Friday, February 24, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
We have all heard the phrase “the only thing to fear is fear itself” and for some people this has become a personal mantra, but the reality is that fear is often hardwired into our brains for whatever reason, the worst being centered on public perception. Art, be it the participation in or creation of, can be filled with fear and anxiety because it involves exposure on an intimate level and putting yourself out there not merely for public consumption but also opening yourself up to public scrutiny. It is unrealistic to think that everything presented will be viewed favorably – after all, you can’t please everyone – but simply knowing this truth does not lessen the emotional impact of negative comments.
Jonathan Luke has had his share of supportive admirers, but he has also been vilified for taking his modeling career in a direction that straddles the line between artistic erotica and pornography. The frustrating aspect is that the definition of pornography changes due to perception, but it would seem that putting a penis into the picture, especially an erect one, will increase your chances of being dismissed as vulgar or non artistic. This has more to do with the role of the phallus in the minds of society than the actual organ itself, but the fact remains that the penis need only exist rather than actually do anything to make certain viewers uncomfortable.
The issue of male frontal nudity is one that is discussed often in BLISS and I have always featured models and photographers who are not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to showcasing this particular body part. The holiday issue featured model Victor Po who has made great strides, without apology or concern, in putting the issue directly in the face of the viewers…in this case, the pun was intended. There have only been a handful of other models who feel into this category in the pages of BLISS, like GIO NYC, Turk Mason, Peter Le, Eric Rensburg, Guy Tang, J Phoenix, Landon Taylor (Paul Boulon), Tattoo 23, Oocelot, and Vic Rocco, and of those, only three were or actually are involved in the porn business. A model like Jonathan Luke is not as common, and even more importantly, does not come to the table with a message.
If you appreciate viewing images of a sexy, well hung male (and really, who doesn’t, even if it is in secret), then Jonathan is right up your alley. (I promise, any pun or innuendo from this point on is unintentional.) But Mr. Luke brings more than just his photos…he arrives on the nude modeling scene with a mission to change the perception of male nudity in a hypocritical society that chooses to stigmatize it as something taboo. As he sheds his clothing he also bares his thoughts on the double standard that arguably exists regarding female versus male nudity. He has committed himself to breaking down the barriers that divide real erotic art from pornography in a bold display of both images and words, as evidenced on his fantastic blog. Along the way, he has faced disapproval from family and friends who either dislike the message or disagree, but he forges ahead, staying true to what matters most for himself.
And that is the personification of being fearless.
©2011 – Sean Dibble
BLISS: I’ve seen quite a few “new” models and it’s often a struggle to initially get noticed by photographers, but you seemed to come out of the gate in demand. Do you think your comfort with posing nude has increased your desirability?
JONATHAN LUKE: If I am anything it is blunt, and I think I have made a name for myself so quickly because I am not afraid to push the boundaries and go where few artistic nude models have gone. I will do whatever it takes to get a killer shot, even if it means being fully erect and in your face sexy! Because I am completely comfortable with nudity as a concept, it comes across in my photos as natural. And yes I am not out of touch. I am aware that my fans appreciate the size and look of my penis. That definitely is a large factor in grabbing people’s attention I am sure!
B: Anyone who follows your blog is aware of the message you are trying to convey with your nude work, but our readers may not be familiar with your stance. Can you explain it for us?
JL: I believe that everyone has the right to go nude, regardless of their body type or cock size. I write almost daily about how backwards we are headed as a society when it comes to nudity, so much so that a couple of pubic hairs can get you banned from apps like Facebook or Grindr immediately without warning. I have been suspended from many sites now for something as silly as a gay kiss, a stray pubic hair, or too much of a bulge in my underwear for example.
One of my lofty goals as a nude model is to try to bring society into a new comfort zone with nudity—specifically around male frontal nudity in things like mainstream and social media. I feel I am making a small difference already. If you look at what the folks at Beautiful Mag have published of my work, you will see it is a significant departure from what they usually feature. Response has been great so I am sure they will do more like that in the future! I also have had a couple of male models say they are posing nude now thanks to me. So in time, who knows where this will lead! Hopefully more cocks out there for everyone to enjoy J
B: Have you received any flack from friends or family regarding your decision to pose in such a provocative manner?
JL: I am not going to lie: It has been a struggle to gain acceptance for my work both among my friends and the little family who knows what I am doing. My mother, while being somewhat tolerant of my work, does not support it, nor does she understand what I am doing. To her, I am slowly entering a life of porn and she, like any overprotective mother, would rather see me do something safer like fashion or underwear modeling for Sears catalogues if given a choice.
My best friend is fielding questions daily from the local gay community about my work and my porn star status, so he isn’t supportive of my work either. The only rock has been my partner who not only understands and appreciates what I am doing, but has joined me in this sort of modeling. He appears in several of my shoots, but does not show full frontal. At the end of the day, I am not doing this for anyone but myself. I have never functioned requiring other’s approval and I am not about to start now.
B: What about on the professional side…any backlash there?
JL: I keep my business side of things completely separate from this part of my life. I believe that the two worlds need not overlap so for now, no backlash from clients or associates because it is not anything of their concern or business.
B: There are many male models that are willing to pose nude, even full frontal, but shy away from visible erections, which is something that you do not have a problem with. Do you find people are quicker to dismiss your images as pornography because of the visible arousal?
JL: Sadly, an aroused male is automatically viewed as pornographic in our society, no matter how the image is captured. Unlike the female body which always photographs in the same state, the male model is subject to an array of aroused states (from out-of-the-cold-pool small penis state to about-to-get-busy fully erect state). I believe the many states of arousal are all naturally occurring events and should be part of artistic nude modeling. Porn is all about the intent of the capture and how the imagery is conveyed by the photographer and model. The same erection can be an artistic and beautiful event (like with my veils are lifting series by Drasko Bogdanovic) or more pornographic if it were an image of a hard dripping penis being thrust towards the camera for example.
B: I know you are not interested in doing porn, but how often are you approached about getting into the business?
JL: I have had two offers to do websites within a month of being on a modeling site, and just recently my first substantial exclusive offer to do a series of videos for one very well known studio. It is a compliment, but at the same time, I feel a bit dejected since it means my message is being misunderstood and I have more work to do. I still believe strongly that what I am doing is walking that fine line between the world of porn and art. That is why I have coined a clumsy term “Porn-art-aphy” to describe some of the work I am creating that tests boundaries and stirs the pot--yet falls short of hardcore porn in the traditional sense. You will NEVER find an image of me penetrating, being penetrated or with any kind of body fluid. I have my boundaries and I won’t cross them.
B: There are all kinds of misconceptions surrounding models who pose nude, which I will ask you about in a moment. In that vein, have you ever had a photographer “cross the line” during a shoot?
JL: I have talked with some photographers who are so blunt, they say sexually suggestive things to me and describe what they want to do with me-- even before a shoot is booked! I avoid those people at all costs regardless of their reputations.
Recently, I experienced one well known photographer attempt to cross lines to “help me” get aroused, but I politely reminded him of the professional relationship I was interested in maintaining. It was awkward because when you are nude and in the photographer’s environment, you are vulnerable and there is a definite power differential. They can make or break you. However, I am a professional model with a boyfriend, and not a prostitute, so I stay true to my hands-off shooting policy!
B: What about in terms of concepts? Have you ever been presented with one that was far too provocative? Where do you draw the line?
JL: Yes, I was just presented with a project by a reputable New York City photographer that went beyond artistic nudity and ventured into the porn realm showing concept images with actual penetration or fluids from the penis. I respectfully declined the project. I draw the line at a concept that I would feel ashamed to be a part of and showcase or would be contrary to my stance on porn-art-aphy. It is a general feeling I get when looking at an image that determines if it makes the cut or is hidden away forever!
B: There are some photographers who shoot certain images for public consumption but others for their private collections. Are there photos of you that will never see the light of day due to how extreme they might be?
JL: I have had a couple of shoots with my partner where some things have gotten out of hand and images were captured that we received for our ports but we would never release. It is rare but I do have some images that will remain private because they have crossed the line into hardcore porn and I don’t want my name attached to that kind of work.
B: Why do you believe that male nudity still carries such a stigma?
JL: I think there are two things at work here. Like with anything, exposure to something reduces a stigma over time. Male frontal nudity is still not a common occurrence in our social or mainstream media . It is rare to see male full frontal in a Hollywood production even to this day and when it does occur, it is a big deal. So I believe that the more penises we see in film, television and print, the less stigmatized it will become.
The second aspect that is at play deals with what we as a society classify as artistic and beautiful. The female body has always been associated with perfection and beauty and has been the subject of paintings and artistic work for centuries. Like I have mentioned earlier, what you see is what you get with the female body essentially so it is not offensive like a stiffening penis can be to some. Men merely have to stand the wrong way or have too much blood in their junk to be slapped with a porn star label which in itself carries a stigma. Men are also threatened by other males posing nude whereas no one is threatened really by female nudity.
B: Early artists such as Mapplethorpe inadvertently became the poster boys in the debate of Art vs. Porn. What photographers today do you think have successfully straddled that line?
JL: I am utterly fascinated with Justin Munroe’s work. He seems to take erotica and artistic nude imagery to a whole new level. His images mix fantasy with sexual themes of bondage, S&M and role play and do so in a very artistic and creative way. In my opinion, he is among the best today to walk the line between worlds and, despite being a different build than what he usually works with, I hope to someday catch his eye.
B: You’ve worked with a few photographers who are known for venturing into erotic territory, like Rick Day and last issue’s cover artist Chris Teel. What were those experiences like?
JL: I was extremely nervous to be working with Rick, partially because I had only been modeling for 3 and a half months when I shot with him, but mostly because he shoots the best male models in the world and I didn’t feel I would measure up body wise! But he was great fun to work with and very laid back so the shoot reflected that relaxed and playful atmosphere well. It is my best shoot to date actually and I was very pleased with the results.
Chris and I have shot twice already and we really have an excellent rapport which comes across as well in the images we have captured together. He is extremely talented and I really owe my big break to working with him in the early fall. His images caught people’s eye in ways that the previous photographers’ work simply did not and everything snowballed for me from those first images I posted.
B: You’ve also taken photos with your real life partner and they are more than suggestive (and beautiful). What is it like to shoot with someone you’re so close to?
JL: It is a lot of fun to shoot together because we did not have to build a rapport first before the shoot. We just did what came naturally and that authenticity is really what is making the images so wildly popular in my opinion. They have over 2000 hits and 20+ lists in less than a month on a model website which I think shows people are interested in this kind of work from me. Every time I post one to my blog, the fans go wild. We have more shoots planned this spring where we will continue to straddle the line but never quite go over into the hardcore porn realm, so stay tuned!
B: Your partner is clearly comfortable posing with you in full arousal, but seems to shy away from full frontal himself. Is he less of an exhibitionist than you are?
JL: John, who comes from an acting background, is very comfortable with nudity and that is why we get along so well actually, especially when it comes to modeling. However, he wants to go in a different direction from me. Unfortunately, in the fashion and television world, you can never show full frontal if you want to have any chance at making it in the business. So he strategically covers up in our shots. It is frustrating for fans, I can appreciate that, but it has to be this way for now-- until I change people’s opinions about nudity!
B: Everyone has to start somewhere, so what led to you getting into modeling?
JL: To be quite honest I was scouted by a photographer who was doing a book on nude male from around the world. He saw my profile on a gay dating site. I guess I had “racey” suggestive images which caught his eye and showed I was open to shooting nude, so he invited me to do a nude shoot on a local gay beach. After the shoot he told me of my potential and encouraged me to consider going into modeling seriously. The rest is a story unfolding as we speak since it has only been five months technically since that first shoot!
B: Were you interested in doing nudes from the beginning or did this come into play later?
JL: If you can believe, my first image ever taken as a model was nude, so I guess the answer is yes! I never knew it would lead to where I am today however. I thought, if anything, I would have more professional images to use for my online dating ventures! Honestly, that was my intent for shooting that day but it has completely gone in a different direction.
B: The first shoot is usually the most difficult for models. Do you remember what your first shoot was like?
JL: The first few shots I was nervous to be in front of the camera, since I used to do videography work and was accustomed to being behind the lens. However, after 15 minutes or so, I began to get into the shoot and relax more. It also was stressful being nude on the beach with others around staring at me. Those first few shots will never be released because I feel I look way too stiff and amateur. But I will keep them for posterity sake as showing my modeling journey’s first steps.
B: How do you prepare for a shoot with a new photographer?
JL: I am all about building relationships, so I try to establish contact and talk either on the phone or textually. I am pretty easy going and love to talk so I find this is never hard. The net makes it easy to communicate and stay in touch so I use that a lot to set things up. The day of the shoot I do not jerk off or anything that could compromise my ability to have an erection on command and of course I do all the grooming and trimming that is required to look good naked! At the shoot I try to talk with the photographer first and go into a “coffee date” rapport building mode 15 minutes before my clothes come off!
B: Are you ever a part of the process in terms of coming up with a concept or are the ideas presented to you by the photographer?
JL: I am one of the most collaborative models you will find out there. I blame it on my videography days but I really have an eye for angles, setting and lighting and help the photographer (when willing) come up with interesting perspectives and concepts that will help both of our portfolios. I also enjoy going through proofs and making suggestions on what shots make the cut. If I don’t like the finished product, what is the point of sending me them and wasting everyone’s time?
B: There are so many to choose from these days and the internet has made them more accessible, so which photographers are on your personal wish list to work with and what is it about their work that attracts you?
JL: The photographers on my wish list I would like to work with this year include: Dylan Rosser, Justin Munroe, Mark Henderson, Ron Reyes, Louis Daniel Botha, rSEANd, YNot?, FLYFOTO, Simon Barnes, Frank Louis, Mark Stout, Mark Edward, and Michael Perez. I know I won’t be able to work with all of these great names, but they are definitely on my radar and some have even been booked for shoots. What attracts me to any photographer is the energy that is conveyed in their portfolio images. I can tell right away if we will work well together or not based on the general vibe of the images and their style/approach. So far, I have used this method to make some pretty bang on selections! It is all about adding to my portfolio and at this stage, I am venturing away from the stand against wall posing and into new environments and situations.
B: We currently have something in common in that we are both featured in the latest issue of Beautiful Mag. Which photos of you are going to be featured and what is the theme behind them?
JL: It is always an honor to be recognized by magazines like BeautifulMag and this is my second time appearing in their fine publication. This series is a great deal bolder than the last one with Chris Teel, and I am very proud of the editors to run this set along with a great commentary that summarizes a lot of what I have written in my blog to do with male nudity and social stigmas. They are by Voyeur NYC and are the most provocative series I have done to date.
B: What advice would you give to a new male model who was considering shooting nudes?
JL: My philosophy is to take baby steps to nudity by first doing implied, maybe a bit of showing partial and then moving to full frontal. If a model is going to explore nudity, it should be in a safe environment with a photographer he trusts and when the time is right. It is a beautiful moment and like with sex, must be done with the right person at the right time to capture the special moment. Nothing looks worse than a model that looks like a deer in headlights while naked. The eyes show a lot, so it has to be a comfortable situation for the model to appear natural and confident.
B: Are there any male models in your genre whose work you admire?
JL: I love Victor Po’s work especially when he teams up with Justin Munroe. He has an incredible look and confidence in front of the camera, and while our bodies are quite different, I try to emulate his style when doing nude shoots. I also like R Luis’s work and people have said we have similar body composition and cocks. So I am in good company obviously! I really enjoy looking at strong, confident models that own their nudity and convey this strength on camera. It is all about looking as if you are in a power business suit, yet carry it off completely naked. Not every nude model can do this well.
B: If I asked you to pick 3 images that best represent who you are as a model today, which one’s would they be and why?
JL: Damn, only three hey? Well I have a definite top five list but the top three that made the cut are chosen for very different reasons. The first image is by far one of my most popular shots in the blogsphere and among other photographers because it exudes a playful, badboy part of my personality as well as captures me very well I think. It’s also a partial nude so it is a different look than most of my port and is about as G rated as I get these days!
The second shot represents my motto in life, being truly “fear-less” and was a creative piece Chris Teel and I conceptualized right down to pose and angle of the shot. It was a highly successful image with over 40 lists and comments on the model site before it was yanked for “indecency” by the moderator from a viewer complaint over the amount of erection I was holding. This image being suddenly sanitized from my portfolio was the impetus for the birth of my blog because I could showcase images like this one with no fear of reprisal from big brother anymore.
The third shot, my favorite artistic nude series with Drasko Bogdanovic represents the veils that we all wear around us that need to be lifted so we can begin to live life as our authentic selves. The three part photo series shows me with various stages of being cloaked by the fabric. This one shows me at my most concealed moment as I fight to break free of the veil—in my case it represented homosexuality and societal oppression. It was my most difficult shoot ever but I am very pleased with the end result as they are truly artistic and beautiful.
B: Looking back on all you’ve done, what is the best lesson you’ve learned as a model?
JL: I think it is to stay real and authentic and not let the exposure or public acclaim ever get to your head. If anything, I am more self-conscious than I was before I began modeling! I also live my slogan of being fear-less so I like to do things and venture into new territory regardless of how fearful I am inside. I have learned to harness that fear and channel it into productive energy that helps me stay on top of my game while shooting. Hell, if I lived letting fear control my actions, I definitely wouldn’t have dropped my pants that first shoot back in September of 2011, and I may not even have come out as a gay teen.
B: What projects can we expect from you in 2012?
JL: I already have 12 shoots booked for the first half of the year all across the US and Europe, so I will be busy making new images for my blog and for projects the photographers are completing. I am looking now to do work that tests new boundaries and is different than what I have done to date. As an artist, I want to challenge myself and constantly improve so by shooting with different photographers, I feel I am bettering myself as a model.
B: Any last words for your fans?
JL: I want to thank my fans for following my work and doing things like vote for me in silly polls for "sexiest man" on Manunt or interact with my blog on a regular basis. These are the kinds of things that show me what I am doing is having an impact on real people. If there were no admirers of my work, what fun would there be in creating the images in the first place? As an artist, it is always rewarding to be recognized and appreciated. So to my fans I say keep watching for new and sexier work from me. I am not about to quit anytime soon!
©2011 – Sean Dibble