Photographer Tokiwa Toyoko was one of the many women entering male dominated workplaces in this period and through her portrayal of the male participants at the nude shooting session she critiqued assumptions that women were more suited to being in front of, rather than behind, the lens of the camera. In so doing, it calls into question the foundational discourses of Japanese postwar photographic realism and reveals a new perspective on the gendered dynamics therein. See Silverberg Silverberg, M. Berkeley and London : University of California Press. Kyoto : Akaaka. Osaka : Brain Center, Inc.
But I still stand tall as good as possiblego to work each day and try to enjoy life like everybody else. Would be very delighted if this has raised your curiosity.
Wish you a joyful time, wherever you are right now. Best regards, Karsten. This makes me pause. Random raunchy calls aside, I rarely receive inquiries from men, who convey genuine desire to be portrayed by me. How is it different?
The thought of being naked in front of a camera, let alone a female photographer, filled them with trepidation. Many expressed self-loathing, certain their bodies deserved no such limelight. Today more men feel pressured to have perfect physical appearances, shying away neither from botox and waxing nor being strangers to self-damage and eating disorders.
Indeed, the distinction between art, fashion and documentary photography is ificant, and the resulting images depend upon the gaze given: are you beholding, seducing or using someone to fulfill your vision or provide evidence for your case at hand? EuroMan were clearly too timid to let a woman look beneath the skin of men, and perhaps they should be.
The premise for my work has been to find the trueness in everyone. How can I see him? Are my intentions pure? Am I ready to step into this naked terrain with a stranger? The invitation to undress requires vulnerability and courage from both seer and seen, to walk the delicate line between eros and porn, public and private, object and subject, power and submission.
Who looks at whom is never clear-cut, and with the naked skin in the middle, the intention becomes more important: Why are we looking? In my early conversations with Karsten, we address these matters.
The people in your photos look like you know them, this make me feel in good hands. Safety is important. For him to trust me to not expose him or otherwise cast him in an unflattering light. For me to feel I can be alone with him and do my work without sensual advances.
I ask how his wife feels about him going off to get naked with a female photographer. As we work through the logistics, I learn about his physical constraints. I translate his words into visual metaphors to work with: limitation and freedom, strength and vulnerability, object and abject. I try to imagine how to visually approach a male body, let alone a crippled one. We convene in Soenderborg in South Denmark. Karsten shows up with a walking stick and a bag. He gets up the stairs with surprising ease.
We chat loosely over coffee, before proceeding to our makeshift studio. He unpacks his props. A tie, a scarf, shirt, Women photographing nude men and cuffs. I prep my camera, check the light. He looks around and tinkers with his stuff. I hesitate too. This is after all not about your penis.
Through the lens, I notice how the light caresses his rounded back. I wonder how multiple sclerosis feels in his body. He stands up, his body straight and muscular. The scar across his stomach gives his waistline a slight feminine shape. Our words fade, as we move about the space, interacting with the furniture, the floor and the light. I search for faces of him, gestures. I encourage with comments. Sometimes I tell him what I see as if to bridge the divide between seer and seen. The eye of the beholder is never just one-way.
While I invite self-expression, my presence solicits responses and sometimes I have to project a lot of energy to help the person before me emote, move, feel. Karsten is soon comfortable moving his body, here and there meeting my gaze. As he appears for me, I sense, he is also appearing for himself. On the bed again, he moves with subtle sensual force. I capture his exposed neck, his curved backside, the way his hand grips the edge of the bed.
Something is there, at once vulnerable and forceful. I hold my breath. My face feels hot. I want to penetrate the flesh to conjure his inner power, poetry, sexuality, freedom, softness. We discover a shared passion for vintage cars, music and writing. I worry about our stamina and the cold warehouse upstairs, but Karsten insists. While he undresses, I investigate the space.
Two windows, wood floor, a pillar in the center and at the back, a wobbly staircase to the attic. Sublime light spills from above. We begin again. With no place to hide or hesitate, we are both called into immediacy. I watch him respond to the textures. Adrenaline overrides our fatigue, as we become moving bodies, eyes, senses. His stiffness shows as he tries to get down.
One moment it looks like he is loosing control and falling back, Women photographing nude men he surrenders. I tell him so. Confidently, he comes at me, his gaze completely open. My neck hair rise. There he is. The s: my heart swells, I giggle, get goosebumps, sigh, utter, applaud, burst into tears.
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Karsten drops me at the station. Before I enter the train, I look back. We wave at each other. Tears roll. An intense session often leaves me sentimental, but as the train bumbles North, sadness sets in. Then emptiness and sheer exhaustion. My life is a string of short-lived creative love affairs, I sulk inside.
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Tears fall. Last year I fell in love with a man.
He asked me to photograph him, but soon passion took over, and I never did. Living miles apart we did not pursue the relationship, but now, the way he looked at me then, is all I can think of. At dinner, I share my thoughts with friends. How this intimate seeing is a lot like falling in love, because then we are eager to see and feel and devour everything about the other. How both seer and seen must bare their hearts for art to happen.
And yet, the very premise for such a naked encounter is me staying neutral, holding the space safe and sacred. When two people meet for an open and intimate journey of discovery, what happens to the empty space between?
We want to fill it, I say, but with what? This was such a day, such an encounter, such an experience, you were able to become such a friend for one day. To continue? Would it make sense? Could it be as good as the first time?
Or even more intense? We were.
Sorting through the many photos, a man comes into full view: His vulnerability and willingness, ease and tension, strength and seduction.