For the last several years, one of the shoots that I most anticipate viewing, and most look most forward featuring, are the images from Gordon Nebeker, Mike Tossy and StudioMGPhotography from their annual trip to Utah. One of the themes I often explore on FH is the relationship between model and environment. Some photographers use location as simply background, much like green screen in a movie, the background is almost unimportant as it can be altered and changed in the editing process. For Gordon, Mike and Mark, the rock and landscapes, the sun, sand, sky and water of Southern Utah are more than the just a backdrop for their annual visual expedition, they are the inspiration.
Yorgen takes the bow by Gordon Nebeker
I am always amazed at the visual beauty and grandeur of the location. The mountains and unique rock formations, the land water and skylines. There is a timelessness to the land that conjures up visuals we have all seen and experienced in books, movies and on television. For this shoot, the lands inhabitants are male models and photographers, but they could be easily replaced, with cavemen, dinosaurs or almost any character from a science fiction movie or book.
Behind the scenes with Mike Tossy
The lands in and around Lake Powell have in fact stood in for many far off distant planets and time periods in close to 50 film and television projects including Gravity, Evolution, Walking With Monsters, John Carter and The Planet of the Apes, both the 1968 and 2001 versions. I was both intrigued and frightened by The Planet of the Apes when I saw it on television as a kid, and the film's visuals came vividly to mind when viewing some of the images from this years Utah shoot.
Beyond the sandstone and erosion created crevices and rock based architecture, there is another element that is organic to the timeless feel of area, the colors. The sky's deep blue and the palette of browns, oranges, reds and even purples that nature so magnificently brushed over every surface. There is a heat and fire that blends so many branches of earth sciences including' geography, geology, physic, not to mention the visual nod to astronomy. For me however the science that most embodies this years set of images, is undeniably, chemistry.
Yorgen by StudioMGPhotography
There is a clear chemical reaction, both seen and felt in this years photo series. It is palpable and powerful between models Devin Franco and Yorgen, and visually evident and memorialized in the captures from Mark, Mike and Gordon. Most years, I have separated the images by artist, or location, usually separating the art shots, and the behind the scene images from the shoot. This year, I am presenting the images over three day with a focus on chemistry and the stages of heat. Starting with the organization of the shoot and trip, and the first meeting and merging of creative energies.
Devin & Yorgen by Gordon Nebeker
'Working with 3 professional photographers was pretty easy, especially since they all respected each other and obviously have amazing taste. :ake Powell was a blast! Absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking. I had no idea it was that big.'
'It was interesting and a little confusing sometimes working with three photographers at once, but as a model it's easy to adapt and pickup on the photographer(s) styles after the first few hours. Now that I am seeing the results I like seeing the differences in perspective and style'
'A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Molecules of two elements in solution collide, bump, and pass each other maybe thousands of times before they may react. Sparks can continue to rise and fall for hours until eventually, one ignites.'
For a spark to ignite, there must be three things present, oxygen, fuel and heat. In this case, the oxygen was provided by the scheduled shoot. The fuel provided by the photographers, and of course the heat, from Devin and Yorgen. Tracking how chemistry is created, it means going back to the source of the spark. For the Utah shoot, this means going back a few months to see how the shoot was set-up and planned, and how Yorgen and Devin ended up being the two models boarding the house boat on Lake Powell.
'I've been giving some thought to what "works" in a model for this event. I've decided that (1) of course you need physical beauty, (2) you need photographically apparent physically strength, to compete with rock and mountain background, and (3) you need to find exploring Lake Powell itself inspiring. In all three areas Yorgen and Devon excelled. Both admit that the houseboat on Lake Powell was a major factor is saying ‘yes’ to our proposal.'
'Yorgen was our first confirmed model this year, followed by Anton, who was on FH earlier this year (HERE:) They had both come to CA separately to work with Mike and I, and in the process I connected them on Instagram.'
'Then when we were having trouble finding a third I created a casting call I sent out to maybe 10 hot guys on IG. We were only aiming for three models but then on the same day, within minutes of each other, both Devin and a forth model responded that they would like to do it. I impulsively said yes to both. Then we lost Anton to a family wedding, but that was okay because we still had three. After all three were confirmed to go, our forth bailed, citing work scheduling and we were back to two, Yorgen and Devin.'
'Our bad luck” turned out to be the best luck of all!' Mark and Mike had photographed Yorgen before and, in fact, he was a candidate for our photo shoot last year on Lake Powell but he was not able to get off work to join us then. So it was first time for me to work with Yorgen and the same for Devin who none of us had worked with before. One always hopes for the best; that everyone will work well together and enjoy their time on the Lake together, but you never know until it happens. Turns out we were very fortunate again this year, having models who worked very well together and throughly enjoyed being out on the Lake. It wasn’t just a photoshoot, it was an adventure!
'Our hope each year is that the models will get along well. It's always a toss of the dice though. Among other traits we aim for guys of similar age, and somewhat equally free spiritedness. As they sign on they are sent photos of anyone else who has already signed on, and if they ask I'll connect them on Instagram or text. They are also given examples of our work from previous years so they can get a feel for our three styles and what we might hope to create.'
'I know Yorgen & Devin had connected on IG at least a week or two before meeting in Utah. Their first face-to-face meeting though was when Gordon and Yorgen arrived from Salt Lake City, and Devin, Mike and I were loading the houseboat (we'd done the shopping together earlier in the morning). It wasn't until the next morning that we took our first photos of the trip and by then they were already quoting lyrics and lines from The Lion King and other Disney movies to each other! Utah 2017 was a very good year!!'
'Yorgen had worked with Mike and Mark, but Devin was new to all of us and while Mark and I talked with him on the phone before the trip, that was about the extent of it. Devin is pretty out going and Yorgen a bit more reserved, so what they were both thinking at the beginning is anybody's guess.'
'Yorgen and Devin were wonderful to work with! I know that in some of my very first photos of the two of them on the first day of shooting (second day on the water) they already seemed comfortable working with each other. From the first day we shot with them, they had no hesitation in assuming physically close poses with each other and, indeed, when Mark asked them early on if they were comfortable enough to actually kiss in one of the poses, the genie was out of the bottle.'
Knowing that I was going to feature the Utah shoot again this year, I knew a bit about the casting process. When I first heard they were heading off with two, not three models, I was bit disappointed. Although when I first started featuring the Utah trips there was just one model, over the last few years it had gone from 1 to 2 and then 3 the last couple of year.
I had grown to love the many ways that three models could be posed, and the additional combinations of models that could be shot. I needn't have worried. Yorgen and Devin's energy and chemistry more than made up for the third model that bailed and the resulting images, some of the hottest thus far. For this series, although I am featuring mostly solo shots, and images with distance between both models, you can still clearly see, from both the images and the photographer's comments, how those sparks were first lit.