This month, FH begins it's lucky 7th year of bringing you some of the finest, and of course my favorite, artists, models and yeah...hunks! I could never have predicted when I began what the blog would have matured into and, that I would still be working on it seven years later. I am proud of the calibre of artists I have been able to profile and again thank all of those who have helped, and shared to make FH a place I enjoy coming back to.
I thought about what changes I might like to make in year seven. Drop the birthdays? Post less often? Move to a tumblr? Write less? In the end, I think I have come up with a formula that gives the blog structure while still allowing me the creativity to post only about those who truly inspire me. I know blogs are sort of 'old school' these days, but the format suits me. I attempted a tumblr, but it was sort of like fast food...easy and convenient, but ultimately not that satisfying.
Here's to another 7... well at least 1 or 2, years of FH!
I really loved the above quote from Chris, not just because it was funny and on theme, it also spoke why I don't just share and post great images, but insist when possible to also share story. No matter great you look, or others say you look, we all struggle at different times with confidence, insecurities and how we feel about ourselves and models are not immune. I love what is was about a shoot, a photographer, a theme that helps draw out the confidence we see in the final images. With this new set from Jay Rickard from Lightweaver....a little baby oil didn't hurt.
For several years now Jay confesses to being borderline obsessed with the vintage beefcake era, Bob Mizer and the American Model Guild. All of it,
particularly the '50's era. 'It's just such an interesting time in our history. As photographers, models and photo enthusiasts who enjoy the male form we owe pretty much everything to these pioneers.' Jay has such respect for the artists and models who put everyone on the line in order to blaze a trail that many take for granted today. The images are not just hot guys in posing straps. A mans life could be ruined if people even suspected they were homosexual. Jay wanted to pay homage to the era, and the men who took risks to create those early images of the male form. Jay says that luckily,
'Luckily Chris was game for the theme and in my opinion, he knocked it out of the ballpark! He is just as magnetic in person as he is in these images and his physical presence simply commands attention.'
'The entire shoot was very pleasant and fun! It was neat posing with actual clothes on hahaha, but the nudes were great as well. Jay was very professional and ridiculously fast with his edits. I didn't even make it home before he went through all of the shots and sent me a large quantity of the ones he loved!! and I LOVED THEM TOO!!! I honestly can't wait until our next shoot.'
I always say, that when looking for work to feature on FH, I am always looking for something I haven't seen before. There are qualities about Chris that are not always seen in male photography, and ones that I was really attracted to. First off, his entire look fit so beautifully with Jay's theme. Chris is not just posing as a 50's beefcake model, he actually looks like one. From body shape to facial structure and expression, and hair, Chris embodies the qualities of the men who paved the way for today's male models. I especially love his physique, torso, incredible legs and beautiful beefy backside.
What struck me most about his appearance however were his freckles. They appear all over Chris's gorgeous, and commanding body. I found them incredibly sexy and loved that Jay chose not to remove and edit this natural and unique apart of his appearance. Jay says there might have been a time he would have hours painstakingly cloning out the freckles, but that would have definitely been doing Chris a disservice.
'I've been in this business for a couple decades now. A by-product of shooting for that long means that tastes and preferences evolve. I find myself being less interested in "perfect" guys because you know what that means to me? Plastic. Give me someone who stands out from the crowd. Chris definitely stands out. I know that some photographers and art directors will more than likely be turned off by his freckles and whatnot but I say that's their loss. "Imperfections" like that just take his naturally charismatic swagger and transforms him into a relatable man. There are few things more hot than that.'
'I enjoy my body and all of its uniqueness. I like how my freckles make me stand out and make me different from other models. They are just freckles and just another part of a body that make up who I am.'
As I mentioned in the post above, FH is rooted in story. The journey into modeling for 25 year old Chris Topel was an interesting one to me. The road traveled was long, bumpy and without the support of a map to provide direction. It began in July of 1988 in Kokomo Indiana. As an infant, Chris spent his first few years living with an aunt, his mother unable to care for him due to drug and personal issues. At the age of four, his father. who lived in Swanton, Ohio, regained custody of Chris over a long and drawn out legal battle. Chris continued to live in Swanton until he was 17 but would continue to visit his family in Kokomo during summers and most school holidays.
'From a very young age, I believed in the fantasies. No matter what they were and how they came across me I believed. Destiny, fate, signs from up above, things greater than myself. I was born with it engraved in my soul and it made me an extremely adventurous and wondering child and teenager. I remember playing the old super Nintendo game called The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The moment I turned on the game I was mesmerized. I felt that the very character I was playing was just another interpretation of myself.'
Chris longed to live inside the game, to be a hero and persevere over evil and all the obstacles put in his way. A resiliency began with the attitude that no obstacles would get in his way of eventually becoming that hero he fantasied about, no matter what the cost. To achieve this goal Chris worked on both his physical and emotional strength. He ran, lifted weights and learned different languages. When watching movies, it was not to be entertained, but to find out about others, what they thought and what they felt. His goal, to become street smart and be able to read people and engineer himself to respond in a smooth and natural way.
'Mastering all that I could learn and finding out all that makes people tick, and I did. It didn't take long, just lost of practice and I truly began to understand the significance of being humble, confident, and the appropriate times to show charm. Choosing just the right facial expressions to make it seem genuine...and after a while, it became natural and instinctual, it became real.'
Like all the best laid plans however, Chris's journey came to a crashing halt with the death of his mother when he was just 16. Chris was left lost, blank. Chris found himself at a fork in the road of his life. As his childhood ended and he became a teen, he found himself playing the role of the bad boy, always going against the grind. After his mothers death, Chris had to decided whether to continue down that road, turn numb, and not deal with his hurt... or grab onto those early dreams and put his faith in God, fate and himself. To finally follow his destiny and become that hero he had always felt drawn to, no matter how unrealistic and impossible it may have seemed at the time.
After more than a few conversations with his father, they both both agreed that Chris should move back to his Aunts in Kokomo, at least until he could afford his own place to live in. Chris finished off his last year of High School with nearly straight A's in Kokomo then took a year off to focus on Survivalism, the art of living off the land.
'I told myself when others were going to give up, I would stand tall, when others couldn't find a way out of an obstacle I would be standing on top of it, and most importantly, when others would choose to stop, I would continue to walk on.'
And walk he did. Chris took the phrase literally and ended up walking the 50 miles to his aunts house. He went pretty much non stop but it still tok close to 27 hours. Although he has run full marathons, Chris says the walk was definitely much harder but also the most spiritual experience Chris had ever had. The Man Who Walked (TMWW) was born.
The ultimate goal, to eventually walk the entire world, helping others on his journey. Chris is aware many think he is crazy and even possibly disillusioned, but he doesn't care. By always walking, and never sitting somewhere he is not fully able to be himself, has done him well so far. It has already taken him places he never would have dreamed possible and knows that the journey is still only in the beginning stages. Walking means you're heading somewhere, and Chris is getting closer to becoming the man he always looked up to, that hero in those fantasy's that helped get him through the tough times when he was a kid.