Monday, April 26, 2010


The male form has inspired artists and the ones who appreciate this art for centuries, but for many of those years it was almost taboo to display it in photographic form. Every photographer who works in this medium can discuss who they feel was a pioneer of the genre, be it Bob Mitzer, Wilhelm von Gloeden, James Bidgood, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber, Henning von Berg, Tom Bianchi, Justin Monroe, Rundu, George Platt Lynes, Ed Freeman, David Vance, Man Ray, David Hurles, Kingdom 19, Helmut Newton, or another artist on somebody's personal list of favorites. Each of them can be noted for their unique vision, and it is sometimes easy to identify their work simply by the style or model choice in the image.

The act of creating a stunning image of a beautiful male model is not as simple as picking up a camera. Today's digital format has made it possible for anyone to experiment, but what makes an image stand out is not solely about the model. It is about the eye of the person behind the lens, and how what they see in their mind is brought to life through the lighting, positioning and framing of the subject. But the subject, in many cases, may end up defining the artist almost as definatively as the style. Regardless of talent or access to a variety of models, many photographers have proven to have a preferance for a certain type. Bruce Weber has had a long, amazing career, but he will be universally associated with creating the Abercrombie & Fitch look for men. Rundu has elevated the black male form to iconic status, and the men he chooses have similar traits. Rick Day shoots a variety of different types, but his angles, framing, posing and lighting choices are so distinctive it's as if he invented them.

In articles or features about photographers, it is often stated that they live through their work, and that their portfolios are like visual tours of their personal fantasies. Visonaries like Justin Monroe create alternate worlds and the sexual nature of his subjects is larger than life, bold and even controversial at times. Zedneram has mastered the art of in-your-face sensuality, displaying his models in intensely erotic poses that remarkably stay within the borders of good taste. Ron Reyes often adorns his models with tradional Hawaian accents, and even uses the background scenery, be it a room or the outdoors, to create a look and feel to his photographs that is uniquely his own. David Vance has combined a classic sensibility with modern editing so seemlessly that his work has become cutting edge while retaining the essence of the old masters.

The creation of fantasy is one of the great elements of male imagery, both for the photographer and the viewer, but it is not the only style or motivation within the genre. There are those of us who just simply enjoy taking photos, or watching the model come alive during the session, and in this realm, the level of trust and the relationship between artist and subject can be more instantly recognized. Joseph Smileuske is one such artist, and the love for his subjects is eveident in every frame.

It is understandable to assume that if a photographer is able to capture a specific type of image, then they must possess their own set of outgoing personality traits, but the opposite is usually true. Even the most provacative of images may have been created by an introvert or an artist who is does not enjoy having the spotlight turned on themselves. Joseph is a modest man of few words who is not comfortable talking about himself, but his work speaks volumes about this amazing talent.

Joseph's portfolio is filled with a diverse number of models, both male and female, and his images range from beautiful head shots, to fashion, from underwear/fitness to both artistic and erotic nudes. He is one of the photographers who has provided his services to the new TOMBURST atheletic clothing line, and one of those images was featured on the first cover for this issue of BLISS. Originally, this issue was intended as a tribute to model GIO from New York City, but it would be impossible to showcase the Venezualan beauty without including Joseph, who captures his essence best, in the minds of many who have pursued GIO's portfolio. In fact, every special edition cover used for this issue was photographed by Joseph.

Every photographer that I have profiled seems to have a special connection with one of their models, and you will find numerous images, often shot over a period of time, that despict the growth of both the person and the relationship that is built with the photographer. In Joseph's case, GIO is one of two models who continuously appear, the other being LONDON J. Looking at those images is like being offered a peak inside the creative process of two individuals who trust and understand each other, and this leads to some of the most memorable and provocative images in both of their portfolios. Joseph also has the distinction of winning the Model Mayhem 18+ Pic of the Day contest twice, once with LONDON J, which is an accomplishment considering that over 95% of the photos that win are of female models.

I am honored to be able to present a short interview with Jospeh, along with some of my favorite photos from his portfolio here in BLISS. To get the full Smileuske experience, please visit his website ( ) or his model mayhem profile.

©2010 - Sean Dibble

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David Costa