Earlier today, a photographer contacted me on ModelMayhem and asked to see more of my work. I replied with the link to my blog and password to the protected posts… we discussed our mutual views against producing male pornography in the name of artistic virtue and his desire to shoot male models. Our views diverged when he went so far as to say that if he ever did work featuring the male nude, that he wouldn’t show the male’s genitals. In his view, any work he’d produce that showed the male genitalia would be akin to pornography.
I’ve seen and encountered this trepidation to show male genitalia often (see my post Homophobia, and Why the Male Nude is Disgusting). Many art drawings of me show an obvious effort on the part of the artist to avoid drawing or looking at my genitals (if you’re just going to draw my face or skip over my genitals, why the fuck am I standing naked on a platform, probably cold?). As a model, it’s frustrating when artists pretend that my penis just isn’t there.
To be clear and fair, as a professional seeking to broaden his horizons, the photographer described above is in no way wrong to oppose the appearance of male genitalia in his work. When it comes to photography, especially nude photography, you have to love and be comfortable with what you’re doing. Although I’m disappointed that many male and female photographers who shoot nudes refuse to shoot male nudes, or in this case would not display the male genitals, I think that it is completely within the bounds of fairness for them to feel that way. In order for artistic work to be good, its creator has to be passionate in its creation, and if it feels unnatural, that trepidation will be apparent the quality of the product.
In other words, it’s not wrong to set boundaries that avoid the display of body parts, as this gentleman has indicated. As I told him, it won’t look right if it doesn’t feel right, and that he’ll know if the time ever becomes right to include a fully nude male in his portfolio.
HOWEVER, I personally believe that, if the goal is to produce quality fine art photography involving a nude male, that a universal refusal to include the male’s genitals misses the most important part of the male nude. To me, in my strict personal opinion, the appearance of a male’s pubic area, penis and scrotum are the very things that make a male nude viable. As a model, the fact that a photographer will photograph, or that an artist will artistically recreate, one of the most personal, protected, private parts of my body for countless others to see, is exactly what makes me proud of the work in the first place. When an observer has the opportunity to note, among other things about your body, the very essence of what physically defines you a man, as well as everything associated with that revelation that can highlight a man’s vulnerability (i.e. circumsized or not, shaved or not, large or tight scrotum, and of course, average/small/big size of his hardware) is exactly what makes a male nude powerful.
While it is easy-in fact too easy-to focus too much on a man’s genitals… to the point when it quickly becomes disgusting, I think that it’s important to include them, as the male genitalia are the visual essence of what define us as personable, male human beings.
Take for example, the picture below:
(Image source: Google)
The picture above, to me, just doesn’t cut it. The lighting is solid and the model DEFINITELY has an impressive body, and of course, his penis is very large, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s twice my size. But looking at this from the big picture, I don’t see anything particularly beautiful about this picture, and in my opinion, the model’s massive penis works against him, as his massive erect penis draws the viewer’s attention solely to it and sexualizes the picture. I personally don’t see any artistic merit in this picture.
The image below is a different story:
(Source: Robert Mapplethorpe)
As far as I’m concerned, this is a somewhat ugly penis included in a beautiful picture, and is one example of how a penis picture can be done well. It starts with the model, and while I don’t care for uncircumcised penises, the picture is bigger than that. I can imagine it telling a story, i.e. the power and prowess of some male executive behind the power suit… it’s almost as though the large, powerful penis attached to the man underneath the clothes is what drives the outward confidence and prowess of the man in the suit.
We all have our preferences and boundaries of what is artistically valuable and what is just trash. Readers will agree and disagree with my thoughts and examples, but that’s besides the point… in the big picture, the penis itself is not ugly, and when properly included in the context of art nudes, can be beautifully displayed. It shouldn’t be forgotten or deliberately bypassed, since it’s the essence of what makes a man a man.