Saturday, July 28, 2018
Mike Tossy: An Adonis Aquarium
'The symbolism of water has a universal undertone of purity and fertility. Symbolically, it is often viewed as the source of life itself as we see evidence in countless creation myths in which life emerges from primordial waters.'
Many artists are instinctively drawn to the visual and spiritual energy that nature provides. The natural light from the sun, the purity of water, the eternal quality to rocks and sand to the majesty of mountains and forests. Almost all photographers who shoot the male form outside of a studio setting look to the geographical beauty of their environment to compliment and contrast with the human body.
Mike Tossy is not only one of my favorite chroniclers of the male form, he also one of the best absorbed nature's energy within his work. Although Mike does shoot inside and in studio, most of the work that I have featured, incorporates the majestic visuals of the locations in which he is shooting.
The rock formations and caves in Lake Powell, the beaches and vegetation of Maui or the rocks, landscapes and beaches surrounding his home in Santa Cruz, California. Even when closer to home, Mike is often drawn to including water in his shoots, whether it be shooting Tim in a Jacuzzi, Lance in the shower or Raditty by the pool.
2 shots of Mike in the pool with Paul by StudioMGphotography
'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...'
Given his experience as a swimmer, and the many shoots Mike focused on capturing models in and around a swimming pool, I was all in when Mike's suggested featuring his images of saturated studs.
As an adult, I no longer support keeping the ocean's most magnificent creatures in captivity, but as a child, I loved visiting aquariums. It was incredible seeing nature's wonders up close. Because whales and dolphins spend much of their time under the water's surface, except when they are breaching or jumping into the air for a fish held by their trainers, some of the best views were through the huge class windows below the surface the tanks.
Since most swimming pools don't have underwater windows, artists must also take the plunge to get those underwater views. This series of images reminded me of my visits to Sea World. Instead of sea mammals however, Mike's pool is an Adonis Aquarium. In addition to the beauty of their underwater dance, Mike's models have other similarities with their ocean counterparts. If you look closely at Mike's underwater images, there's a beautiful harmony between the two species. The aqua Adonis has the smooth skin and strength of a killer whale, the sleek body and quick movement of a dolphin, and the personality, character and social tendencies of seals and beluga's.
How long after you began shooting the male form did you first shoot at a pool?
My first shoot, with a model named David, included some shots around the pool.
Do you remember the first shoot and any obstacles and difficulties that came up?
Yes I do! It was in the film days and I developed my own black and white negatives. Well something went wrong (I think I didn't get a canister lid on tight) and a ruined almost all the black and whites. I was able to save just a very few of the B&W images.
Do you have an all time favorite image or shoot in the pool?
Yes, but every year I have a new one. ;-) My current all time favorite (this week) is this shot. (below)
Do you always get into the pool as well when you're shooting?
No, it depends on the effect I want. For example, I frequently use the "David Hockney effect" of shooting down thru the waves. I just love the distortions and unpredictability. That is always done from above the pool. But, I think most of the time I get in for at least part of the time.
Have you had any models who were reluctant with shooting in water?
Yes, even here in California, the range of swimming skills is quite broad. So, inevitably, some models aren't comfortable in the water. In extreme cases we just don't get in the water. But even then we frequently shoot around the pool. Most surprising are the guys who hide their discomfort until after the shoot is over!
What percentage of models you have shot felt the need to comment on the cool water and shrinkage?
None that I can remember.
I now you were a swimmer, but have there been any incidents while shooting underwater that had you wishing there was a lifeguard?
Luckily no. But, we really aren't doing anything too taxing
Do you have 'go to' instructions to give models about posing underwater?
Do not get frustrated. The water motion introduces a level of unpredictability which you can either embrace or be frustrated by. I certainly can't predict how they turn out. Have fun without, or let's get out and shoot somewhere more controllable.
Without asking for details, would it be safe to say you have a few 'not for public viewing' images from some home pool parties?
You know how I solved that problem? I don't take photos at our own parties. Others do take them and sometimes I even get copies. But I don't take party photos.
You shoot primarily outside, what location inspires you the most creatively?
I'm thinking of one particular beach that is always changing. Every time you go it is different. One season there was even a boat wreck there. That is inspiring!