The sun had set when I walked out into the main offices and saw a young woman sitting in the waiting area. “Women are rare in these parts,” I said stupidly. Trevor quickly jumped in and explained” “She’s with the model, his girlfriend.”
The young woman, very beautiful, smiled at me and said firmly “He will not be nude.” “Well,” I responded, “Given my day, that will be a refreshing change.”
We started with some very simple poses. I told him–honestly–that he’s the first man I’ve shot who wasn’t nude.
When I had him turn around for this shot, he hung his head with what seemed to be a mixture of resignation and determination.
He was guarded, yes, but also anxious to please. He seemed to have notions as to what I might want to do with him. When I worked on this snapshot, I kept moving his head so I could get his remarkable profile. Each time he overreacted and instead gave me dramatic expressions, his head tilted.
Finally he let me have this. And I was beginning to get a sense of the man. In two words: complex and brave. A good man.
When he’d relaxed a bit I had him sit down. And suddenly all the guarded concern was back; he tensed and tightened everything. I said “You know, these photos will come back to haunt you when you’re in your 70s. How will you explain them to your grandchildren?”
Finally, he laughed out loud. Laughed, but didn’t quite relax.
I’ll admit that I was thrown off by the jockstrap and his modesty. There’s such a natural and strong attachment between my heart and any man’s genitals. So I hardly knew what I was doing. Without a cock to guide me, it was like being at sea without a compass.
What broke the tension, finally? I asked what I’d been expected to ask all along: “Why is ‘hustler’ tattooed on your belly?”
He took a deep breath and told the story briefly: “It’s from my former life in St. Louis. I’m no longer that man and I don’t talk about him.” And having told me that, he relaxed, his legs opened, and when I asked for something that would show his abdominals a bit, he put his hands behind his head and gave me this flex.
As I’ve mentioned before, men come to be photographed to learn what their limits are, to learn if they’re beautiful or not. But, as with this man, they also come to gauge the composition of this particular moment in their lives. And in this moment, he’s no longer the man–the hustler–he had been. He’s moved forward, and this new man could relax, open his legs, display his sex and his muscles more freely than he might have thought possible.
I announced, as I usually do now, the “last shot” and he said “Then you’ll want something that means something, right?”
I had no idea what he meant, so I nodded and said “Yes, of course.”
He said “Like a warrior or a prince looking off into the future?” And he took this pose.
“Yes, that’s it exactly,” I responded. “Perfect. Just what I wanted.”
And with some real wonder I watched this former hustler from St. Louis, his name tattooed on his back, his ears stretched with loops, his genitals covered modestly with a jockstrap, become a warrior looking to the heavens for meaning or purpose.
These archetypes float about everywhere, all the time, and when a man needs to be a warrior, the warrior archetype enters and fills him. And with no shame or self-consciousness, the young man plays the role for the photographer.
Afterward, he asked if he could keep the jockstrap as “a memento of our encounter.” I grinned and was delighted and said “Of course!”
I went out of the studio and shook his beautiful girlfriend’s hand. “Thank you,” I said, “Thank you for sharing your wonderful boyfriend with us. I’m grateful to you.”