In the early days of the site, one of my favorite models to feature was the ultra talented and hot Nick Ayler. The first images I saw of Nick were from photographer Hans Fahrmeyer, and Hans graciously shared many of their collaborations with the site. Nick's images are always stand outs, and in addition to Hans, I loved seeing the results of many other favorite photographers, some of which I've featured below.
When I had the chance to interview Nick a few years into the site, In addition to loving his work in front of the camera, I was impressed at his dedication and commitment to everything he did. This was especially true for all that was required on the business side. For Nick, modeling was a great way to get his name out there, but his ultimate goal was the entertainment business.
Nick did a lot of his own promotion, and for many years worked without an agency or management, doing the bulk of the leg work, and making many contacts himself. A passion for music, dance and acting led to roles on film, on television (Hollywood Boys) and commercials. Many of you may remember seeing Nick in Leslie Jordan's Superbowl add for Doritos. (HERE:)
Starting back in 2009 with his work with Hans, I featured Nick often over the years, highlighting his magazine and book covers and whenever he had new projects and shoots. Check out Nick Ayler on FH by clicking the links below.
'Tom purchased a camera with his first paycheck when working at Chrysler Corporation as a machine operator. He was an avid amateur photographer and caught the photography bug. When serving in Vietnam he ditched his gas mask and carried his Minolta with him ever where. Later he studied special education at Michigan State University.'
FH readers have been enjoying the work of photographer Tom Nakielski for the last five years. Tom has become one of my favorite artists to feature, not only due to the quality of his imagery, but the enthusiasm and creativity Tom brings to every shoot and project he takes on. Earlier this year, Tom sent on a series of images featuring models with various pieces of material. Michael
The material was used as a background, a design element, or a means to provide cover for props, or to cover some of the more modest models. I loved the images Tom sent on, but was stumped on how to present them as a story. I put the piece aside, and between features on Ben, Malyk and the Forth of July, there were plenty of subjects for Lights On Studio to share.
After going back and forth with Tom, and bantering around far too many fabric puns, I decided it was time to focus on the artist behind the lens. Although I've written a lot about Tom's work, I hadn't yet pulled a full 'Columbo' and turned the spotlight on Tom. As you could tell from that top quote from Tom's bio, there is much about the man to learn more about.
After Vietnam, and graduating from Michigan State, Tom quickly realized his heart wasn't in teaching. It was natural then, for Tom to start working in a camera store. With his engaging personality, it was long before he became the sale manager and used his time off to take photography classes at Lansing Community College. Tom' s fate changed one night when a model walked into the store looking for someone to take photos of him for a local modeling agency. Although Tom had never photographed any before, that didn't stop him from volunteering to do it.
Having no equipment, Tom improvised an umbrella light like he had seen professionals use in photo magazines. He bought a rain umbrella, covered it with foil and taped it to a light stand and set up a studio in the attic of his duplex apartment. It was sink or swim. Looking back at those images, Tom says the agency director must have been desperate for a photographer. But he quickly caught on and began developing a style.
Eventually Tom opened a small studio and did his own processing of the film and prints. Senior pictures, family portraits, weddings, pets and miscellaneous assignments quickly followed. Tom's studio began to take off and before long, tom had to hire a small staff to meet the studio's demands.
Now 'retired' Tom is able to devote his full attention in pursuing his passion for creating fitness and fine art images which focus on the male physique as an art form. I've been lucky to be able to showcase Tom's work, and grateful for his support and commitment to creating unique holiday imagery for the site.
There's a reason Tom's chose to credit himself as Lights On Studio. From that umbrella covered with foil light in his attic, Tom has focused on studio shoots. Tom's passion for studio shoots comes through in his images, as does the rich history of the many shoots and models he's work with there. I'm always impressed with the endless assortment of props and backdrops used, and the depth of light and color that cascades over the skin of the nude models Tom shoots.
I often think of Tom's studio like an old costume shop, or a wardrobe or prop room in a theatre or movie studio. A room brimming with pieces of history from years of work and creative triumphs. I was saddened to learn from Tom that he could be losing his studio this summer. Like so many great open spaces, the studio has been recently sold and the warehouse where it's located is set to become a marijuana growing business. I'm of course secretly, well not so secretly, hoping the deal falls through... It did confirm to me it was the perfect time to turn up that spotlight on Tom, and his studio.
Do you know what inspired your passion for photography? I was inspired by Life magazine. Always looked forward to each edition. I was impressed with the great images. And LOL, they didn't take much reading.
When/how did that passion start to focus on the nake male form? I secretly must have always been intrigued by the naked male form. I can remember when in high school I would go to the drug store magazine rack and peek at the physique magazines..."Physique Pictorial" , " Male Physique", "Adonis" always afraid I would be caught looking at them. The magazine went under the guise of promoting the health and physique of the male but were highly suggestive with gay undertones. Then there was Tom of Finland. Oh dear me. I was shocked and fascinated. I was intrigued by these images and also fought off guilt for looking at them. No amount of confession or prayers curbed my interest. At the time I was denying my homosexual desires.
How did you begin looking for models? I started photographing willing friends and people I may have met at the "disco" Yes, I said disco. I loved photography and photographing naked men was an obvious direction to take. I also had the luck to have a model agency want to work with me. So,I begin photographing models for their portfolios. I really wasn't that good but it was sink or swim. I learned through trial and error. When I look back at those early pictures, I am surprised that the agency continued to have me as their photographer. I now get most of my models from Model Mayhem. I have actually gotten one from Craigs List. I have approached complete strangers and requested a session with them. I ended up getting several models that way. I am always nervous to approach them and have to force myself and talk myself into doing it. But a few of my favorite pictures are from strangers I have blindly approached.
Tell me about the very first time you shot a male model naked? The first models I photographed nude were friends. So, it was easy. It was during the 70's and we were all more daring and going through a sexual revolution. I was doing it just for the fun of it. I had no intention of using them for display or for the public. But I did submit some picture to "Blue Boy" and "In Touch" magazines; which they did publish. That gave me a little more confidence about my abilities as a photographer. Probably one of the first non-friends nude shots was done with a model from the modeling agency. A beautiful man in perfect shape.We were working on his portfolio and I hesitantly suggested a shot aka Atlas with the globe on his shoulder. I was more nervous than him. In fact,I turned my back pretending to busy myself as he undressed. We did not do frontal nudes and I made sure I didn't look at his privates. Not sure how I would react and didn't want him to see me staring and his crotch. So I can't even tell you if he was well endowed. But in my fantasies he was gigantic.
What qualities do you look for when deciding whether to work with a model? When first checking out a model there are two things I am drawn to. General body language, posture and just how he presents himself naturally. Some people can just stand there and have an aura about them. Also their face. Usually what attracts me to a model first is their face.
Do you have any 'tell' questions you ask models that help you decide if they are a good fit? I will let the models know I want to do nudes or implied nudes. If I find them on Model Mayhem I will pursue ones that check the nude, erotic and fetish boxes. I usually send them samples of some of my work to see what they are comfortable with. Some images have no frontal nudity, some full frontal and some more in your face erotic ( hands down underwear, hand on chest or close to their privates or legs spread wide while leaning back and some more classic. I ask them which of these are they comfortable with. I don't want to surprise a model by asking them to put their hands down their pants and create an awkward moment. I am never sure just how well a session is going to be. Once we get started I can see if the model is enjoying creating artistic images and has input of his own; then I know it will be time well spent. If he is just going through the motions, it is usually a shorter session.
Check out more of my interview with Tom, and take a peak inside his studio on the