Friday, February 12, 2016
Body Slam: Ryan by Peek Physique
'Ryan was a professional wrestler --the kind of wrestling with capes and masks and all that jazz. I saw him pictured on flyers with the other combatants and he always stood out with his boyish good looks.'
A well crafted sentence can tell a complete story, and photographer Tom Willard's first sentence to me about his introduction to Ryan certainly did just that. Wrestling can conjure up a variety of visuals, depending on your personal experiences, and when and where you grew up. For many, thoughts go to junior high school matches, acne covered bodies in singlets wrestling on floor mats until the gym teacher blows their whistle or slams the mat.
For others, wrestling is all about pomp and circumstance, huge arena's, loud music and loud crowds, Vince Mcmahon and those capes and masks that Tom mentioned in his quote. This, is really the only experience of wrestling that I remember. We didn't have a wrestling team in my school, not that I knew of anyway. My only connection to wrestling on floor mats was watching movies like Vision Quest and Going To The Mat.
My older brother watched wrestling, and he and friends would watch it in our rec room on Saturday mornings. I often joined them, not because I liked wrestling, but because I wanted to feel apart of the group, and not stand out for my non-interest. I would rather have been watching cartoons, but when your a kid, knowing already that you're different, any time you can blend brings an welcomed sense of safety.
I remember in the early 90's my father took my brother and I, and several of his friends to a local hockey stratum to see Wrestlemania. There was an excitement being there live, not to mention seeing two men wearing so little and so physically intertwined. It was an odd sensation seeing so many people, men and women of all different ages so caught up in such a sweat driven, and over the top soap opera.
The highlight of night for me had to be the appearance of The Undertaker, ascending from his coffin about 10 feet from where we were seated. His body glistening with sweat and spray, his muscles, his long stringy hair and theatrical walk and attitude. He won of course, but that's not what stuck out to me most. I remember looking around at all of those faces of the people around me. All so engaged in the fight, so energized and excited. I remember wondering why I was so disinterested in everything going on and why all of these people were so into something that seemed so silly to me.
This was the last time that I watched wrestling, in person or on television. My need to be included was no longer as strong as my desire to pursue my own interests. That doesn't mean I gave my interest in wrestlers. There is still something very raw and erotically charged about a competition that brings two men so physically close together, sweaty and intertwined.... especially if they ooze the raw sexual appeal that Ryan does.
'Ryan came over to my studio and we got a number of different shots using various locations and lighting set-ups. I don't understand photographers who do a shoot and all the pictures end up looking the same. Use different locations. Move the lights around. Shoot from down on the floor. Ask the models to bring a various clothing items. Use props!'
Tom and Ryan shot three times together, the first and third, featured in this piece. At the first shoot, Tom describes Ryan as quiet and reserved, but Tom, given his deafness, says this is not uncommon for him during a shoot. Tom always tell the models that although he may not be able to carry on much of back and forth conversation, he is a talker and likes to chat and give feedback while working.
'Ryan seemed to have a Superman kind of thing going on. I could easily see him cast in the role of the iconic hero or his alter ego, Clark Kent. Aside from the fact that you'd probably get sued by the Superman people, you could probably get some nice pictures of Ryan in and out of the Superman uniform.'
During his first time in front of Tom's camera, although he was naked during the shoot, Ryan remained mostly covered, putting the white towel he was holding to good use. Ryan felt it was a good idea to leave a little to the viewers imagination. Given it was their first time working together, Tom respected Ryan's boundaries and felt they came up with some really hot images for Ryan's port.
A couple of months later, when Ryan showed up for his second shoot. Any nerves Ryan had the first time seemed to have totally disappeared. This time, a more buffed up Ryan, left that white towel on the floor and exhibited a confidence in front of the camera, deciding this time to leave nothing to the viewers imagination. As incredibly hot as Ryan looks wearing nothing, I cannot help but still be a bit curious about those cape and mask shots...