The american standard of beauty has always leaned towards the fair skinned types, with blond hair reflecting the sunlight and sparkling blue eyes. The edgier bad boys were normally portrayed by the brunette brooders, with skin that had hints of olive hues and dark hooded eyes that could project intensity. The former type may be what we are supposed to want, but it is that latter that we desired, either in secret or openly. In Joshua's case, it is the qualities at the root of each of these types that creates the appeal.
Models should mallable, easy to mold into the look that fits the project, and BLISS cover boy Joshua is able to pull this off without any apparant effort. His work with Ethan James produced images straight from the pages of a fashion magazine. There is a photo of him wearing a black suit and tie, with a white dress shirt, standing out amid an all white background that puts him front and center. His hair is slicked back, bringing the focus to his full lips and wide brown eyes, but it is the playful pose, revealing a large silver belt buckle that adds persona lity to the image. His is a modern version of our black and white era leading men, and the best adjective to describe his look in this photo is beautiful. Another twist in this photo is the questionable ethnic background, for he could easily be of mixed race, Itallian, Middle Eastern, Greek, Arab or Hispanic origins. When this image is presented alongside a portrait by James Franklin in which he is seen walking in a pair of jeans, a black wife beater, and holding a cigar to his lips, the contrast between old school Hollywood and the latter day Bad Boy is hard to ignore. He may be beautiful in the first image, but he is handsome in the second. And hot! The boy from the fashion magazine has become a sex symbol.
Beauty is a gift, but it is something that just is. Those who possess it may have to take steps to maintain it, but the essence of it is basically effortless. Talent is also a gift, but it is something that must be honed, practiced and perfected in order for the true potential to shine through. Either can spawn jealously or envy, even from those who admire and appreciate the merits. So what is the reaction to those who have been blessed with both?
Modeling was not Joshua's first foray into the arts. He is a dancer. I was curious as to when he first started dancing and he said, "I started when I was 16 doing musical theater. I used to do gymnastics and musicals often feature tumbling etc. I was actually recruited to tumble in Can Can back in high school. However, I can't act or sing to save my life!"
The temptation is to respond, "well thank God there's something you're not good at", but this is not a man who inspires negative thoughts. There is a genuine quality that shines through his work as a model, illuminating his humanity. These are photos of a real person, not just some beautiful poser, and viewing the images on his web site (www.JoshuaM.net) is akin to peeling away the layers of his personality to get a glimpse at the actual person. And what we discover is that he is capable of surprising even himself.
One of the great things about working with a variety of photographers is discovering their perspective on the models. Each one has a particular style that they excel at above all else that they do, and it is when they apply this to their subjects that we get to view the diversity of each person. When you have worked with such an impressive list as Joshua has it may be difficult to single any one out, but there are bound to be aspects regarding each session that reveal a moment of pride. Photographs are like a mirror, in that they reflect, but the result is that the reflection is now a frozen moment, perfectly preserved. For some, the image allows for self criticism, but they can also provide testament regarding an unseen notion.This was the case for Joshua. I wondered which of his many shoots was most memorable and what made it so.
"The most memorable is probably the ones I did with Eric Schwabel. It was the first time I think I actually saw my leg that straight and high in the air!"
Even the beautiful ones need validation from time to time. And here at BLISS, we love to provide it. Take a seat and relax as we lift the curtain for the Joshua M. show.
BLISS: You are definatley a man of motion, considering your dance and gymnastics. I know you started at 16 years old. What type of dance training did you have?
JOSHUA M: Ballet, modern and jazz. The dance company that I'm currently in, STREB Extreme Action, is based in a technique called Pop Action. I mainly take those classes and tumbling.
B: So you have not left the gymnastics behind completely. Now, STREB is located in New York. Are you a New York native or did you move to the city?
J: I am not a New York native. Actually, NYC really was the last place I thought I would end up. Go figure since it's the dance capital of the USA if not the world.
B: So you moved to New York from where?
J: I grew up in Maryland.
B: My home state! That's so good to hear. Normally people from Maryland will say they are from DC, since the proximity is so close. I used t o think that nobody else was from Maryland, except maybe Baltimore. When did you decide to pursue dancing as a career?
J: I'm not really sure. It's been a long hard road and I've just been trying to find whatever brings my life fulfillment. I studied art in college as well but dancing is short lived. So, all my energy has to go there.
B: STREB is a modern dance company based in Brooklyn that was started in 1985. I know that there is a school as well, but I confess I'm not very familiar with their productions. Where have you performed?
J: I'm rather new to the company. I just finished my first season with them. So, this first year has mainly been local to NYC. The next season we are headed to Boston, Phoenix and other locales on the east coast.
B: I checked out the web site (www.STREB.org) and was awed by the STREB Extreme Action photos. The performances seem pretty intense. I would imagine that must take up a considerable amount of time and energy. Dancing requires so much dedication and time, so how or when did you develop an interest in modeling?
J: My early 20's.
B: I love that you have brought your training into this new medium. Some of the most visually stunning images in your port depict you in dance poses. Have you always blended the two art forms?
J: Because of my dance background, many photographers have been able to create some distinct work. Physicality is a part of me so I know that naturally shows in the majority of the work I've done.
B: How do the two relate to each other in terms of posing and comfort level?
J: My comfort level definitely correlates with the physical components of the posing. If I can throw myself completely into a photo, the better chances something will come out of it.
B: Your work with Eric Schwabel proved to be one of your most memorable sessions. What was your most challenging photo shoot? Why?
J: Well the most physical ones are the most challenging. Sometimes you have to do a jump ten times just to capture it perfect in the air. I also did a fitness layout for Exercise for Men and I had to do some of the exercises over and over again. That was pretty exhausting.
B: I know this is an awkward question, but do you have a favorite photographer that you've worked with? If so, why?
J: There have been many I liked working with. I would say most recently working with Sean Toussaint was great. We just had a great time shooting and he captured my flexibility in a very different way.
B: When you are in a session, do you collaborate on ideas with the photographer?
J: Sure. Many of them don't have a dancer's vocabulary. So, I have to show them what I can do. It just goes from there.
B: There are many beautiful shots in your port. Do you have a particular favorite? If so, why?
J: A recent headshot by Patricia Spanjer. It was just a very soft headshot and very relaxed.
B: Going back to some of the photos on the STREB site, I have to say that the visuals are stunning, both colorful and unique.In terms of modeling, is there an idea or concept that you've wanted to bring to life in a photo that you have yet to be able to do?
J: Well, I also write prose. So, I have a ton of writing that I would like to bring to life. That has become an extreme challenge in actually making written word visual..
B: I've wanted to do the same thing with my own writing and photography. I have the ideas, but sometimes it's hard to visualize it correctly. Bringing something to life is most definately a factor in deciding to work with someone. Are there any particular photographers that you would like to work with? If so, what is it that draws you to their work?
J: Justin Monroe. His work is just so out there but I love it. That would definitely get me out of my box. I've also wanted to work with Mark Jenkins. He captures physicality beautifully.
B: Ah, Justin! I have to say that almost every model I interview mentions him as someone they want to work with. He is someone that I also admire greatly because his work is unapologetic. It's the photo equivalent of that outspoken individual who says the things that many of us are thinking but don't have the guts to voice out loud. I love the fact that he makes no excuses for the highly charged sexual nature of his work.
Now you can't mention working with him without me asking how you feel about nudity in images?
J: It can be great at times.
B: If you work with Justin, that may very well be one of those times. I have yet to see any representations in your port, but I am curious about if you would ever pose nude?
J: I've done it before.
B: So when do we get to see these images? Just kidding...sort of. One of the things that annoys me the most is the double standard regarding nude male images compared to those of females. Often times it is considered artistic for the females, but erotic when it involves men. And God forbid there be an erection in sight because those are automatically labeled as pornographic, which is ridiculous considering it is a natural physical response. What is your opinion on erotic art images?
J: It has its place as most anything in the world does.
B: In your opinion, what is the difference between erotic art and pornography?
J: It is all in the eye of the beholder.
B: I want to backtrack for just a moment to dancing. What advice would you give a young person, just starting out, who wanted to be a dancer?
J: Find which style you love doing and practice! Never not do anything because you are scared to fail. Mostly, be open. You never know what things you will find if something doesn't work out. It just might be what you have always been looking for.
B: In the same vein, what advice would you give someone just startin g out in modeling?
J: Pretty much the same for dancing.
B: Wow, that's a long way from Maryland. I don't want to get too serious, but what do you value most in your life?
B: Just one more serious question. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
B: I like to end things on an upbeat note and I ask everyone this bec ause it shows the person in a different light that is easy to relate to. So...tell me 5 fun things about Joshua.
1. I love gymnastics.
I really appreciate you taking the time to do this for me and wish you continued success. I'll have to come see you perform.
©2009 Sean Dibble
STREB Extreme Action -
James Franklin Photography