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Just Between UsReview - Just Between Us
by Greg Gorman
Arena Editions, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
May 24th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 21)

Just Between Us is a collection of black and white photographs by Greg Gorman of one model, Greg Knudson.  In his Introduction, Gorman explains how this project became an obsession, and how he developed a relationship of openness and intimacy with Greg.  But it’s still not clear what the relationship is between the two Gregs, and what these pictures represent.  What we see is Greg in a variety of places and poses, often sexual or erotic, and many of them with Greg showing his penis.  Greg K. is in his twenties, is heavily and artfully tattooed, and is certainly good looking in a fashion-magazine sort of way.  His penis is clearly one of his best features, being photogenic and distinctive, which is a good thing, given how much we get to see of it.

            Let me list some of the first photographs:

  • Greg looking smart in a suit and tie, hair well groomed, in front of a painting, probably in an art gallery.
  • Greg looking like rough trade with a hint of a goatee, in a leather jacket, wearing mascara and smoking a cigarette, in front of a large poster advertising a new CD.
  • Greg, shot at an angle, in a shiny coat, clean-shaven, with pouting lips, looking away from the camera.
  • Greg staring into the camera intently, in casual dress, with a little hair on his chin.
  • Greg on a construction site, photographed from afar, in old jeans and a black sleeveless T; he is lifting up his shirt showing his midriff, distractedly staring into space, holding a cigarette.
  • Greg on the same construction site, facing the camera, one hand behind his back, the other holding a white straw hat.  He looks distant and moody. 
  • Greg in sunlight, leaning against a brick wall, unshaven, hair tousled, in sunglasses, his shirt open, revealing the tattoos on his chest.
  • Greg in the same shirt and white leather coat, again in the sun, but now we see he is in leather pants too. His chin is up and his eyes are closed.  He is soaking up the sun’s rays.
  • Greg leaning against a fence or rigging, his shirt open, wearing that straw hat, looking meditative, eyes almost closed.  We see the characters (Asian) inscribed on his torso from chest to below his belly button.
  • Greg leaning against a wall in the sun, his shirt open, his hair studiedly tousled, unshaven, looking extra pouty. 
  • Greg at that construction site, eyes open, looking pouty and melancholy. 
  • Greg nude, sprawled on a bed, wearing a bandana and a gold chain; we see the tattoos on his left upper arm.  He stares seductively into the camera.
  • Greg, nude on a blanket, looking behind him.  We see his firm white buttocks. 
  • Greg, nude indoors, from behind, wearing a baseball hat backwards.  More of that shapely bottom.
  • Greg, bent over forwards, exposing his bottom and testicles.  He must have shaved himself. 
  • Greg, sitting on a wooden chair, head thrust back, one hand grasping his very firm erection, the other holding his testicles. 

 

And so it goes.  The book seems mostly aimed at a gay male readership -– the multiple shots of Greg’s buttocks and his inserting a dildo into his anus serve to disambiguate any question whether this is might be a sort of Playgirl book aimed at heterosexual women.  But that’s not to say that straight men and women might not also enjoy these images or even find them erotically charged and sexually arousing.  Greg has a great body, and he is clearly willing to be photographed and objectified, so if people enjoy looking at him, why shouldn’t they?

            The question is whether this book achieves anything more than voyeuristic pleasure and titillation.  The book jacket suggests that is “a cinematic-like journey that explores the deepest aspects of mutual trust and the precarious balance of the model/artist relationship,” and calls it authentic and inspired.  Gorman in his introduction mentions the role of advertising in portraying youthful male sexuality, and says that in this work, overt masculinity is replaced by “a softer, more sensual, often androgynous point of view.”  Gorman says he wants to go beyond these categories and boundaries.  He does not like comparisons with other photographers.

            There’s something to Gorman’s idea.  There’s no attempt to give a rounded picture of Greg’s personality in these photographs, but we do get a multidimensional view of his sensuality.  While many of these images get their power by alluding to stereotypes of masculinity, and especially gay pornography, they don’t strictly conform to those stereotypes.  Greg has tattoos, which are a very traditional sign of masculinity, but his are beautiful and elegant, and so give a very different appreciation of Greg’s body – they bring to mind Peter Greenaway’s film The Pillow Book.  Maybe the exploratory aspect to Gorman’s work is most obvious in the explicitly sexual pictures, where Greg holds his penis in a variety of states of arousal, in a variety of settings, with a variety of postures and facial expressions.  There is some playfulness and experimentation in these images, and while the field of female nude and erotic photography is well-trodden ground, its male counterpart is far less familiar. 

            Yet there are other well-known photographers of male nudes, most notably Robert Mapplethorpe.  Gorman’s pictures don’t compare favorably with Mapplethorpe, because they lack the aesthetic purity of the more famous photographer’s work. On the other hand, it compares well with the slew of male erotic photography books you can easily find on Amazon.com, since it rises above the clichés of the genre, although not by much.  Just Between Us is an interesting creative work that’s very accessible, and is worth checking out.

 

Link: See the publisher’s web page for this book.

© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.


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