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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
its 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:
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
shot at an angle, in a shiny coat, clean-shaven, with pouting lips,
looking away from the camera.
staring into the camera intently, in casual dress, with a little hair on
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.
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.
in sunlight, leaning against a brick wall, unshaven, hair tousled, in
sunglasses, his shirt open, revealing the tattoos on his chest.
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 suns rays.
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.
leaning against a wall in the sun, his shirt open, his hair studiedly
tousled, unshaven, looking extra pouty.
at that construction site, eyes open, looking pouty and melancholy.
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.
nude on a blanket, looking behind him.
We see his firm white buttocks.
nude indoors, from behind, wearing a baseball hat backwards. More of that shapely bottom.
bent over forwards, exposing his bottom and testicles. He must have shaved himself.
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 Gregs
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 thats 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 shouldnt they?
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.
something to Gormans idea. Theres no
attempt to give a rounded picture of Gregs 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
dont 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
Gregs body they bring to mind Peter Greenaways film The
Pillow Book. Maybe the
exploratory aspect to Gormans 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.
are other well-known photographers of male nudes, most notably Robert
Mapplethorpe. Gormans pictures dont
compare favorably with Mapplethorpe, because they lack the aesthetic purity of the
more famous photographers 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 thats very accessible, and is worth checking out.
Link: See the publishers web
page for this book.
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
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.