idea.

So, let me suggest this: please DO NOT play this song at all
if you cannot play it properly. The same goes for "Who Are
You" by The Who and "Jet Airliner" by the Steve Miller Band.

I would rather not hear a song at all than hear a butchered
or censored version.

Otherwise, I may have to stop listening altogether.

The very next day, I received this reply from the station’s program director:


You and me both! Allow me to explain.

We almost never played edited versions of songs in the past. But a couple of years ago, thanks mainly to Janet Jackson's boob, the powers that be in this country decided that a random swear word in a song on a radio station was just too terrible for the general public to hear. They raised the potential fine for such an utterance from $27,500 to over $300,000! Now our company's corporate bigwigs pretty much left us alone on this issue in the old days. Well when it was raised to the current level of $325,000, they decided (and I can't really blame them) that the risk wasn't worth it and we were forced to remove the words or the songs altogether.

We've actually done the edits ourselves to try and keep as much of the original song intact as we can. It sucks. We hate it as much as you do. However, none of us have an extra 300K in our pockets to pay the fine ourselves which is what would happen if we ever did get nailed. My only suggestion would be to write your representatives in Congress and tell them how ridiculous this is. "Who the F*** are you?" is hardly going to bring down our great nation...

I hope that explains it. Thanks for writing and for listening!

Well, I guess that explained it! I answered him with this:

Thank you for your kind response. I appreciate your doing so.

Yes, I can understand why management would not want to chance risking a $325K fine. Like you said, though, the whole idea is really ridiculous. Still, I would rather you not play a great like that if it needs to be butchered for the government's sake.

On that note, things are really getting out of hand in this country. I'm a fine art photographer, and one of my subjects is the fine art nude. Last year, the government instituted a new regulation (a parting shot from the Bush administration) that could have you sent to prison and labeled as a child pornographer/sex offender for failure to maintain identification documents and make them available 20 hours a week for government inspection, even if the youngest person you photograph is 60 years old!

Hopefully, one day, people in this country will grow up instead of acting childishly - and forcing everybody else to act the same way.

Have a good day.

His response, then, was:

Wow! That's just ridiculous. I had no idea. Kind of goes with the places that proof everybody for alcohol, even if they are bald or grey and wrinkled and there with their grandkids!

We did debate long and hard about whether or not to play the edits and it wasn't a decision we made lightly. Ultimately we felt that everyone knows what goes in those places anyway so your mind almost "fills in the blank". If the Mona Lisa had a smudge in the corner we'd still want to look at it!

Thanks again for your input and here's hoping we can all get over ourselves in this country! Take care.

So there you go. Our tax dollars at work, protecting the foundations of our great American society by prohibiting random swear words on the radio. What makes it all the more ridiculous is that you can simply go to cable TV (and satellite radio?) to hear all of the foul language (and see all the nudity) you want.

The photo at the top, by the way, was something I shot at the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan, in 2005. It’s the famous carving of the three monkeys in the “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” poses. I guess you can figure out why I chose to post it today.

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