Saturday, March 28, 2015

Time To Shine: Happy Birthday Mike Tossy

'What I love about Mike's work, and what I think really resonates with the subjects, is he shows who they are - the resulting images are about them. There is no confusion about what the image is saying. It is their time to shine and he makes sure they do.'


With the word Favorite in the site's title, there is a risk the word could lose it's meaning. Usually when we use the word favorite, it is to describe just one, maybe two or three of our favorite things. We generally have only one favorite meal or sometimes one or two favorite television shows, movies, books or songs. Favorite is usually used to descibe something special to you, and that aptly describes how I feel about the imagery of artist Mike Tossy.

Since I first featured Mike's imagery in one of my favorite pieces from 2010, (Seeing Red) the Santa Cruz photographer's work has been part of FH. I have featured Mike's solo work, his collaborative model shoots with partner Mark Gratham and fellow artists including Zedneram as well as Gordon Nebeker and Tom Clark in last summer's Utah Or Bust series. Mike's images are beautifully expansive, capturing a scope of body and spirit, space, location and emotion, beyond what most others visualize and freeze. I could go on and on about my love of Mike's work, but the rest of this piece is being written by another. With Mike celebrating his birthday on the 29th, Mark Grantham will take over the narrative to help celebrate both the day, and Mike's incredible body of work.

Mike Tossy by Mark Grantham

When we first met in 1982, Mike was modeling for photographer and friend Chuck Smith. Chuck has been a dear friend and mentor to both Mike and I for over 30 years now. Living with a sexy guy like Mike it was only natural I would also want to photograph him. Mike was my first model when I tried my hand at photographing a model back in 1984.

The two images above were taken by myself on a trip to Molokai!  Right from these first images, I was captivated by pairing a sexy man and the strong lines of abandoned spaces. At that time Mike was already shooting the occasional friend and male model, and we had a darkroom in our house so we developed the film and also did our own printing.

Below: Mike shooting Tim.  Image by Zedneram

Chuck and I are the only photographers to seriously shoot Mike (although I can hardly call myself a photographer back at this first shoot). Over the years both Mike and I have gotten much more serious with our photography hobby, encouraging and supporting each other, as we search out and shoot models. Occasionally, usually on our travels, we would come across some cool locations and I'd photograph Mike there too. Mostly Mike has been behind the camera for the last 30 years though. I'm occasionally along on his shoots at the 'reflector boy' and assistant. I may not be officially shooting, but I do catch a few snapshots along the way...

The original model in the images above and below is Paul, who was the 'yellow as corn' in Tye's recent Into The Woods feature. Mike was shooting Paul underwater. Paul is a surfer, and Mike was a swimmer in school. When they finished their shoot but were both still in the pool I grabbed my camera and asked them to glide back and forth a few times...

Below is Mike is at work. I took the three images of model Michael T who both Mike and I photographed when he was on a business trip to California.

Below:  Mike in Utah shooting Aaron, John and Jed

Everyone knows modeling can be hard work, but photography can wear one out too... The shot below was taken on a long shoot weekend in Utah last year, when we joined our friends Tom Clark & Gordon Nebeker creating with three great models in the desert.

Happy Birthday Mike!

Below: Mike in the spring of 1983 . Image by Chuck Smith


Tom G said...

Hello, I have seen some photos on other sites that credit Gordon Mebeker and other sites that credit Mike Tossy for the same photo. I notice you mention Nebeker in your discussion of Tossy. Can you explain any discrepancy in the various attributions?

Sites: (no attribution provided) (no attribution provided) (attribution of "gayfoco: Rob, Will & Joel in Moab, Utah USA by Gordon Nebeker follow") (attribution of "work of Santa Cruz photographer Mike Tossy ") (attribution of "Mike Tossy" on the photograph) (attribution of "12/07/17--01:29: gayfoco: Rob, Will & Joel in Moab, Utah USA by Gordon...")

TyeBriggs said...


I can't comment on the links, but Mike and Gordon (along with StudioMGPhotography) do yearly group shoots in Utah. So, there are many models and set ups that you may see that each of the photographers were shooting at together. The images may look similar but were taken by different photographers. Both Mike and Gordon also usually add a watermark to their work