RICK CASTRO Tony Ward as a Biker Babe Matte fiber print Edition of 25 20" x 16"
PINUPMEN: Images of Desire
Nov 22 - Dec 23, 2005
PinupMen Images of Desire
by Reed Massengill with Rick Castro, Aaron Cobbett, Harriet Leibowitz, Howard Roffman & Michael Tammaro
(From THE ARCHIVE: No. 18: Autumn 2005)
Over time, some words in our language have taken on uniquely masculine or feminine connotations, and “pinup” in one of those words. Webster’s defines pinup (the noun) as “a photograph of a pinup girl,” and pinup (the adjective) as “of or relating to pinup girls.” So to consciously apply this term to men is—to begin with—a bit of a stretch.
However, upon examining the deeper meaning of the word— in essence, the posting of a photograph so that it can be admired constantly—we find that men actually have been pinups of a sort since the beginnings of photography. And today, with images of the Abercrombie guys hanging larger-than-life in the mall and peering at us from the ad pages of every popular consumer magazine, the male pinup is a fact of life.
First, A History Lesson
Academic nude photographs and ethnographic images (generally of male models or specimens) were posted for the use of the artist or for medical or sociological study almost as soon as photography was invented. We owe the ascendancy of perhaps the first true male pinup to the legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld (1869-1932), who brought Eugen Sandow to fame late in the 19th century. Sandow’s widely circulated photographs and cabinet cards actually were on view in some of the finest parlors of the late Victorian era, making him perhaps the first legitimate male photographic pinup.
Others followed, of course. With the advent of the motion picture, film stars became idols worshiped by the masses. The film studios employed photographers who were then especially gifted at manufacturing charisma and glamour, both of which went a long way toward creating some of the most noteworthy male pinups of the silent screen era: Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Buddy Rodgers, and Ramon Novarro, to name just a few.
At the same time, an interesting corollary was taking place among the audience that subscribed to the physical culture movement, as well as among gay men. The popular physique model Tony Sansone became an icon in his own right, and through the pictures of him torn from magazines (and the nude photographs of himself that he sold through the mail) became the fodder of many young men’s dreams. In Hollywood, Olympic athletes like Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weissmuller donned their loincloths and grunted their way into our fantasies. And on almost any newsstand throughout the United States, magazines like Physical Culture and Strength and Health began offering up monthly doses of physique models with painted-on posing pouches shot by rising talents like Al Urban, Lon of New York, and others.
The Halcyon Years
While World War II brought into the mainstream the use of the word “pinup” to apply to the photographs of Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and other female stars whose images adorned the curved walls of Quonset huts worldwide, the war years also brought some male stars to the fore. Guy Madison, Robert Mitchum and John Payne certainly had their female fans, but back home in Iowa and Colorado, young men also were pasting pictures of these heroes on their bedroom walls. Young men who followed bodybuilding or weightlifting openly admired the fine frames of men who were just as tough and rugged as their favorite movie stars, including John Grimek, Jules Bacon and Clarence Ross.
By the 1950s, even the venerable Photoplay magazine ran a series of “Photoplay Pinups,” one of whom was Rock Hudson (July 1959). Edgy, sensitive stars like Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and James Dean brought us an awareness of men as sensual, troubled and perhaps even sexually confused souls. And the physique magazines had by the 1950s spawned an array of digest-sized offspring like Vim, Body Beautiful and Tomorrow’s Man, all of which brought fame (if not fortune) to bodybuilders and models like Steve Reeves, Dick DuBois, Forrester Millard, Glenn Bishop and Steve Wengryn.
Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll
The 1960s and ‘70s brought new icons to the fore, including rock stars like David Bowie, Jim Morrison and Peter Frampton. Teen idols like Leif Garrett, Scott Baio and Matt Dillon brought us into the 1980s, playing counterpoint to more macho role models like Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. or Don Johnson in Miami Vice. Then suddenly, there was a seismic shift when a stark, sexy image of male pulchritude exploded upon Times Square in the form of a seven-story-tall billboard in 1983. That summer, Bruce Weber’s photograph of pole-vaulter Tom Hintnaus in nothing but a pair of Calvin Klein briefs stopped traffic, hearts, and sales of stalwarts like Fruit of the Loom.
The succeeding 20-plus years have seen the rise of music video and its impact, the rise of fashion advertising (and particularly sensual images of men) as iconography, and the ascendance of Bruce Weber to an almost godlike status as a chronicler of male beauty through his advertising work for Ralph Lauren, Versace, Calvin Klein, and most recently, Abercrombie & Fitch.
Which Brings Us To Today
When I was asked to curate this show and the title Pinupmen was suggested, I decided that I wanted to stretch our understanding of what the term means by showing the work of several artists whose images, I believe, elevate the concept of what Pinupmen can be today. I invited five artists to help me do just that, because I think their work helps bring
this idea to life: Rick Castro, Aaron Cobbett, Harriet Leibowitz, Howard Roffman and Michael Tammaro.
No two of these photographers approach their work—or the representation of their male models— in exactly the same way. Nevertheless, the male figure is without doubt the single most important factor in their work. In addition, each photographer shoots his or her Pinupmen with a keen insight and sensitivity, regardless of whether he is portrayed as a heroic figure, an object of love, or a bound-and-gagged plaything.
I selected these artists based on several factors. First, these are artists whose work I love and whom I have loved working with in the past in one capacity or another. Second, the male figure plays a pivotal role in their work. Third, I personally believe each of them is absolutely the best at what he or she does. And finally, while their bodies of work in many ways support, challenge or expand our definitions of male beauty, there’s a distinct sense of pleasure the viewer experiences when viewing these artists’ works. That visceral response, I believe, is directly linked to these photographers’ own enjoyment of what they do, and their respect and affection for the men they shoot.
Rick Castro is an independent filmmaker and photographer living and working in Los Angeles. His photographs explore the world of fetish and the fringes of sexual culture. His books include Castro and 13 Years of Bondage, and his films include Hustler White and Plushies and Furries.
Aaron Cobbett is a photographer specializing in fashion and portraiture. He lives and works in New York, where his colorful cover images for HX magazine are legendary. Many of his iconic images were published in his book Super Eros. While he continues to expand his television and commercial clientele, he manages (as his website bio says) to “keep one foot firmly planted in the gutter.”
Harriet Leibowitz is a native of Atlanta, where during the past decade she has discovered and photographed some of the South’s most beautiful men. Her work is represented in permanent collections as diverse as the High Museum of Art, IBM and the personal collection of Sir Elton John.
Howard Roffman lives and works in San Francisco, and his books of male photographs—Edge of Desire, Three, Tales, Pictures of Fred, Jagged Youth, Johan Paulik, Pictures of Kris, Friends & Lovers, The Perfect Boy, and his most recent collection, Loving Brian—are stalwarts of the male art-book section at bookstores everywhere.
Michael Tammaro is a fashion and celebrity photographer who has made his home “and his studio” in Chelsea for many years. In addition to his well-known work with male supermodels such as Marcus Schenkenberg and Michael Bergin, his celebrity portraits of Sting, Jared Leto, Tom Welling, Peter Facinelli, Kip Pardue and many others also have been widely published. His images are included in the books Male Super Models: The Men of Boss Models and Marcus Schenkenberg: New Rules.
Reed Massengill (www.ReedMassengill.com) is a widely published writer and photographer whose work spans the genres of literary biography (Portrait of a Racist,1994), corporate history (Becoming American Express, 1999) and photography (Massengill, 1995; Massengill Men, 1997; and Brian: A Nine-Year Photographic Diary,2001). As a collector, curator and editor, he has produced several volumes of male nude photography, including Roy Blakey’s ‘70s Male Nudes (2001), Champion (2004); and The Male Ideal: Lon of New York and The Masculine Physique (2003). His most recent book is Self-Exposure: The Male Nude Self-Portrait (2005).
He is an avid collector of vintage male nudes, particularly those from the era of classic physique photography and museums, gallery owners and private collectors frequently seek his advice and expertise when acquiring images, conducting research or seeking attribution. Pinup Men is the third exhibition he has curated for the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation, following The Muses (2001) and Roy Blakey’s ‘70s Male Nudes (2002).