Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Golden: Walt by LightWeaver

With Walt's beautiful blonde hair, and the surge of pink that cascades all around his naked body, you might wonder why I chose Golden as the title. Whenever I profile the work of Indianapolis photographer Jay Rickard, (LightWeaver) Golden, as in The Golden Age of Hollywood, always comes to mind. Jay's striking visuals, his use of bold colors, classic poses, not to mention his masterful mix of beauty with masculinity, always transport me to another place and time.

The golden age of Hollywood began at the end of the silent era of films in the late 1920s, through cinema in the early 1960s, were driven by the big Hollywood Studios. Independent films, along with stories based on serious issues existed, but were rare. The studio's provided beauty and glamour. Big stars bit big lives to provide distraction from the depression, from war, a beautiful escape from the real world.

A part of the golden age included the rise of the pin-up girl. Although pin-ups had been around for decades before, it the 40's when the theme was popularized in the US. The images popped up everywhere, in magazines and newspapers and on walls all around the globe. As part of promoting many female celebrities, pin-ups were mailed out to fans and ended up on walls, in lockers and in barracks for the next thirty years.

Pin-ups were not reserved just for women, the 40's also saw many actors looking seductively (and often shirtless) at the camera. Johnny Weissmuller, Tyrone Power, Rock Hudson and many other actors were also popular pin-ups, but I am guessing as many of these shots ended up under mattresses, in the bottom of drawers and within encyclopaedias as did get stuck on walls. In addition to actors, body builders were also heavily photographed, with muscle and form being the 'acceptable focus,' although most fans knew, like the shots of Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe, sex was always at the core.

One of the things I love so much about Jay's work is his weaving old Hollywood glamour with beefcake. Jay's work is beautiful and erotic but also skilfully mixes an innocence with the risky underground erotica found in classical beefcake photography. Through the 70's and 80's, with magazines like TigerBeat and Playgirl, beefcake went mainstream, but after climaxing with Marky Mark in his Calvin's in the early 90's, beefcake seems again to have sadly gone a bit underground. Unlike actors in the 70's and 80's who routinely went shirtless for pin-ups and magazines shoots, many of today's actors seem most comfortable going shirtless only for fitness focused magazines like Men's Health. Of course, thankfully, (Channing Tatum) there remain a few exceptions.

Jay says he found Walt on Model Mayhem after being blown away by the the few images he had in his portfolio. Jay shares that from just from that small sampling of black and whites, he could tell that Walt was the kind of model he liked to work with. 'Casual, uninhibited and coming from a very classic, artistically minded perspective.' Walt had no issues with nudity and both artist and model seemed very like minded on the issue of a male body truly being a valid subject of art. As I often like to do, with Jay's images with Walt, I started at the end, as this set of images are from their second time shooting together. I was struck by the pulsing pink, and my favorite two images, the last two below, included the two great shots of Walt with the vintage camera.

'I wanted to create a set that would mirror the "around the house" look of some of the images created during the Vintage Beefcake movement of the '50's era. For me the trick was to pay homage to those particular images but giving it my own modern spin. So instead of the literal black and white look I went the opposite direction and created a set in studio full of incredibly vibrant colors and some relatively timeless pieces in the background. If you look closely at some of those images you'll see a first edition of the very first issue of Bruce of LA's "The Male Physique". I've been collecting those issues for awhile now and it was a lot of fun to include one in a shoot that was paying homage to that same time frame.'

Walt hails from Cincinnati, but didn't mind making the trip to Indy for the shoot. Jay shot several themes and in several locations, some have saved for a follow-up. Jay says the thing that he really appreciated the most about his work with Walt was his openness to the creative process, and how he threw himself into each setting in a very natural way. 'His physicality is admirable of course but it's his artistic spirit which allows him to be the focus of the art which really sets him apart from the rest.'

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