Jan 312011
 

I read an article written by Grant Scott in the August 2010 edition of Professional Photographer magazine. It was about the loneliness of being a freelance professional photographer.

While at times it seemed like an layman’s guide to depression some of it most definitely struck a chord with me:

As photographers, we do sit in front of our computers staring at the screen wondering who to contact next looking for work and how. We do wonder why nobody replies to our emails, returns our telephone calls or rings us with the perfect job. We do look at other photographers sites, compare our work to theirs and wonder “why are they busy and I am not, what do they have that I have not?”

Without the social elements of an office or studio full of people it is hard to get up every day and motivate yourself to create new reasons for people to come and see you, it is hard to find new clients and it is hard to remain creative and continue the daily slog of self-promotion.

It requires a huge amount of determination, self-belief and stamina to keep going. A photographer works in a profession that requires huge self-belief in ones work and oneself. We have nothing to sell other than our personality and creativity. When either or both are rejected our self-belief takes a battering and the more it happens the more our self-belief declines dramatically. Few of us have anybody close to us that understand the pressures of being a professional photographer.

We try, we desperately want to, give out a successful, positive persona to persuade our prospective clients they are buying into a success story. Thus we lie.

When we are asked how we are doing, how the recession is affecting us and how we are enjoying things at the moment, we lie. We try to juggle the truth; we create two versions of ourselves, the real one and the public face that meets with the client and exudes success wherever and whenever one advertises.

It is a hard act to maintain when you read the photographic press and see the success others are having. It is a hard act to maintain when you see the success your peers are purportedly having. It is a hard act to maintain when in moments of ego and extreme self-belief you compare yourself to the truly successful in the world of photography and know ‘I could have done that.’

There is a subtle difference to the paragraph above and the old joke about photographers; How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb? Fifty, one to change the bulb and forty-nine to say “I could have done that!”

Sometimes, if budget and equipment were not an issue some of us really could ‘have done that.’

Sometimes, the editors and creative directors that we as photographers are applying to for work forget that the Crewdson’s, the LaChapelle’s and the Leibovitz’s of the industry are teams of other creatives including assistants, lighting assistants, make-up artists, stylists, post production teams and marketing assistants. They are not freelancers working alone.

In fact, Annie Leibovitz tells a story in her book; At Work, where Dorothy Wilding was employed to photograph The Queen and wasn’t even in the room when the photograph was taken! Apparently Wilding’s assistants, who were trained in her style, often went out and took photographs for her. Often, she wasn’t in the same country. At one time she employed around thirty-seven people in her studio.

In his Professional Photographer article, coincidentally, Grant Scott mentioned a book called ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’. It was written by Sally Brampton, the woman that launched the magazine Elle and then suffered a clinical depression. She recovered (or so she’d thought) and became the editor of Red magazine, a position she was fired from due to ongoing depression. I’ve just finished reading the same book. On page sixty two Sally describes how she felt after being fired:

She felt that her self, her sense of worth and her calling was that of a successful magazine editor. By being fired, by losing her job as an editor of a mainstream magazine she felt that she’d failed at being herself. If she was no longer fit to be an editor then what was her worth? By failing in the role of an editor she herself had failed. What did she have left if her self had been taken away and she had no way forward or way to regain that self?

That struck a chord with me too… If I fail at being a photographer then what do I have left? I define myself as a photographer. I live to be a photographer. If I cannot be a photographer then what do I, myself, have left? I cannot answer the question. I have no answers. I do not see myself as anything but a professional and successful photographer.

For one moment in time, on this blog, I’m going to refuse to lie. The public face is going to be the real face. The real face is going public. Maintaining a show of success where there is none is laborious and wearisome. Trying to maintain momentum and enthusiasm in the midst of a clinical depression is nigh on impossible. Motivation and creativity are all but impossible when you’re this lonely and depressed.

Within the past month I could have and was more than prepared to die, which I would have were it not for a sentence spoken to me. I can truly understand why photographers and other creatives commit suicide.

I did not know them or could ever purport to know what they were thinking at the time but I can sympathise with Diane Arbus, Bob Carlos Clarke, Warren Bolster, Terence Donovan, Pierre Molinier, Francesca Woodman and the many other not so famous unnamed photographers that have committed suicide.

I will leave the last words on suicide to Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer Prize winner. Part of his suicide note read; “I am depressed… without phone… money for rent… money for child support… money for debts… money!!! I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain… of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners… I have gone to join Ken (his recently deceased colleague, Ken Oosterbroek) if I am that lucky.”

I have no idea what the statistics are for photographers as a sub-group but in the period 2009/2010 1.25 million people in the UK sought help for mental health issues. 33% of all General Practitioner’s time was taken up by mental health disorders. At it’s current rate of increase, by 2020 depression will be the 2nd most disabling condition behind heart disease. 10 times more people suffer from major depression now than in 1945 and in the UK alone more than £100 billion is spent per annum on mental health care.

From Wikipedia:

The criteria below are based on the formal DSM-IV criteria for a Major Depressive Episode. In order to be diagnosed as suffering from a major depressive episode, the patient must meet the following criteria:

Over a two week period, the patient has consistently experienced five or more of the following symptoms, and these behaviours must be outside the parameters of the patient’s normal behaviour. Either depressed mood or decreased interest or pleasure must be one of the five (although both are frequently concomitant).

  • For the better part of nearly every day, the patient reports a depressed mood or appears depressed to others.
  • For most of nearly every day, interest or pleasure is markedly decreased in nearly all activities (noted by the patient or by others).
  • Although not dieting, there is a marked loss or gain of weight (such as 5% in one month) or appetite is markedly decreased or increased nearly every day.
  • Nearly every day the patient sleeps excessively, known as hypersomnia, or not enough, known as insomnia.
  • Nearly every day others can see that the patient’s activity is agitated or slow.
  • Nearly every day the person experiences extreme fatigue.
  • Nearly every day the patient feels worthless or inappropriately guilty. These feelings are not just about being depressed, they may be delusional.
  • Noted by the patient or by others, nearly every day the patient is indecisive or has trouble thinking or concentrating.
  • The patient has had repeated thoughts about death (other than the fear of dying), suicide (with or without a plan) or has made a suicide attempt.

Since my ill-fated photographic studio closed in 2009 I have experienced all nine of these symptoms virtually every day. I am still experiencing most of the nine symptoms every day and yet I am still trying hard to maintain an outward facade of success. It is beyond tiring and most days I fail. Today I am being honest about my failure.

Since I took up photography as a profession I have failed (by the definition of being a ‘professional’) and have therefore failed to be the essence of who I perceive myself to be. If I am not a professional photographer then I am just a photographer, a hobbyist.

Yet, in times of clarity I know I have the talent. I can be a professional photographer. I can be a great professional photographer.

When I need reminding why I do this I try to read the compliments on my website and take them on board; unlike the testament from Mrs. Smith in Blackpool on how Union Meerkat Insurance provided her with the best service ever, the testaments on my website are real and verifiable.

I became a professional photographer because that was my dream job. Being a professional photographer would also pave the way for my other dreams to come true. So far I have failed and am crushed by depression wondering, like Sally Brampton did; if I am not a professional photographer then who am I?

I know I am not a corporate slave. I am not a member of the service industry, neither am I a cook or a mechanic or a lorry driver. I am not a wedding photographer and neither am I a photographer that sells shoddy ‘portfolio’ photo-shoots to ill-informed want-to-be models for thirty quid a time.

I want to be a PROFESSIONAL, PUBLISHED, WORKING, ARTISTIC, photographer/artist.

But.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed wondering who to contact next and how. I have the weight of fear, anxiety, procrastination and depression crushing me everyday and I have no one to turn to for help.

My counsellor is only words in my ear once a week. My closest friends don’t have the experience to help me and as yet, even though I’d be loathe to share my plans with peers I don’t even have the peers with enough experience to help me. I am the one they often turn to for advice!

So.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed with a plan to turn everything around. A plan that I know will work, wondering who to contact next and how. Knowing that when I do know the right person to contact, I’ll have to put on my public face full of lies and stories of success when underneath, my current defeated self is cowering with fear, procrastination and depression.

I have spent hours on my plan. It is a story, in itself, of self-discovery. It is biographical. It is life changing. It is my dream, it is my dreams come true. It is altruistic in parts, it is self serving in parts. It is a wonderment and an abhorrence. It is a thank you and a fuck you. It is charity and it is greed.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed with a plan to turn everything around…

I need encouragement when my motivation fails. I need someone to have belief in me when I fail to have belief in myself. I need someone to help financially support my plan for the next three months.

Who the hell do I turn to?

Nov 042010
 

From the Greek Ephebos (one arrived at puberty) Zṓion (animal) and Philia (love for or obsession for, sexually), Ephebozoophilia is the sexual desire to have sex with very young animals; those around an age that we’d usually refer to them as puppies or kittens.

A form of bestiality, ephebozoophilia is illegal in most countries except for Denmark. In the UK, Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (also known as the Extreme Pornography Act) outlaws images of a person performing or appearing to perform an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive). Countries such as Belgium, Germany, and Russia are somewhere in between; they permit sexual activity with animals, but prohibit the promotion of animal-oriented pornography.

Until 2005 ephebozoophilia was still legal in the US state of Washington and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, after an incident on July 2, 2005, when a man was pronounced dead in the emergency room of the Enumclaw community hospital after having been sodomized by a pony, the state legislature of the State of Washington, which had been one of the few states in the United States without a law against bestiality, within six months passed a bill making bestiality illegal and Newfoundland and Labrador followed suit.

Little has been written or researched about ephebozoophilia as ephebophilia (which denotes men who prefer adolescents around 15–19 years of age) is not recognised officially in human to human relationships. It has been concluded at a scholarly level that “few would want to label erotic interest in late or even mid adolescents as a psychopathology”; by implication proving, (what most people, including doctors and judges already know), that most men are actually turned on by teens1.

Today, in Hungary, where production faces no legal limitations, ephebozoosexual materials have become a substantial industry that produces numerous films and magazines and in Japan, animal pornography is used to bypass censorship laws, often featuring Japanese and Russian female models performing fellatio on young animals, because oral penetration of a non-human penis is not in the scope of Japanese mosaic censor.

A recent case study2 centred around Atika Kurī from Sapporo, (capital of the Hokkaidō Prefecture in Japan), a film producer renowned for ephebozoosexual movies. Rather than produce traditional zoosexual films where the male animal penetrates a human female in some way, Kurī-san used male porn stars to penetrate puppies, foals, kids (young goats) and in one film even a young llama.

Although technically not illegal in Japan and in his target market of Equatorial Guinea in Africa, Kurī-san made an error in his cargo routing and some of his freight landed on US soil and was seized by customs. Kurī-san was subsequently investigated by customs and due to the shocking nature of what they found they informed PETA.

PETA took an unusual step and with the Humane Society of America investigated Kurī-san on his home soil. What they found was that Kurī-san was puppy farming and actually part of an underground furry (one who has an interest in and sexual desire for anthropomorphic animals (animals who have a human qualities be it simply talking or having a human-like body) network interested in neoteny (the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles)). These extreme furries (Babyfurs)3 had been experimenting with home-brew genetics on the animal’s thyroid glands looking to create a state of progenesis (the attainment of sexual maturity by an organism still in its juvenile stage and having a secondary result of never experiencing later developmental stages so never achieving the adult form experienced by it’s evolutionary ancestors).

Although Japan is tolerant of most things sexually except for pubic hair, non-governmentally sanctioned genetic research and manipulation carries severe penalties and Kurī-san was tried and imprisoned for these offences.

It is widely believed (there is official documentation stating) that the results of Kurī-san’s successful genetic experiments were destroyed humanely. However, conspiracy theorists have remarked that a) some people in Sapporo and the surrounding areas have been attacked by puppy Chihuahuas approaching the size of a large Spaniel and that b) the Japanese government have been trying to reverse engineer Kurī-san’s experiments in the hope of creating a virus capable of carrying and transmitting the gene responsible for progenesis to humans via water borne parasites. It is interesting to note that although Japan remains a peaceful country since WW2 it still bears a cultural grudge against all foreigners especially those from China and North Korea.

1 – No citation needed

2 – Only approximate dates known

3 – See link: Babyfurs

Oct 182010
 

One of my most admired business models is that of Coffee Cake and Kink in London;

Coffee Cake and Kink online

Partly for the great coffee, partly for the great cake but mostly for their warm greetings, tolerant non-judgemental advice, great customer service, superior product lines, adult art and for creating in London a space where all of the above can be enjoyed by anyone of any gender, mix of gender or sexual persuasion.

Whilst I was still living in London there was nothing better than spending a sunny afternoon, drinking coffee, sat at one of their outside tables, watching the world go by or chatting to other customers about everything from Eastenders on TV the previous night to the best way to bind the breasts of a willing female slave and what rope to use.

If money were no object and I could open a business in Cornwall tomorrow I’d be phoning Alana and asking if I could either franchise or borrow their name and business model to open a similar shop to CCK down here in Cornwall. In fact, had my studio not closed it would have hopefully evolved into something very similar to CCK.

That would have, could have been the social enterprise aspect of my business; to promote safe and healthy sex and tolerance of all sexuality in Cornwall. (You have to remember that Cornwall often seems to lag a little behind the rest of the country and that Truro only held it’s second Gay Pride this year).

Cornwall, at least as far as the Cornwall I have seen, isn’t too big on sexual tolerance. Hence this post.

On the 11th of October this year, St Austell town councillors met to discuss the councils position should it receive an application for a sex shop, cinema or sexual entertainment venue. The result, pending approval by Cornwall Council was that a ‘zero tolerance’ policy should be implemented.

Apparently 90 streets were ‘blacklisted’ (those that contained any thoroughfare for children and stores that children or their parents may use, other entertainment venues or religious meeting places). Councillor John Stocker thought even more streets should have been included on the list.

The deputy Mayor Sandra Heyward (who was responsible for the groundwork prior to the meeting) insisted that the plan for zero tolerance was not decided on a ‘moral basis’.

During the meeting, examples were given citing why a zero tolerance plan was best, including; an Ann Summers store in Cardiff, six doors away from a Disney store, a sex shop in Truro having been granted a license next door to school uniform shop and the fact that a sex shop that opened in St Austell several years ago was forced to close after only six weeks because “concerned parents protested and it became a ‘bit of an embarrassing’ place to go”.

The above was taken from an article by Dominic Howell in the Cornish Guardian dated the 13th October 2010.

Zero tolerance huh? Well, it looks like my plans are scuppered! I wonder how old the councillors are, what businesses they personally represent and what the demographic of the shopping public of St Austell is?

I can (sort of) see the councillors point of view if they were objecting to the sort of sex shop that existed in the 1970’s that only appealed to the ‘dirty Mac’ brigade. But, since the internet that kind of shop has largely vanished. Firms that synonymised that kind of sex shop like ‘Private’ have moved online and there is no longer a need for blacked out windows and screens between the shop door and shop proper. Sex shops by today’s definition are often stores for women who want to experiment with their sexuality actually run by women.

Jacqueline Gold’s clever re-branding of the Ann Summers chain paved the way for this and brought sex to the high street although when they tried to open a shop in Tunbridge Wells they were accused of ‘degrading’ marriage. Perhaps it is fashionable to move to St Austell for retirement from Tunbridge Wells?

Firms like Sh! Harmony, Coco de Mar and Organic Pleasures took Ann Summer’s ball and ran with it, proving that women actually liked sex and that the problem with sex was (probably) the male’s perception of ‘sex’. This was largely typified by shops with blacked out windows, rows and rows of magazines and films featuring big breasted, vacant eyed never-to-be starlets on the covers and blow-up dolls in boxes with a lurid red, gaping hole where the mouth should be and legs akimbo held apart by hard plastic seams that grazed your skin. (Allegedly).

In an area like St Austell that has problems with it’s youth, with drug use and teenage pregnancy is zero tolerance the best policy?

I know for a fact that when I opened my studio for it’s short lived stint in St Austell that people in the LGBT community, the transgender community and the BDSM community were crying out for somewhere they could shop, drink coffee amongst their own and have somewhere to meet on a day-to-day basis.

I know of a schoolgirl lesbian that was bullied into leaving her school when she ‘came out’ even though it is fashionable to be bi-sexual in the same school.

A middle aged lesbian complained that nowhere in Cornwall was there anywhere she could turn to for advice on lesbian pornography or sex toys without being part of the ‘LGBT’ culture, something she felt she didn’t ever want to belong to. Her sexuality she explained, was her own private business and not a statement. She lived alone she told me.

I know that people in both the Transgender and BDSM communities in St Austell didn’t always want to have to travel to Truro for a monthly structured meeting (munch) or have to go to Truro’s ‘gay bar’ for a drink.

On Facebook, there are Ann Summers ‘groups’ (with plenty of members) based in all the major Cornish towns. Ann Summers parties are therefore big business locally which by association would imply that there was a need for sex toys and sexy lingerie. As my own modelling groups on Facebook and these Ann Summers groups often shared the same ‘friends’ I can safely say that the demographic for both was in the age range of 14 years old to around 22.

Councillors and parents in Cornwall. Wise-up! Your children are having sex! Your constituents and shoppers are having sex. Your children and constituents may be gay or not adverse to wearing a little latex while strapped to a St Andrews cross being flogged enthusiastically about the buttocks with a leather riding crop or bamboo cane.

One could argue that given the propensity of ‘online’ shopping there is no need for physical sex shops?

I would say that since the days of the ‘ivory white’, ribbed, nine inch plastic vibrator (sorry; massager) are (mostly) dead and that since sex toys now cost often into the region of hundreds of pounds that physical shopping and sensible, adult advice are completely warranted.

In my opinion a store running with a business model like Coffee Cake and Kink is almost a necessity in all major towns. Cornwall could benefit with a similar shop in Penzance, Truro and St Austell with Plymouth (pun intended) bring up the rear.

Where better for the coffee drinking, cake eating, youth and the sexually diverse to get sensible, non-judgemental advice? Are they going to get advice on safe experimentation in sex education lessons? The family planning clinic? The doctors or from a teenage mum that to supplement her minimum wage income is running Ann Summers parties for her mates? I think not.

Zero tolerance? I think that the councillors of St Austell need to re-think their policies or at the very least have someone on board to play devils advocate and help bring Cornwall (kicking and screaming probably) into the 21st Century.

Sep 012010
 

Right now I have no idea where or what I should be doing. I feel I’m in that burned out place once more, I don’t want sympathy, I don’t deserve it, I have made the bed I lay in:

I’m numb, I’m angry, I’m angsty, I’m confused, I’m short tempered, I’m looking for something I can’t find, I’m down with a few of my so called friends that promise to call or visit but don’t, I’m searching for inspiration, I need a studio, I need work, I can’t decide whether shock value is relevant any more, I can’t decide whether glamour is relevant any more, I want to see and do but can’t, I want to move on with the business but feel like I’m swimming in tar, I want to increase my meds but the doctor says I’m on the maximum dose without seeking the advice of a psychiatrist which he won’t do until I start counselling again, what I thought I knew I don’t, things are positive, things are bleak, there is good, there is bad, I can’t help comparing past and present, I hate the past, thoughts of self harming have come back, I’ve found in my dad a man I like and it’s confused me, I want Faye here, I see my past in Jo, I don’t want to, I have violent outbursts, I am laid back, I bury my head in the sand, I see too much, I love living by the sea, I want to make more of it, ultimately I think I’ll fail, I can’t give up trying, trust no-one, accept people for who they are warts and all, I’m positive, I lack motivation, my website gets over a 100K hits a month, my website generates no income, I accept me for who I am but I wish I were different.

I have 6 local girls I can shoot right now but I lack inspiration. I actually want to shoot Hollie but she’s incommunicado right now. I can’t offer the 6 anything when I feel I’m just going through the motions. Unlike my London apartment, although much bigger, my Cornwall house is set out differently and doesn’t make for good studio space. To do these girls and my own work justice I need to be able to set out my lights properly.

Maybe I need to get back to Church? But…

Part of the Church work is definitely the shock value, though in our time, the beginning of the 21st century, shock is hard to come by. The only people shocked by what I do are the devout. Most people are desensitised to shock, to religion, to horror. I questioned what shock is and how far I need to go to shock and I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that unless I find what I’m doing obscene myself I doubt I’ll shock many others. I don’t want to push myself that far.

We live in a world where car crashes are entertainment… How can I compete with that? Death is entertainment… How can I compete with that. Humanity is desensitised. Look at the horror and macabre gallery  on deviantART, people find the work beautiful. Tanya, the gallery moderator, does a great job every month showing us the best of the best of blood soaked photographs; people sucking on razor blades, syringes hanging from drug riddled skanks, hangings, mutilations, fake dead bodies washed up on the shore of life. I myself have dipped my toe in these waters. To really shock I need to immerse myself and take to swimming in these waters.

Twenty five years ago, in 1983/4, the British Board of Film Classification decided that video tapes needed to have the same age classifications that film had. Video at the time was a free for all without censorship. Overnight, what became known as the video nasty act was made law and a whole bunch of films became illegal to own or rent. I made a mint, a really pretty penny selling these films as pirate copies. I was already selling pirate porn, a few horror movies added to the mix couldn’t hurt.

People that had never even heard of Last House on the Left, Driller Killer, I Spit on your Grave and Faces of Death suddenly wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was a media frenzy; watch Zombie Flesh Eaters and Cannibal Holocaust the tabloids stated and you’ll all become serial killers. We must be protected, we mustn’t have free will and the right to decide on our own what is good or bad for us. The now protected masses, probably unaware beforehand that these films even existed were now unable to make up their own minds unless they came to me, or people like me. We pirate film dealers had a captive audience.

The average person becomes immune to stimuli rather quickly. If I take myself as an example; selling porn. I became bored of it almost instantly. I had banks of video duplication machines running day and night. I watched a lot of what I sold not for titillation but to make sure what I was selling was of good enough quality for my customers to keep coming back for more. To this day I cannot sit down and watch a porn movie. As I’ve said before on other pages; whatever way you swing it, whatever way you film it, whatever the combinations of sexes and numbers it all comes down to fucking and sucking. It is only; fucking and sucking.

I am completely desensitised to it. However pretty the cast, whether male/female, female/female, male/male… Whatever hole is being filled with whatever body part or kitchen utensil it bores me. Who then needs the stimuli? The young and inexperienced? Curiosity is part of humanities make up. The highly sexed and those lacking the ability to get sexual partners? It caters to a need.

Once one becomes desensitised to normal (ish) sex where does one turn to for kicks? Animal Farm? There was always a call for Animal Farm. I refused to deal in it. I could never decide whether the people that asked for it were genuinely turned on by the idea or whether there was a car crash mentality surrounding it. The same with Scat and Watersports. What in fact had happened was that I had become the censor myself. I couldn’t understand how people could get turned on by defecating on one another so refused to give people the opportunity. To be completely honest, it didn’t bother me but I didn’t like it either.

Then I discovered the Japanese porn market. As with all things, the Japanese had turned porn into an art. While watching a drugged Danish girl get fucked by a pig or a Great Dane left me cold, watching a Japanese girl trying to stuff a bucket load of baby eels up her vagina amused me in some odd way. While the Danish girls always looked forced, drugged or coerced into what they did on the farm the Japanese girls seemed willing in some way. While just as perverse, the Japanese films were so out there they almost seemed like parody. They seemed comedic in some way. Perhaps eels are funnier than dogs? Perhaps because the eels were unwitting participants and the pigs and dogs seemed only too willing? Perhaps the absurdity of watching a bucket full of eels escaping all over the set was more like Benny Hill and National Lampoon than Hostel?

Oh those crazy Japanese… Not content with eels, anything with tentacles became game. Anything from the sea in fact. You have to love the twisted morality… While it was illegal to show pubic hair and the genital area was more often than not blurred out or covered with a mosaic it was alright to fill a vagina with live fish.

What we in the West made sordid, the East made art. While bondage in the West during the 70s and early 80s comprised mainly of badly printed booklets showing men in inflatable rubber suits and hoods or Wellington boots and rubber Macs the east had Shibari; Bondage as an art form. While in the West we were training German Shepherds to fuck drugged women wearing dayglo wigs and overly large sunglasses to hide their identities the Japanese had Wakamezake and Nyotaimori. While in the West, forced sex films tried their hardest to be as brutal as possible; where rape was taken almost to the level of snuff and made to seem as unpleasant as it would be in real life the Japanese take on this was Chikan; rubbing of the genitals on unsuspecting teens on the subway and the odd crafty boob grab.

To this day, one of the funniest things I have ever seen though in no way sexually arousing is a video of two Japanese girls indulging in emetophilia or Roman Showers. The thing that amuses me most about this short clip is the humour… Neither girl seems forced, in fact the girl actually vomiting seems to be enjoying herself no end and giggles helplessly all the way through.

So back to the story; questioning my own need to shock through photography and feeling completely numb and uninspired I went on a soul searching mission to uncover my motives and find something to nudge me back into a world where I felt something. I wanted to be horrified. I wanted to be shocked. I wanted to feel revulsion. Fuck, I just wanted to feel. Something, anything, other than the stress and anger I have been feeling. Sickened to the pit of my stomach has got to be better than nothing right?

I started in the past…

What was considered vile enough to ban in 1984 is now freely available at any good video store. Zombie Flesh Eaters is now branded ‘UNCUT’ and ‘REMASTERED’ you can now experience it in the comfort of your own living room in 5:1 surround sound and HD video. We who now watch real war on prime time TV in HD widescreen can also watch the beauty of Rape and Revenge that is I Spit on your Grave. Better than that… Why watch the originals of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left when we can watch the bloodier, more violent remakes? There seems to be a fashion right now… Take a classic horror from the 80s and bring it up to date for the desensitised. Which is the better film? Carpenters Halloween or Rob Zombies Halloween?

I started in the past; over the past few weeks I’ve watched; Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Last House on the Left and Nightmares in a Damaged Brain. I enjoyed them as much as I did in the 80s.

What the general public never knew was that while the media pounced on the horror blockbusters, if they can be called that, was that there was an underground movement producing art house movies far more shocking. From Japan came the Guinea Pig series… Flowers of Flesh and Blood, The Devils Experiment and He Never Dies. While Faces of Death was reviled few people knew the Mondo genre had spawned far more shocking films like Traces of Death where nothing was staged unlike Faces and Japan’s The Death Files. Love it or hate it, Tobe Hoopers Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a classic piece of film making. Dealing with Cannibalism and Necrophilia it touched a raw nerve in many people. It was all the more shocking in that it was based on the true story of Ed Gein. Take then the little known films from Jörg Buttgereit; Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2 where necrophilia becomes romanticised and the protagonists fall in love and run off with their corpses preferring them over the living. 1976s In the Realm of the Senses went a little further giving us unsimulated sex and a castration to boot.

I dipped my toe here too. Still I wasn’t moved. I’d seen them before… I needed something new. Oh font of all knowledge that is Google, show me your wares, lead me to the forums. “Come” said Pinhead “We have such sights to show you”.

I need not go into detail regarding the films here but I found and didn’t find what I was looking for… It seems (unless anyone can tell me otherwise) that the most shocking films of all time are as follows; August Underground, August Underground Mordum, August Underground Penance, Salo, Requiem for a Dream, Irreversible, I Stand Alone, Tokyo Gore Police and Visitor Q.

While not easy watching, some for their graphic content, some for their depressive subject matter and some for being just shock for the sake of shock I can honestly say that I am still unmoved. If I am moved in any way it would be the need to question why some people have gone to the lengths of say “Mordum” to utterly repulse the general public. A public that won’t search out these films anyway.

To bring it back into context I cannot compete and don’t want to compete with these movies. If the general public want to be shocked they need to see these movies. The lengths I would have to go to to surpass them would be far out of my comfort zone. Maybe comfort zone is the wrong phrase? I feel desensitised to the point where I could portray as bad as or even worse images as these films but why would I want to? What would I achieve and what point would I be proving? I need to rethink my motives and desires.

What would you like to see from me in the future?

May 022010
 

Whatever you thought of Malcolm McLaren as a man you couldn’t have not had an opinion on his impact on music and fashion. Whether you considered the man a fake, a genius, a svengali or a con man there is no denying he had way more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame. For a short while he managed the New York Dolls and with his business partner Vivienne Westwood he revolutionised fashion through a small shop in London’s Kings Road; Sex.

He was the man behind the Sex Pistols, he delivered them spitting, pogoing and swearing onto the London gig scene during a time when ABBA and Brian Ferry were topping the charts and the British youth had nothing to look forward to except another year of unemployment, strikes and misery. He gave anti-establishment a fashion, a voice and heroes at exactly the same time that the establishment was celebrating the queen’s silver jubilee. The timing couldn’t have been better.

He revelled in and courted controversy; Who else would steal Adam Ant’s backing band and front it with the then unknown, 13 year old, Annabella Lwin to form Bow Wow Wow? He would then be investigated by Scotland Yard when the group’s second studio and arguably biggest selling album: ‘See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah! City All over Go Ape Crazy!’ Featured the 14 year old Annabella naked on it’s cover in a tribute to Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass. There would be further Bow Wow Wow controversy later as to whether Malcolm and the group plagiarised Burundi and Zulu cultural music…

…loooong before Enigma did the same with Gregorian chanting and Deep Forest made off with the Baka pygmies but by then the road had been paved.

With his album ‘Duck Rock’ Malcolm was an early pioneer on the Hip Hop scene popularising it, at least in the UK with two tracks from the album; ‘Buffalo Girls’ and ‘Double Dutch’ both of which reached the top ten in the UK’s singles chart, highest positions 9 and 3 respectively.

Love or loath both him and his impact on the world you couldn’t have ignored him… On the 8th of April 2010 he died of Mesothelioma, a rare form of Cancer. He was buried at Highgate Cemetery, London on the 22nd of April. Rest in Peace Malcolm… I hope God took you in!

Could a man like Malcolm have gone to Heaven? A man steeped in controversy, a man who made money through the sale of bondage goods and clothes? A man who made money by promoting anarchy and supposedly ‘lewd’ music? A man who featured a naked 14 year old girl on an album cover, was cleared of child pornography charges but wasn’t allowed to label Lwin as a ‘Sex Kitten’ in the same vein as Marylyn Monroe? Was Malcolm accepted through the pearly gates?

Will I be let into Heaven when I myself die?

Regardless of my own controversies the Church and I have become friends. Honest friends; they don’t condone my work in any way and I won’t promise not to repeat the work I started. But we’re friends. Friends with differing points of view both trying to get the other to understand us. I’ll freely admit I upset people and The Church as a body but I’ll repeat to my dying breath that that wasn’t the intention. Even Christians are divided as to whether my work is art or blasphemy.

The Bible is ambiguous on the subject; Taken out of context there are passages that condemn what I do and passages that imply there is nothing wrong and that nudity is Godly. Bricks and mortar are not holy, man makes them holy by designating them as a place of worship. A church is literally a congregation of people, God says that whenever a group of Christians meet then He will listen intently. God is not in a particular church anymore than He is in my own house or in a sun dappled woodland grove or on a moonlit beach. God is all around us. He surrounds us and penetrates us. He binds the galaxy together.

I no more offended God by shooting in a church as I would have if I’d shot in my own bedroom or the models living room. If one believes, then the beauty and architecture of a church is man made but from a God given talent. If one shoots nudity in the great outdoors then one is actually shooting amongst the beauty and nature that God himself created. Which place is more Holy?

I was once caught mid-shoot in a church near Derby. As the church caretaker screamed at us to leave while literally beating on us with a broom and calling us all kinds of Satanists, the model I was shooting, while hurriedly dressing, asked the caretaker mid-broom-beating what her problem with nudity was and weren’t Adam and Eve naked originally and weren’t we all born naked? I kind of think she had a point. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that ‘nudity’ per se is wrong. Rather it says that nudity that promotes lust is wrong. One has to be subjective though, what kind of nudity promotes lust? One mans art is another mans porn and vice versa. The Bible has so many meanings and translations it is not a book to be read with objectivity, it can’t be.

God created Adam and Eve naked, only after they ate from the tree after being tempted by the Devil did they gain self awareness, conscience and the notion that nudity was somehow wrong and they should cover themselves up. If God created the original man and woman and the Bible is a book that helps us overcome evil and return to the state that God created us then isn’t the overall objective to return to a form where nudity is good again? If we were to return to the state that God created us then we would see no wrong in nudity and see the beauty in human body as God given.

The soft curves of a womans breasts, her hips, her mons pubis and the softness and folds of vaginal skin are all beautiful. The curve where a womans neck meets her shoulder, the curve where her shoulder meets her arm, all beautiful, all created by God. The hardness of a mans well worked and maintained chest, of decent biceps, abs, thighs and calves can all be considered to be beautiful. Even an erect penis can be… Well, if not beautiful at least artful if looked at from an abstract point of view.

Rule 34 states: Pornography or sexually related material exists for any conceivable subject.

Does that mean I should stop shooting Champagne bottles, Celtic crosses and skateboarders?

Rule 34, though created for the internet is generally accepted now… If people look hard enough they can find sin and lust anywhere. There will always be people that find my work lustful, I personally don’t. Surely it is not for man to judge me but for God alone?

1 Cor. 10:29: For why should my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience?

Titus 1:15 (New International Version): To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.

Taken a large step further one could argue that porn has it’s place in society. Sure it’s been argued to me that it’s addictive and has destroyed lives but so is and have sugar, alcohol and chocolate. People become addicted to porn without doubt, porn has destroyed lives, porn has broken marriages and porn has corrupted people. The porn industry is greedy, it can be abusive, it can be immoral and totally lacking in respect for either the models feelings or her body. These are the very reasons I pulled out of the porn industry early in my career.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to shoot porn though. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to satisfy a need for some people, I just want to do it in the right way, my way. Put bluntly I would rather a man (or woman) wank over my images of naked 18 year old girls than sit looking out of a window wanking over schoolies standing at a bus stop. I would prefer he found consolation in my work rather than finding consolation by force in the real world.

As much as there is an argument that violent films and video games create violent people there is an argument that people that fantasise over porn take their fantasies into the outside world. Neither argument has definitive proof. On the flip side porn has actually been used therapeutically for some sexually related psychological problems.

I was once involved in a porn shoot where blatantly the first time model hadn’t thought through the implications of being an adult model. She was shy, she was lacking in confidence and ultimately she didn’t want to be doing what she was being paid to do. It was primarily a video shoot but my involvement was to shoot the stills that went along with the film. Both the director and the videographer had utter disregard for what the girl was feeling. In their minds they were there to do a job and the girl was being paid to do that job regardless. They talked to her, they cajoled her, they played on her conscience and they put her into such an uncomfortable position that she felt obliged to carry on.

At the first opportunity I had to get her alone, while I was supposedly shooting my first set of stills I told her to get dressed. I told her to get dressed, stop crying and to tell the director that the shoot was over. No ifs, no buts, the shoot was over. I sat with her while she did so and stood up for her when needed. I ushered everyone involved in the shoot out of her house and into their cars, it was a long drive home with the director and I never worked in the industry for anyone but myself again.

Some girls have a desperate need to become models. Some girls want to model for fun, some see the glamour surrounding the modelling industry and the small fortunes that can be made.

Models will model regardless whether I’m working as a photographer or not. Surely then it is better that a few responsible and moral photographers are working in the field to help guide and teach new models the whys and wherefores, the paths and the pitfalls and help them further their chosen careers or hobbies safely?

As a man I am open about sexuality and my desires, as a photographer I am transparent in my working methods and explicit in my desires before, during and after a shoot. There are no surprises, the model knows exactly what the shoot entails and makes her mind up before I set the camera up. She knows that no means no and that she can stop the shoot at any time if she feels uncomfortable. She knows that before, during and after she can ask questions and get honest answers to them.

I hope during any shoot a working friendship is made and that a model can feel free to contact me any time after the shoot for advice or help. Each and every model can become my muse for a short while should she choose to. Each and every model can lean on that friendship and be entitled to the respect and encouragement that a muse deserves.

I work entirely within the laws of men but push those boundaries, sometimes past the point of comfort for some. That is the artist in me. Past that, only God can judge me surely?

As I see it; a lot of people and a lot of Christians (though not all) think they know everything. They read the Bible or get taught it’s words in church and they think they know how God thinks. The truth is, our human intellect is absolutely nothing, almost absent, compared to God’s. Who are we then to be so bold as to have the audacity to proclaim that we know what God thinks about an issue? Who is to say that what I do and what I’ve done is wrong?

I’ll leave you with the words of Pope John Paul II, make of them what you will…

“This by no means signifies that impurity of body is identified simply with partial or total nudity. There are circumstances in which nudity is not impure. If someone uses it to treat the person as an object of pleasure – even if it is by bad thoughts – he alone is the one who commits an impure act. Impurity of body only occurs when nudity plays a negative role with respect to the value of the person. One can say that what happens then is a de-personalization ….

Even knowing that nudity is not identical to impurity of the body, a real interior effort must be made to avoid assuming an impure attitude before a nude body. We should also add that impurity of action is not identical to the spontaneous reaction of sensuality that considers the body and sex as possible objects of joy. The human body per se is not impure, nor is the reaction of sensuality, nor sensuality itself”.