The Big Muskie – a larger than life mechanical monster that was responsible for carving huge chunks out of pristine Ohio soil in search of coal to fuel our ever glutinous appetite for power. A machine so large that its bucket could easily accommodate 2 Greyhound buses side by side. It was the largest of its kind and it was abandoned in 1991 – left to rust in the denuded Ohio countryside.
It was so large that it was visible for miles around, especially since it had removed all of the trees as well. AEP – the power company that owned this behemoth was only responsible for replacing the top layer of soil, not nearly enough for trees to regrow, so it still appears as a strange prairie. It was in this environment that I needed a model as powerful as the Muskie – a person to work with the rusting hulk before it was eventually demolished.
This is where a friend found in my gym became the next victim in my obsession with working nudes into scenes of forgotten world. So enter Mr. Greg G. – really sweet guy who’s a little kid at heart. (We had to make a stop on the way to the shoot at a McDonalds so he could pick up the latest toy in a Happy Meal.)
But no one that I knew at the time could compare with Greg’s physique and had the capacity to interact with this machine – strength to strength. And Greg was marvelous. He prided himself on being a natural bodybuilder – no steroids – and his body was blessed with the genes to enhance that natural musculature.
These chains on the Muskie supported the main bucket, each link the size of Greg’s torso and heavy enough to easily crush him, yet they easily compliment the other. I think for Greg this was a bit of an adventure too. We had to walk a little over a mile to reach the Muskie, every rise in the rolling ground brought the vision of this shovel closer but it wasn’t until you were directly next it that you realized how immense it really was!
Greg inside the bucket seemed like a doll. Only the strength of Greg’s legs seem to oppose the massive weight of the bucket pulley. It was an amazing visual exercise. And it was a welcomed sense of timing… not more than a year after the shoot, the Muskie was demolished. Only it’s bucket remains as a strange tourist attraction in Southeastern Ohio. It’s deep wounds still slowly healing. My last shot is of Greg in front of a gaping fjord carving by the Muskie.
Clay – a young man from Cincinnati whom I met through Mayhem and totally intrigued me with his “dark” persona. There was a quiet reluctance at first meeting, a sort of shyness one expects on the initial shoot but I liked the mind behind the handsome face. Clay seemed to have ideas and creative interests that kept our conversations going.
Of course these interactions lead to some great photographic concepts as well. These are from our first session.
What made matters even more exciting was Clay’s interest in photography. If someone asks me a question about photography it tends to trigger an unstoppable dissertation of everything and anything associated with the medium. And he kept right up, absorbing it all and not dissuaded from demonstrating his own enthusiasm.
Clay has since left the state for warmer climes, who could blame him. From what I hear through infrequent postings the creativity still exists and is being put to use. I hope that he finds his path in the Arts as we all do, wishing to someday capture his intriguing looks once again.
There’s always anticipated excitement for the upcoming days when New Years day occurs. You look back at what has happened, hopefully intending on pushing further into a better situation and carrying that through to your passions. Such is life in the arts almost on a daily basis. So today I look back onto another older set of images with another of my favorite models, AJ.
I always appreciated his creativity – his sense of seizing on an idea and trying a multitude of visual ideas to see what is most effective. It was definitely a process involving both the photographer and the model.
So enjoy these shots. Enjoy the Holidays. Prepare for the excitement of the New Year and all the adventure that ensues!
Sometimes I surprise myself at the actual amount of photos I’ve taken over the years. And when I think how many of those have been shared with the public, the number is quite infinitesimal. Part of my reasoning for this Blog is to expose these images to the light of day. Hey, I think there’s some good stuff here…why not…!
So why not start with some images from a studio shoot several winters ago with my models Anthony and Chris. A previous post had images from this session as well, but so many more that were just as good. It’s always difficult to arrange multiple models for a shoot, especially nowadays when transportation and schedules having become so difficult. You’d think with today’s technology that it would make these prospects easier, but sadly this is not the case.
These two young men have worked with me on a couple of occasions. Anthony has been particularly exciting to work with do to the fact that he has always been receptive to my weird and unusual schemes. And he’s another person who is quite comfortable in his own skin and will gladly take on the challenge of any situation or environment. Unfortunately, Anthony has moved out of state, now living in Texas, which makes photography difficult.
Now Chris hails from Cleveland and is another great guy to work with. As is the case with many a first time shoot, he was a bit reserved and nervous. But he seemed to take cues from Anthony on this shoot and opened up to various themes afterwards. This was also his first time modeling nude and was very worried about his partner’s thoughts. But recognizing the professionalism of everyone involved, I think he gradually became warmed to the thought realizing that this was all part of the creative process.
I think that that has always been difficult to convey to people who’ve never been in front of a camera in a professional sense – modeling in the nude is not any different than any other type of modeling other than the fact that you are devoid of clothing. And actually I think that figurative modeling requires even more skill because you have nothing but skin and gestures to convey meaning. You need to have a great sense of your body in space, how it looks and moves or else you’re no more than rock being slowly turned for the best angle. And you will come across in that same sense!
I really think that these two did an incredible job considering that they had just met. It shows great skill on their part to come into a scenario like this and run with it. So enjoy these images… there are more to come from the archives. And even more potentials for future creative sessions!
It still looks pretty good from the exterior, but the interior is slowly dissolving into nothing but framework. In spite of this, I was still able to eke out one more shoot and conduct photographic trials with a new model. Introducing Christian…
I first noticed Christian in a popular model networking website and was intrigued by his looks. He’s a very malleable sort, interested in challenges of the locations I frequently employ. He made it known that he likes the atypical in photography. I hoped he’d be fun to work with.
He moves. He’s playful with his expressions. He gives the camera various looks without exaggeration. He seems quite at ease in front of the lens without camping it up or overdoing it. He also loves the “darkness” of the images but doesn’t let that sentiment become overbearing. Actually, he’s pretty fun to shoot!
So now I think I have another creative spirit to work with. Unfortunately I threw him into this situation, the threat of demolition was too close to attempt a test shoot. He responded admirably. Now I look forward to future endeavors.
With my trigger finger getting a little itchy after the last couple of fun shoots, I realized it was time to find more accessible locations for further work. I have a couple of great models with the potential for a few more and it would not do them justice to work in the studio when these few urban relics still exist.
So having a unusually sunny winter Sunday at my disposal with relatively comfortable temperatures, I decided to check out a couple of spots I noted near my last shoot location that demanded my attention. The light was terrific!
It’s always a little risky checking these places out by yourself, so I took my trusty little alarm with me just to keep an eye on the car. It also helped alleviate the danger by having a police vehicle parked a few streets away with me visible – I’m sure he was watching me just to make sure there was no illegal activities going on. I snapped my pix and moved on! Logging these sites for future reference.
Dreaded Guard Dog and Alarm System
Vaughn is back! It has been a long time since I have had the access to another abandoned structure, but this is very different from my usual suspects. This is a building that has had a vey long performance history in Columbus, deemed obsolete and placed on the list for demolition even though it has been used almost daily until that day it closed. Another developers pipe dream… there’s money to be made on the land it resides.
Granted, it may not be the most beautiful structure downtown but it IS the home of the great Arnold Sports Festival named after Arnold Schwarzeneggar who has come to the city every year since 1989 to promote fitness. But no more! Arnold is out in the cold too! So it seems only fitting to celebrate the physical form in this empty building.
So it was my wonderful model Vaughn who first answered the call to action the visually explore and record a space soon to disappear. Unfortunately this also required dodging areas of active demolition, but Vaughn always is game for whatever environment you place him. Never shies away from a challenge. Of course, this is what yields an exciting image.
So it has been exciting to photograph in a building that has so immediately been abandoned and is awaiting the wrecking ball. So many times in the past my locations have been abandoned for quite a while, their histories seem so long ago. But with this place there’s a ghostly sense of recency. Not even enough time for dust to settle or cobwebs to form. A few more shots and then it’s gone…
I love cemeteries! I don’t know exactly the draw, but I can describe the feelings I get from them. It’s not really a feeling of remorse or sadness. It’s almost like peace, tranquility and reflection all come streaming through. The living tend to avoid these places, which is why I think they’re so interesting. To see how people want to be remembered… it’s their last final method of displaying wealth and status. Yet, they are still forgotten. No one visits daily except the ones who work here to plant the next victim. An example of the futility of life.
Yet I find these silent places of interest. Sometimes I stop and listen to hear if anything comes from below, as if those legends and stories we’ve been told as children are true. But the architecture is astounding! All of these amazing examples in human scale. They are more realistic versions of the mega-scale tombs of the distant past… pyramids of pharaohs, huge temples of kings, etc.
But what I especially enjoy are the really old cemeteries that the public has not protected or maintained. Overgrown, hidden, they tempt the eye and the mind with curious questions. This is the Vienna Central cemetery. Still being used. While the new sections are meticulously groomed, the older sections which have no supporting families lie to waste away.
It allows me an opportunity to pass through history vicariously and mock the dead because in the end, we all end up in the same place being slowly devoured and reclaimed by the earth. And in Europe, there is a more refined and expressive use of the materials. Cemeteries are not just endless rows of cloned marble, each one is an individual piece of art. And there’s a sort of “deadly” rivalry to see whose is more beautiful!
Even the rotting details are amazing. In the U.S., I have utilized graveyards a few times due to these factors I’ve mentioned above. Yet the European cemeteries still beg to be photographed with models. Sometimes I see the amazing statuary and imagine what a living being could yield in these places. Someday… I hope…
Sometimes you just need the quiet to gather thoughts and gain perspective. It’s with these times of silence during the holidays that sometimes the best inspirations arrive. Recently my focus has again returned to the figure in space – especially in space that has been overlooked or forgotten. Somehow there is some subliminal connection between the effort and importance given to these edifices which we create and so quickly toss aside and how humanity views the existence of human beings.
As I look at the images I make, I keep sensing the need to emphasize those aspects the really make humans unique from other creatures. The amazing achievements that celebrate mankind.
The images from this posting are long overdue. They are from a shoot with a new model named Bruin and were taken in Columbus. I still have a few locations that have always intrigued me but somehow I forget because I see them daily; so familiar almost to the point of insignificance. But the clock is ticking even for these structures. The city strives to improve its appearance and loathes the ugly industrial past. Everyone yearns for the Disney perfection.
I hope I can keep up with the advancing and eminent changes around me. They still provide an incredible canvas to explore with the figure. The best consideration is that none of these images will ever get reproduced. Those physical characteristics are forever gone!
The concept behind my blog has always been one of sharing thoughts and ideas, of vocalizing methodologies behind my work and to gain a modicum of feedback from my work. Being an artist and not feeling the need to produce just for the sake of quantity, I am also threatened by other personal life issues that sometimes block the creative forces behind my photography. And it seems that the older I get, the more keenly aware of these outside issues to the point where they almost stifle day to day living.
It’s easy to label these situations with a word, such as depression. But it’s very different when you’re on the functional side of these conditions. You don’t see anything but the darkness and for some reason nothing can seem to pull you out of this quandary except the caring words and wisdom of loving people.
I have been plagued by this “Black Dog” as Churchill called it, for many years. Being sensitive to the human condition, it has become increasingly problematic while facing the immense issues that plague our current society… on all levels! It is only through the assistance of good strong friends that I have been able to get back up, see new light and consider a new direction that is still true to my roots and prior vision.
It’s been a long hard journey, but I’m back to the part of my life that gives me the most joy and fulfillment. There are still a few bumps, but I believe that I still have more to give. I have had my camera through most of this departure, still taking pictures; not knowing their meaning. But I know that these will fit into a bigger picture and help form a vision yet to be explored. Decay, architecture and the male figure have always been major tools in my vocabulary. It’s now time to create some new sentences.