Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Quintessential: Stephen Michaels by John Hough

-the pure and essential essence of something
-pertaining to the most perfect embodiment of something

Photographer John Hough was on my list. The short list of artists whose work I really wanted to have a part of the blog. I have enjoyed John's images of the male form for some time and admired his blend of physique with fantasy and masculinity with beauty and artistry. John also has the skill and eye to so sharply capture every muscle and vein the men he photographs have worked so long and so hard to distend and have seen.

Checking John's name off my list proved a bit of a challenge, but one I am sure you will agree was well worth the effort. John has been shooting celebrities and models for more decades than I have been alive. He is keenly aware of the power, and the damage, that having one's art free flowing around the web can do. My first contact with John was back in 2012 but it wasn't until last December, after revisiting some of his new work decided to give it another kick at the can. John was never opposed to the idea, just concerned about what it would entail and that any model featured was supportive of being a part.

It all came together in part due to his work last fall with Stephen Michaels. I had previously featured Stephen on FH with his work with Carl Proctor and felt John's work with Stephen was some his best. Stephen is a powerhouse in front of the camera, and was a perfect match in providing balance with the massive space and feel of the working steel factory that surrounded him. There is a certainly an artistic beauty to the factory I loved, but also a coldness which required the right model and photographer to bring to life.

When I first thought of profiling John's work, I envisioned a 'story' which would explore the massive changes in the shooting of the male form over the few decades. John quickly taught me that although things surrounding the business may have changed, the work itself essentially has not. When you focus on the actual shoot, and relationship between model and artist, the core elements remain quintessentially the same as they always have. 'In the 70's there weren't that many photographers shooting male nudes. Also, a lot of work back then was very posed and stiff. I think photographers, myself included were happy just to be able to shoot nudes and we didn't give much thought about all the possibilities in posing.'

'With digital it is very easy to see your results instantly and by doing so, you can change lighting or anything else to make good shots. 5 minutes on any shot can make a big difference in quality. To me, taking the shot is only the beginning. It reminds me of when I shot film and then spent more time in the darkroom than the actual shoot. I spent many years working in pro photo labs as well as making my own color and black and white prints. Photoshop is a dream come true for me'

'When I worked with Tony Ward in the 80's, he was 18 and I'm sure outside of his family and friends, no one knew who he was. To me he was simply a great model to work with, he really loved his time in front of the camera.'

Although Tony Ward went on to become a 'name', John says a models popularity, or his list of credits, is really not a factor for wanting to work with him. 'A model has to have a great face, in most cases they will also have a great body.' One of John's greatest joys is to work with a new model and watch how they open up in front of the camera. 'They become an entirely new person and it gives me chills to see it happen. Then when the session is over, they are the person who I met several hours ago but now, they have confidence for the next time in front of the camera.'

In viewing John's images, especially in this series with Stephen, you can see how experience, not just in years, but maybe more importantly in hours, plays a part in creating images with deeper layers and greater depth. Hours and hours of shooting with different models and experimenting with different styles, themes and ways of posing, lighting and framing an image. John has not just shot Stephen within the steel factory, through the captures, they have both become a small part of it. John's images bring a feel for the roughness of the building, and the work done within, into his work with Stephen and together create images which reflect both the setting and the experience and skill of the model and artist within it.

'Stephen is a dream to work with. first of all, he is a very nice person, he has a great sense of humor and of course he is in great shape so no matter what pose he is in, he always looks great, no attitude and one of the best I have worked with over the years. The owner of the mill rents out the space for movie companies as well as photographers and the space is well over 50,000 sq feet. After shooting for 5 hours, I was wiped out, we shot in about 7 or so different locations in the mill and moving lights and equipment all over is tiring. The bottom line is if you have a model like Stephen, then anywhere you shoot works out.'

1 comment:

www.carlproctorphotos.com said...

Sensational team effort!