Monday, February 19, 2018

Fooling Around With Focus

I'm not one to withhold sight of my own nakedness, but it does fascinate me to experiment with contrasts and the power of suggestion in order to amplify the impact of nudity (whether on the page/screen, or just in your head). So I was playing around with narrow depths of field the other day, and I stumbled upon the idea of taking the same shot in and extremely out of focus, then merging the two images in different ways, to play around with suggestion of a form vs. revealing the form. I ended up with three different variations.

Fogged Glass

The first one I call "Fogged Glass", because that's precisely what it resembles - like wiping your hand across a foggy mirror after getting out of a hot shower (which I've tried to take a picture of several times, but it's really hard to work out the angles in time before the mirror clears up). You only get to see certain parts - and it's not the explicit parts - but I think it creates a powerful illusion, like there's something exciting lying just beyond one's sight.

Censor Blur

The second one uses the fog in what is a fairly traditional form of censorship, to blur out the the subject's genital area. It reminds me of the "cloud bikini" cosplay I did once upon a time. Although that was actual material covering me, and this is a visual effect, the cosplay was a simulation of a panel from a comic where the cloud was used in just such a way - as convenient censorship. An interesting question that this image raises, for me, is whether this would actually constitute "nudity". There is nothing between the camera and my naked body to block my genitalia from sight, yet the focus renders it so blurry as to be utterly benign. It's like hiding in plain sight.

Cloud of Anonymity

The third one I call "Cloud of Anonymity", because it uses the fog as in the last one, but this time to obscure the subject's identity, while leaving the genitalia exposed. A lot of people use this technique to share explicit photos online, while reducing the chances of it coming back to bite them in the ass by harming their reputation in some way. I always thought this approach was tacky, and somewhat cowardly, opting instead to own my forays into nude and erotic modeling, but there are certainly circumstances where it provides some measure of welcome security to vulnerable parties. After all, I'd rather someone feel comfortable sharing anonymously than not at all!

Together, these images remind me of a clone shot I did a long time ago, that I've actually been meaning to recreate some day. Soon, I hope - stay tuned for that!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Die, Coke-Scum!

In a world where Coke is the only cola in existence, it's perfectly acceptable to refer to a Coke as simply a "cola". But add Pepsi to the mix, and it becomes reasonable to distinguish what type of cola you're referring to. Is it a Coke, or is it a Pepsi? Most people may continue to assume that "cola" refers to a Coke, but especially in restaurants that serve Pepsi, if you want to actually talk about Coke, it makes sense to refer to it as "Coke" (or "Coca-cola"), and not just "cola", which would be confusing, because Pepsi is another type of cola. Coke lovers don't have to stop referring to their preferred beverage as simply "cola" - the usage of the term "Coke" as a differentiator primarily benefits those who handle Pepsi. Yet, many Coke lovers feel as though they're being "hassled" by this change in terminology, and, feeling victimized, fear that Pepsi lovers are trying to shift the discourse and get Pepsi recognized as the "default" cola.* But this is a strawman fallacy; Pepsi lovers are not campaigning to get Pepsi referred to solely as "cola". That would be counterproductive - their goal is to use clearer language to distinguish one cola from another. This reactionary attitude is nothing more than Coke-privilege in action. All Pepsi-lovers are asking Coke-lovers to do is acknowledge that theirs is not the only cola in the universe. Refusing this minor, yet critical concession cannot be considered anything other than insensitive arrogance, born out of a lazy sense of entitlement, and deserves to be called out as such. Die, Coke-scum!

*Instead of using Coke's biggest competitor, if we replace Pepsi in this analogy with a minority cola - say, RC Cola - it becomes even more obvious that the competitor is not trying to usurp the crowned soda's position, but merely expand the selections available in the vending machine, and that the reigning champ is - far from being legitimately threatened by some no-name soda - merely throwing its muscle around to intimidate the competition, maintain a monopoly, and disguise its feelings of inadequacy.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Going to the Ballet

I'm going to the ballet tonight, so I thought this would be a perfect excuse to put on my tutu and take some pictures.

Checking the curtains, in my underwear.

The nail polish has to match!

I respect and admire ballerinas very much. Most of my favorite photographers have photographed dancers of one sort or another. And I love wearing this tutu - it feels amazing. But I feel like an impostor. I don't have the moves. I don't have the experience. I don't have the training. I don't even have the flexibility. I wish I had a dance routine to perform. But this wouldn't be the first time (nor will it be the last) I've felt like my photography was a pale imitation of what inspires me. It figures that I felt a lot more comfortable taking mildly erotic/fetish-type photos than trying to be something I'm not.

Although, in my defense, dance is at least as sensual an activity as nudism, if we're being honest.

On the other hand, the only reason I started to get undressed - I swear! - is because I was getting hot. Pervert or no, you can't say I'm not a genuine nudist. :-p

Still, I know erotic potential when I see it. -_^

Friday, February 16, 2018

Pants or Skirt?

This is a bit of a combination of two shots I've done in the past, directly resulting from a comment left on yet a third image, of me wearing a dress. A fan on deviantART said to me:

"i think you look lovely in a dress. or in jeans. or in nothing at all."

And I was immediately inspired by the contrast of these two very different styles - dress vs. pants and a shirt. The latter is more traditionally masculine (although it can certainly be done up feminine, too), while the former tends to be more feminine, and can be very fancy and stylish. Certainly, men don't generally have the freedom to open their closets and ask themselves whether they'd like to wear pants or a skirt today. In our culture, that choice is reserved for females.

And so I thought it would be visually interesting to illustrate the contrast between these two very different styles, with - as inspired by the above comment - some nudity in the middle to bridge the gap. It reminds me of an image I did a long time ago, where I posed the hypothetical question: of my two "alternative" interests (being nudism and gender experimentation), would the average person be less shocked or offended by seeing me naked, or wearing a dress?

But, ultimately, the final product resembles more closely another image, which I used to illustrate the Madonna-whore complex, in the form of a girl in her underwear (portrayed, of course, by me) standing at her closet deliberating on whether to dress more modestly, or more flirtatiously, according to two contradicting messages she's received from our culture. (Actually, that could describe yet another image in my repertoire - it's not surprising this is a recurring theme). This newest image jettisons all that baggage, though, hopefully to its benefit.

I had some trouble picking out a dress I wanted to wear for the one panel. They can easily get super fancy - which looks incredible - but I wanted something a little more casual, because casual and dress-up are two very different occasions, and I wanted to emphasize the choices available in a given situation (and I own more casual dresses - although apparently not enough, as I tend toward the semi/formal, despite not having any opportunity to wear them - than I do gussied up jeans and t-shirts).

I really need to get more fancy shoes, though. These heels are great - I love 'em. And they're pretty neutral, so they go with a lot of different styles and colors. But you can't wear them all the time. Besides, they're old and quite worn out. It's just that, shopping for shoes is so difficult. I can never find anything I like in my size. It's like, sizes 10-12 are made for different kinds of people than the 6-9s - the shoes are always either so tacky looking, or apparently designed for larger body types (as opposed to someone like me, who is relatively skinny, but tall, and with big feet - I know "big" and "tall" are often lumped together as common alternatives to the traditional shape, but the two really do require very different approaches).

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Challenges of Self-Portraiture

Here's a rare, fast-motion look at all the images (raw and unprocessed) I shot for my Cupid's Eros shoot - all 192 of them!

I complain about this from time to time, but self-portrait photography really brings its share of challenges and frustrations. And I know that all photography has challenges and frustrations, but self-portrait photography has some unique ones. All those tropes about doing portrait photography - the cameraman snapping away while the model tries out various poses, with constant feedback between the two - it doesn't work that way when the photographer is also the model. It's a lot more difficult. To see what the model is doing, you have to walk behind the camera and look at the shots you've taken. And then, to make adjustments to the pose, you have to be able to duplicate the pose perfectly first, in the exact same position you were at before. There's no "move your elbow a little bit to the left." It's tough.

Inevitably, there's a lot of trial-and-error. You can't just hold the camera up to your eye, and see whether the shot is working before you even click the shutter. What might take an experienced photographer a small handful of shots to get (or less!), I could easily end up with over a hundred shots of, just trying to perfect all the little details of the pose, hoping that, the more images I take, the better chance I'll have that in one of them all the important elements will align. For example, I won't happen to blink at just the wrong second, and it will be in focus - that's another thing that's uniquely difficult to micromanage when your subject can't be in frame at the same moment you're looking through the viewfinder. Even if I were to stand in front of the camera and get the focus just right, there's no guarantee that I'll be standing in exactly that spot the next time I get in front of the camera.

And this shot was doubly difficult, because it's not easy to maintain an erection without constant stimulation, while you're focusing on other things; and I wanted to get the angle of the arrow and the erection aligned, without being able to tell while I was posing how they looked from the point of view of the camera. I've tried setting mirrors up behind the camera (when it's convenient to do so), and that helps, but the picture on the camera screen never looks exactly like what I see in the mirror, because the angles are always just a little different, no matter how hard I try to line them up. I would pay good money for a camera add-on that provides a fairly large screen that can be pointed towards the model and displays exactly what the camera is seeing (something of a Live View extension screen). Do they make anything like that?

Another concern I have that is a result of the challenges of self-portrait photography is the way it tends to emphasize the modeling aspect over the photography aspect. Not that I don't appreciate all the experience I've gained as a model, but I actually set out on this voyage hoping to become a photographer. But often times I get so caught up in making the pose work, that I don't spend as much time adjusting or experimenting with the angle or the lighting. Once I find something that works, I tend to lock it in, because I don't want to change it and then have to take another hundred images or so getting the pose to work. I suppose it's not impossible for one to prioritize the photography aspect instead, creating great technical photos with only so-so modeling. I don't honestly know which of the two would be better. But another limitation of self-portrait photography is that, unless you're always shooting reflections in the mirror (which is an even bigger limitation), you can't take handheld shots. You always have to set the camera on a tripod. So there's less variety in angles, and you can't switch up the perspective on the fly so easily.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cupid's Eros

Happy Valentine's Day!

Cupid has been neutered in modern days, represented in the traditional form of the putto, or cherub: a chubby, winged baby. A very noncontroversial depiction of love in the Christian sense - an act the goal of which is to produce a child. In essence, people fall in love so that babies can be born.

However, Cupid has also been depicted in antiquity as a mischievous youth, the child of Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty - cementing the inextricable link between adolescence and sexuality, however taboo it is to acknowledge that natural fact in today's culture.

Furthermore, the name of Cupid's counterpart in Greek mythology is Eros - root of the word erotic, indicating sexual desire - which suggestively implies that it's not just inoffensive kissing and hand-holding that goes on whenever Cupid shoots one of his arrows. -_^

"Ain't no need to hide, ain't no need to run,
cause I've got you in the sights of gun."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ruby Slippers

These are my kind of ruby slippers! The kind that would make Dorothy jealous, and scandalize Glinda the Good Witch. Watch them sparkle in the sunlight:

I spent most of my formative Valentine's Days without a date (perhaps that's why I envision the holiday as a celebration of self-love rather than devotion to another), but that didn't stop me from dreaming. In high school, the thing I enjoyed most about the holiday was the way the girls would dress up, in a variety of red outfits (including pretty dresses). Valentine's Day isn't just a lovers' holiday, it's the holiday of desire. The kind of day that fundamentalist Christians must loathe - all those women dolled up in short skirts and painted lips, the color of the devil. But I loved it. And I still do. And now, I can be one of those girls, too!