Tomass Hawke is naked. He bares all in photos that he takes himself, in the beautiful rustic environment of Canada’s wilderness countryside. Sometimes, like in the picture here, he uses interiors as a backdrop. Dusty shacks he seems to have just stumbled across on his wanderings.
I find the images transfixing, because they are so joyful and natural. He celebrates the male form in an old-fashioned way, maybe as Whitman might have envisaged it, or even classical painters and sculptors. Somehow, in this mediated, metrosexual world, where the male body is used to sell everything from gym membership to sunglasses to cars, Hawke makes it seem ‘authentic’ (but nothing is ever quite what it seems, is it?).
Tom Clark, a photographer himself, agrees, saying:
‘Not being able to see these elsewhere I come back to them here. I could download them of course but I like seeing them at home in your world, surrounded by the rest of your artwork and the comments they stimulate.
Something about you remains a mystery to me. One assumes that the showing of a cock, of balls and of a sex hole means that we’ve seen it all, that the veils have been lifted and the inner sanctum exposed. In reality, all you’ve done by pulling your pants down and showing us your stuff is showing to us the same things we all have and know well.
So if we’re looking in a mirror when we’re looking at you then why the strong response within us? Why does my heart race when I look at pictures of you but not when I look at pictures of myself like that?
Somewhere buried in the subtle ethereal vibrations of your imagery is something powerful and different. You get my attention by showing me things I want to see – you’re never coy about it at all. You get my attention with your sense of humour and with your playfulness. What lies beneath is unspoken though, either by choice or by your inability to sound the words. And that’s the stuff that gets to me every single time in every single image.
Be all of that as it may, it’s still a ton of fun to look at that beautiful body of yours and enjoy a little bit of your playtime with you. Keep it up!’
Clark’s comments sum up something I feel about looking at the male body. That it is still somehow a ‘mystery’. Even though our visual culture is now saturated with images of men, the male form has a mystery about it that the female form never has had, and never will possess.
Pictures of naked women are just pictures of naked women. Playboy. Porno. Page 3. When women are objectified their bodies become merely the sum of their parts- tits. ass. cunt. legs. But no matter how much we objectify men, we still seem to see them. As people.
Photographs of naked men, if they are good photos, as these are, make us squint and concentrate. They make us want to know who that person is? How does he feel? What does it mean that he is stood there, his cock displayed so proudly. Is he about to come? Is he in pain or ecstasy? Is he really alone? Or is someone else there, off-camera? Who is desiring whom?
The images are familiar and yet, as Clark has written, also surprising, beguiling. They speak something that can’t be spoken in words.
I don’t know why this is. I don’t know why masculinity laid bare like this evokes such reactions in us all. Maybe it is because it is still not supposed to? That if we look at men as objects like this, we are somehow unearthing something secret and shameful about ourselves? Even now. But we can’t take our eyes off him can we. We can’t. stop. looking. And looking implicates us. Looking at men is queer. Maybe because they always seem to be looking back at us. I wonder what they see.
Update: Here is an interaction between me and Tomass about whether or not his work should be classed as ‘porn’:
- Hi Tomass
I love your work.
I am interested to know why you reject the ‘porn’ label though.You are a great photographer/artist. But is it so bad that some people see your pics and just find them sexy/horny?
Can’t you make arty porn? Or pornographic art?
- Hello Elly.Thank you for your comment.
I don’t feel inclined to attach any label to my work, particularly one that refers to mindless commercial pulp produced solely for the purpose of making money. A picture does not have to be “porn” to be erotic, and most “porn” is completely bereft of eroticism.