Before I photograph a man I have Pony or Brett videotape them as they undress. Someday I’ll make a compilation of all of them. I think you can learn a great deal about a man by watching them take their clothes off.
After this particular shoot Pony told me that for the first time he felt a little frightened. He said “It was like being alone in a dark room with a wild animal.”
There was a language barrier. It took a good while before I understood that he was from Greece, a small village he was sure I’d never heard of. I asked why he’d come to San Francisco. He shook his head slowly and said “No.”
I moved around him taking quick snapshots from various angles. When I moved behind him he tensed up and was clearly uncomfortable. He looked up, clinched his hands and waited.
At first, of course, I thought it was just the nervousness of a straight man in the presence of a gay photographer. Then I noticed the scars on his back, parallel lines that looked like the result of something that had happened a long time ag
I never use a tripod or any other support. Often when the man is seated I’ll rest my hand on his knee to stabilize the shot. I never ask for permission: I love reading the response.
With Tassos, I had clearly found a very precise line. His face and his hands told me everything. The hands were relaxed but ready. His gaze was gauging me carefully.
I decided to take a chance. I moved closer, just a couple of inches. And I reached out and put my hand over his, not saying a word. I felt his hands relax and shift position. I said “Good” and took this shot. And under my other hand his enormous muscular leg relaxed–but just a bit.
At the end of the shoot I was exhausted and felt as though I’d just begun. For thousands of years men have tried to capture the timeless beauty–the breathtaking perfection–of the young Greek male. Even just standing in a pose as neutral as this, he filled the small room with life, tension, promise, challenge. The primal need to look at and study the form and life of a man like this transcends “gay” or “desire” or “art”.
I shook Tassos’ hand and said “You’ll do this again with me?” He paused and thought and said “Maybe again we do this.”
I hope it happens. – Paul Morris