'I had always been drawn to Buffalo after driving past on the way to Niagara Falls as a kid. From afar, there are many beautiful buildings of architectural significance. The added bonus was Buffalo's industrial history, much like my hometown of Cleveland. It had a rich past. One building that always drew my attention was the old train station. Sitting in the middle of a neighborhood of small homes, it rises like a skyscraper dropped from the sky!'
FH readers are aware that in addition to sharing incredible imagery, I love to learn and share the story behind their creation. The story, or stories, behind this set of images has quickly became one of my favorites. The location, the Buffalo Central Terminal, a 17-story Art Deco style station which has been inactive since 1979. The photographer, Robert Colgan, is known for both discovering and utilizing abandoned historical structures, and celebrating their historical past, beauty and architecture within his imagery.
In addition to the story behind Robert's choice of location, finding a model shoot there is also central to the story. Travis didn't wake up the day of the shoot expecting to be modeling naked in a run down train station in front of two photographers that he'd never met before. Travis had never modeled before, nor ever even thought of modeling until that day. Circumstances, spontaneity and a leap of faith all played a role in assisting the shoot to come together.
'Designed by the same architect as New York's Grand Central Station, the Buffalo station has been beset with hard times and is lovingly attended by a group of volunteers trying to restore it. Although we didn't have access to the main terminal itself these images are from the multitude of outlying structures surrounding it, including the separated passenger concourse whose attachment to the main terminal had long been demolished'. Travis on Scruff
So with a historical architecturally stunning structure to shoot in, all that's left is finding a model, something that proved difficult for Robert on this particular shoot. Thankfully, he and the fellow photographer who joined him on the shoot got creative. Thinking outside the box, they started looking on a local on-line dating site, and the sexy of selfie of Travis in his blue undies, (above)soon caught their eye. With one box ticked, the next challenge became convincing a young guy they'd never met, a guy on-line looking for a date not a modeling job, to join two total strangers in an run down abandoned building.
Robert: 'I had been contacting people through Model Mayhem for a couple of weeks prior to the shoot in Buffalo. When it came down to the actual weekend - crickets!!! Absolutely no response from the models. I traveled with a fellow photographer who was going to act as a spotter while on location. When the model luck ran out, he suggested one of the online dating services as another possibility. That's where we found Travis.'
'Robert's shooting partner contacted me on Scruff (I might have woofed him first, I'm not sure), but they told me that a couple of their models had bailed on them and asked if I was interested. It was a little weird being asked to go to an abandoned building with two strangers to take naked pictures. Almost everyone I told about it practically begged me not to go because who knows what they would do to me.'
'Travis was a very nice guy, but I'm sure he thought that we were a bit odd reaching out to someone through a non-traditional services. After meeting and then working on location, his mind was settled as to our intentions. Thankfully we explained everything upfront before meeting. Nowadays, it's always best to lay all of your cards out to ensure honesty and comfort. Of course, we were hoping for the same! But it all worked out and Travis got to see parts of Buffalo he's never really experienced either!'
Travis: 'Right around the time they had asked me to do the photoshoot, my husband and I had separated after 7 years together, married for almost 3 of those years. When we first separated, I didn't know who I was without him, I didn't know how to be me anymore. I needed to do things that made me feel uncomfortable to sort of make me feel comfortable in my own skin again (if that makes any sense). So after telling at least 4-5 people where I would be, just in case they did turn out to be crazy twink kidnappers, I met them at the terminal.'
Although I don't want to give any crazy twink kidnappers any ideas, in this particular case, Travis's online dating profile proved to be an accidental but fortuitous nexus between artist and model. Travis also proved be the perfect subject to assist Robert in his visual exploration of the old train station. The sadness in his beautiful eyes speaks to his recent heartache and can almost feel his initial hesitation interacting with his strange new surrounding. There is a powerful beauty however, seeing Travis embarking on his own exploration, both in this new modeling challenge, and within his life beyond the terminal.
Travis: 'Working with Robert was not at all what I expected for meeting a photographer off Scruff for a nude photo shoot. I had already had a plan to jet if they turned out to be creepers who just wanted naked pictures of twinks lol. Robert was very professional, he made me feel more comfortable being naked in an abandoned building than I've ever felt being naked - even in the privacy of my own home. They were so thankful that I agreed to do the shoot, but really I should've been thanking them. I don't know if they know it, but they helped pull me out of a serious depression and gain my self confidence back after the separation.'
Robert: 'Travis maintained his composure through 4 hours of wandering, image making and even dodging railroad security. We returned with some terrific shots, great stories and the potential for more work in the future. Sometimes spontaneity can be an awesome thing!'
Travis: 'I've never done any modeling before, and definitely not nude! I also never thought anyone would like them. (that is until I saw them, he does do amazing work). I definitely wouldn't mind doing more modeling, especially for Robert.'
My introduction to Grease wasn't the through watching the movie, but through listening to the soundtrack. Grease was one of the few albums my mother owned and listened to and I knew learned the music long before I saw the film on VHS many years later. I remember laying on the floor in the eighties opening the LP and staring at the images on the inside cover.
Like John Travolta I would guess... the cute blonde who really drew my attention wasn't Olivia Newton-John, it was Kelly Ward who played Putzie. I like many of Travolta's movies, but never really got his appeal physically. He is an actor who to me seems to appeal more to women than men. When I finally got to see Grease on video, the only actor who drew my 'lustful' attention was the adorable Ward.
Ward got his start in another Travolta project, the 1976 TV movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. After appearing in Grease, Ward made a few guest appearances on TV shows, but by the early 80's moved behind the camera doing voice work and working as a dialogue and voice director.
The name Putzie is actually only used in the film version of the musical. In the original stage production, the third T-bird character's name is Roger. Putzie only sang in group numbers, but in the stage version Roger sang one of my favorites songs from the musical Mooning Given Putzie and the T-birds had a mooning song in the film, too bad Ward didn't get to sing the song to Jan.
Below Ward and Jeff Conaway with Barry Pearl (Doody) and Michael Tucci (Sonny)
I never appeared in a stage version of Grease, but I did sing Mooning in a Grease night showcase in my first year of University. One of the best versions of 'Roger' singing the song on Youtube HERE: