'Andrew had a Craigslist ad in the job/resume selection looking for any kind of work. He had recently lost a job. He responded right away with interest in modeling. He sent along an odd little photo that is still endearing to me to this day.'
Some of the creepiest stores to walk into are the ones that try too hard. The happy hello's at the Disney Store, and the now non-existent Blockbuster. Those hello's always...and still do, give me the chills. You just knew the greetings weren't genuine, but instead, corporate orchestrated direction. Much Like the old Witch's welcome to Hansel and Gretel, the invitation is a facade and far more sinister, and financially motivate, than sweet.
Each time I begin a profile, I ask for stories. Stories about the shoot, the model, photographer and the experiences of each in the creation of the images. Most share the truth, to a degree. Most want to be complimentary of the process, why wouldn't they? Sometimes sticking to the surface is, well just cleaner. Photography and modeling for many, go beyond just being a jobs. When your work is also your passion, often you dive deeper. To painful places, hitting nerves below the surface.
This particular story, starts with the image below, the first shot of Andrew that I saw. I love everything about the image. The window, the lighting,the pose and of course. Andrew. I love his look, his directed gaze and beautiful body. I think I especially love Andrew's penis. The penis isn't a body part that usually draws me to a model or image. It can in fact, more often than odd, be distracting. There is something so unassuming and natural about the state of Andrew's penis, not fluffed, not pumped up, nor morphed, as many photographers criminally do within the editing process. What was captured was Andrew, and the truth and beauty of the moment.
Given how natural and organic Andrew's images were, it may not be that surprising to hear, that the images, and the story behind them, began in a garden. The Third Eye's Jack describes himself as totally unorganised all of the time. Although he became interested in photography just a couple of years ago, it was his recent retirement that allowed Jack the time to focus, at least at first... on his garden.
'It started when my yard was in a master gardening tour. I began taking pictures and found that I enjoyed some of the creativity in producing unusual shots of the backyard. During that time I had several young men from Craigslist help me prepare the garden and yard. When we would finish working in the yard I started to ask them if I could photograph them.'
'At this time I was not photographing anyone in the nude. One was covered with tattoos and a very weathered young face and the other one actually looked all American. I enjoyed photographing them so much that I decided to rent a small space in downtown Dayton for the purpose of photographing models both men and women.'
At first, Jack wasn't exactly sure how to get models into his studio and in front of his camera. The solution...Craigslist. Jack looked over adds that people posted looking for work, not just for modeling, but men and women looking for any job or source of income. Nudes were not important to Jack in the beginning, shooting was the focus. Soon however, shirts, and eventually pants, started coming off as well. More than their clothes however, Jack had a knack for removing facade leaving just the truth, raw and painful as it sometimes could be, naked and bare in front of his lens.
Prior to retirement, Jack was a social worker.. His years working with people in need, honed both his caring and his listening skills. So many of the men and women who ended up in front of Jack's camera were looking for more than just quick cash, Many seemed in need of a purpose and a connection. Many just needed someone to listen to their stories. Although Jack sought out both men and women to shoot, most of the models who accepted his offer ended up being men. Many were struggling, broken, or in the mid-point of a life battle.
In the feature below, you will be introduced to the images and stories of Redd, Georgio, Ronnie and Cory. Because it was Andrew that first led me to contact Jack, I wanted to use Jack's work with him as a visual prologue. Andrew had just lost his job and was coming out of a bad break-up with his girlfriend. In addition to helping him make some money, Jack, along with Redd (who you'll meet in the piece below) helped Andrew out of more than a few tricky situations... I have come to believe, the third eye, is actually not another eye, but an ear. Listening, when done carefully and with intent, can lead you to see things, and people, in a different light, and through a different lens.
'Andrew has lived on his own since the age of sixteen. He knew the meaning of " charm" and when to use it. We both have adult ADD. So for an hour there were no completed sentences or thoughts. We were somehow intuitive of what the other needed during the shoot. We immediately developed a kinship When I explained about the interest in nudity, he wasn't sure. I suggested we go ahead with the shoot and we would only go to his comfort level. .Once his underwear came off he was a free bird and had minimal inhibitions.'
'As a photographer, I am concentrating so much on shooting the photos, that I often don't notice much about anatomy until I am editing. I think this made him feel comfortable. There was no difference in how we interacted with or without his pants. He did another shoot a short time later. He was so comfortable with being nude, that the photos really benefited. I think we began completing thoughts and sentences. As is often the case the 2nd shoot was more comfortable.'
Part 2: Not, for Bedtime Stories
'This is my friend Ron, Who I call Redd because I already have too many Rons in my life. He's a good sport. He even allows me to dress him like Vincent van Gogh who I think he looks like.'
'Oddly enough, Redd was the first person who responded to my ad was asking for time for print. He is a big man and loves to ride Harleys. He has bright red hair to the middle of his back and beard. Ron ended up painting my studio, which was a mess, in exchange for the photos. He was basically homeless, and hooked up with women to find places to live. Although our lives are completely different we stayed in touch.'
'The image below was during a phase and my interest with photography where I thought everyone needed a prop. Almost every model had to hold some type of taxidermy small animal and sometimes they would be given an accordion to play. Someone finally told me that that looked stupid.'
'About 2 1/2 months ago I got a text from him stating that he had run out of luck with the women and was requiring surgery on his back. Long story short, Redd now stays at my house.and does most of the cooking. he often makes me fudge, as he knows I like it. His Harley sets in the garage while he recovers from surgery two weeks ago on his back. '
'I was looking through Craigslist ads, a daily event. In the resume section, there was an ad with the heading, 'Won't someone help a felon?"
'There was a dark headshot but you couldn't see or tell much about him. I wrote to him and he agreed for a $30./hr Photo shoot. The shoot lasted for two hours. Georgio had a commanding presence. He and I are roughly the same height, but the similarities stopped there. He was the first alpha male I recognised immediately. I like him. He was extremely bright and articulate. His strongest weapon in defending himself was not his hands, but instead his words. He could make one unsure of themselves with just his words.'
''He disrobed almost immediately. There, Standing before me was an earthly God. His body was the most perfect and his penis the largest I had ever seen. I normally don't notice those things until editing, and prayed that I did not have a "OMG look" on my face.' That was the day, that all I did was snap the camera. His movements were deliberate and intuitive. There may have been a time during the shoot that was out of body for me. I suppose I was under some sort of spell. He knew that as a photographer, that I was mesmerized by him.'
'By the end of the shoot he almost had me convinced to give him photos in addition to an hourly wage. He had a strong argument on why he deserved more than other models. In the end I came to my senses. It was a long ride home as we were both unhappy with the other. When I got home to edit his shoot, it was clear that these were some of the best photos I had ever taken. I remember him saying "prison is a powerful learning ground" I am inclined to agree.'
'Ronnie is another young man from CL. If I remember right, he was looking for a cougar. He had no photo, but described himself as fit and attractive. I wrote my traditional shtick to him and asked if he were camera worthy. He sent a selfie back which I still have.'
'Ronnie was 24, a young man. Nice eyes and a complexion like peaches and cream. He confessed that his Mother and Grand Mother had applied foundation and blush to cover his blemishes. That was very endearing. Ronnie was the most street savvy of my models. He knew how to turn on the charm and the manipulation. I photographed him four times over several months. Each time his "birthday" was the next day. " are you going to give me extra money as a present? " Very few models were loved by the camera as much as Ronnie. He had the most beautiful, glassy eyes.'
'He was very comfortable posing nude. With direction, he did some very good and unique work. Although he did it for money, I think he felt important and desired. He was a small, nervous young man. He could more easily attract women (and men) through his photos then in social interactions. During those two months it was clear Ronnie was slowly losing his identity and falling into a large well. Those magnificent eyes were fading. The "street" sucked him into the false hopes of being a tougher man.'
'The last time I photographed him, I picked him up in what appeared an abandoned houses in a lousy neighborhood. It was clearly not the safe environment of his grandmother's house. It appeared he sorely missed her nurturing and guidance. No more peaches and cream. He warned me prior to the last shoot that he had injuries from a bicycle accident the day before. During the shoot it was obvious the marks weren't from a bicycle wreck, but instead, bruising that looked an awful lot like fists to the gut. My guess is that this is a revolving way of life when you play with bad boys. I have had no further contact, but am protective of his photographs, as they are some of my best and favorites.'
'I also found Cory on Craigslist. I remember he had a nice photo in his ad. He was looking for a woman for casual sex.'
'I contacted him and explained my purpose. He was agreeable to the shoot. He said he was doing it for the money, $30, and said he was comfortable in his skin. When I met him, he did not look as harsh as his photo. His teeth had mostly rotted. He made me aware of the reason. We talked frankly throughout the shoot. He had spent a lot of time living on the street. He had no support system and no family.'
'Cory's girlfriend, the only person he trusted, had gone to prison the week before. They were both charged for selling. Her sentencing was scheduled before his and he knew he would be going to prison that next week. It was a sad shoot in the sense it was not for fun or interest. It was out of desperation and a specific purpose for him. His phone was disconnected by the next week. I never have heard from him again. When I began editing his photos I could clearly see the track marks on his arm He was one model whose eyes were like windows to his soul, expressing all of his sadness.'