'We all came at it from a similar perspective, yet saw things wonderfully differently quite often.'
Photographers Mark Grantham and Mike Tossy both made their first appearance on FH back in May of 2009 with a New Face of the Day piece on model J Phoenix. Gordon Nebeker, I had struggled to find contact information for, but we finally connected for our first of many collaborations in 2011.
All three artists remain favorites to feature, not only because of how their imagery inspires, but because of there generosity, caring, and their immense respect and support for the models they work with. Last year, I was thrilled when Gordon brought Tom Clark into a series of pieces featuring their incredible work with Aaron last summer in Utah. I had been a fan of Tom's work for years and was honoured to officially be able to feature his artistry, and welcomed the chance to feature his work.
One of the most fascinating things about the visual arts is perspective. With FH, and it's focus on the male form, it is always interesting to see how different artists see, uses and eventually captures a specific model. Not all of the collaborations create magic, some images catch fire, while others fail to light even a tiny spark. The work of each of these four artists consistently leads to imagery that visually stimulates and emotionally communicates with me. This is the reason, I continually but them to feature their work, as often as I possibly can!
'Photographers are known to have flights of fancy and thus was born the idea of four photographers who know each other to do a joint photo shoot in Southern Utah. In late June of this year, Mark Grantham and Mike Tossy drove from their home in California to meet up with Tom Clark of Salt Lake City and Gordon Nebeker from Boston for a two day shoot. Three Utah models, Aaron, John, and Jed were recruited for the occasion and at the appointed hour we all met at a remote parking lot to begin our trek through the wilds of the San Rafael Swell country.'
'We traveled on bumpy dirt roads to abandoned mines, narrow slot canyons, and picturesque rivers flowing at the bottom of tall rock formations, stopping along the way whenever one of us saw photographic opportunities. The weather was hot but not oppressively so, though risk of sunburn and insect attacks were a reality. Kudos to our excellent models for whom nothing was too much to ask for and all of us were asking and directing, often at the same time! “Can you look this way?”, “Can you climb that rock over there?”. “Look pensive”, “Look at peace”, “don’t look at the camera” and on it went. Amazingly, the models all smiled and did what was asked of them and the photographers patiently waited their turns to direct the scene.'
Below: Mike hard at work on his next set-up
'Perhaps the greatest ’take-away’ was what we all learned from each other by observing how each photographer works. And most importantly, we were glad to have worked together and gotten to know each other better. There were challenges to be sure; running out of gas in the middle of no-where and a health crisis about as far away from medical attention as is possible to get, to name but two. But everybody lived and none of us regret being in the magnificent wilds of Southern Utah doing what we enjoy the most: taking and making photographs. Hope you enjoy! '
Aaron by Gordon Nebeker
The words above from Gordon Nebeker beautifully give an overview of the photographic journey, and touches on some of the joys and challenges of the Utah experience. I could not help but feel however, there was more.... Not necessarily something more I needed to know, the images tell an incredible story all on their own, and Gordon's words give wonderful perspective and background.
Aaron by Mike Tossy
I still however, annoyingly wanted the other side of the story. I was originally going to write commentary comparing images, themes, and locations. Taking specific images from each artist and putting them side by side for discussion. That would have been fairly easy. You can see from the images above, with each set-up, there were different angles and perspectives captured. You can see the different vantages points that Gordon and Mike each captured Aaron within the slots of the cavern, both angles beautifully capturing Aaron's incredible form and all that surrounds him.
John & Aaron From Mark Grantham
There are clearly similarities in some shots, such as in the image above from Mark, and the image below from Tom, featuring Aaron and John. Yet, they completely blow the theory of 'capturing a moment' out of the water. Each of the two images was captured virtually at the exact same second of time, yet as alike as they are at first glance, the slightest difference in angle, space and artist perspective can change how that moment is frozen, interpreted and remembered. Even captured moments in time, are at the mercy, or skill of the artist who captures them.
Jon & Aaron from Tom Clark
I am not sure it is because of my familiarity with each of the artists work, but aspects of what I see, what I love most, is in many cases what first drew me to their work to begin with. Gordon's ability to capture incredible shots of skin, movement and flow and specific body positioning. Mike's skill at capturing dramatic moments and the essence or a personality trait of each of the models in front of his lens. Mark's excellence at freezing both beautiful body lines and energy. Toms way of interconnecting the bodies of the models he shoots, and the almost magical way he channels pieces of the history and culture of the location which surrounds his subjects. Each if the four brilliantly synthesis model and form with location. Aaron, Jed and John don't look as if they were brought here to pose, but appear as if their naked bodies were born from the land, predestined to live and love within the creeks and canyons.
Although my words above are sincere, I know too, they only tell one side of the story. The story of finish, that end result after the photos are taken and edited. That is why, I decided my words had to stop at this point, and Tom, Gordon, Mike and Mark's must be the only words that follow. I was or course interested in their thoughts on their work and images, but I was most fascinated in what occurred before and after each click. With 4 talented artists, 3 incredible models, journeying through Utah together, you know there there must be stories... The location, the obstacles, the unexpected surprises and gifts they encountered along the way.
When one takes a road trip, one must start with a mode of transportation, a vehicle. So lets begin at the beginning. This particular vehicle became one of my personal favorite locations from the shoot. Although not drivable, with four visual artists along for the ride, there were more than a few miles left to ride.