Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Window Has Been Opened: Steven by Gentlemen Only

I remember when I was growing up in the eighties that when I was well behaved, older relatives would often compliment me by referring to me as a 'nice or fine young gentleman.' I quickly learned this was a term of endearment, indicating that how I was acting was pleasing to them. As I got older it seemed the word was used more to describe only older men, or men of distinction, wealth and sometimes royalty.

I preferred the way it was used when I was young, drawing on the true meaning of the words, being an actual gentle man. It has always been, and remains important to me to be a gentle. Not a week man, not a passive man, but a gentleman. One who is respectful of others, all others, and always tries to consider how my actions impact those around me. Life doesn't always make it easy to be gentle, in fact there are things and people who work intently to push one from gentle to aggressive and it can be a daily battle at times. Remaining a gentlemen however should not as some believe, behavior relegated only to the privileged. Sometimes it seems that it is the regular man, they guy rough around the edges, hard working and fighting the good fight, end up being the gentlest and kindest of all men.

It is these regular gentlemen who have become the focus for Octo, the photographer behind Gentlemen Only. Octo has worked as a semi professional photographer for about 15 years, working in many different photographic genres including publicity photography, theatre and art photography. Initially Octo was very successful with exhibitions of his publicity and theatre work shown in venues including The National Theatre in London. Octo put his photographic dreams on the back burner when he was offered a full time job outside of the photographic industry.

Octo took the job, which he loved, but didn't pick up a camera again for about 10 years. When he did again pick up a camera, he knew that due to time and money, he could not return to the frantic world of theatre and publicity photography. Instead, Octo focused on portrait photography, something easier to control and something he could fit around his full time job. After doing various portrait shoots and actors head shots he decided it was time to try his hand a nude shoot, something that he had never done and that would broaden his photographic portfolio.

'I had no idea how to go about finding nude models but after placing a few adverts I heard from a chap called Dean, who had never modelled before and wanted to give it ago. The shoot started out pretty much as any another shoot, chatting about Dean's life as we captured some portraits, a few fashion images, some creative stuff with lighting, and then it came time for the nude shots. I was a bit embarrassed to ask Dean to undress and equally he was nervous about undressing ... but he did. As he stood there naked whilst I photographed him a thought struck me - I was able to look at and get to know Dean in a way very few people have done before. Dean was a very typical type of bloke, the kind you have a pint with in the pub, or bump into in the supermarket. But here he was, standing naked, revealing his inner most thoughts and feelings about his ex wife, living apart from his child and other aspects of his life. Through this nude shoot, a window had been opened onto Dean's world and I was able to peer in and get to look at and understand Dean as very few people ever would.'

It was through this first nude shoot with Dean that the thought of looking into the lives of everyday guys, and stripping away the superficial layers to explore issues and emotions that are relevant to them began to captivated Octo. So...he set about finding more real men, the type of blokes you'd meet at the gym, or at a nightclub, or in the work place, who would be happy to let me create a little intimate snapshot into their lives. It was this that became the creative spark for his current website Gentlemen Only.

Although Octo's website is mostly filled with men wearing pretty much nothing, It was the mostly clothed Steven who I asked to feature first. I really like that although Steven looks like a seasoned professional, at just 18, this was his first time being shot professionally. Hoping to use his great looks and physique to break into fitness modeling, Steven was initially worried about how well he'd photographer and had no idea what to expect from his first shoot. Steven saw that Octo worked with men with no camera experience and was looking for someone well versed at making the first experience easy and enjoyable but as well skilled at making them look as good as possible. When Octo saw the pictures Steven sent in his initial e-mail correspondence, he was bowled over by his classic good looks and a physique and demeanour that seemed at odds with his young age and was instantly drawn to shooting him. But there was one issue, Steven didn't want to do any nude shots.

'Normally I don't work with men who do not pose nude - the photography market is flooded with pictures of clothed physique stuff or implied nudity, it's a crowed market I can’t compete in – and nudity is a central element of my shoots. It’s the physical embodiment of peeling back the superficial layers to see the man as he’s very rarely seen, but Steven's eagerness to work with me was endearing so I agreed to do a non nude shoot.'

'For an 18 year old, Steven had the physique, sensibilities and confidence of someone much older. Although he was full of youthful optimism he was also very realistic with a life plan already firmly in place. At the time he was working in a clothes store, but wanted to break into physique and fitness modelling which would hopefully enable him to save enough money to train as a commercial flight pilot. Often the removal of clothing also brings a removal of inhibitions. The non nude aspect of the shoot didn't remove as many layers as I usually like, but I was pleased with the pictures we took and am happy that we were able to create a striking glimpse into the life of this handsome, confident and somewhat wise beyond his years young gentlemen.'

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