February 09, 2011
This time, a naked man
“I need a volunteer,” I said. “It will just take a few minutes. All you have to do is take your clothes off.”
We were hanging out at a bar, as usual, with drinks and plates of food, re-hashing what we’d heard at conference sessions, which consisted mostly of depressing anecdotes about how hard it is to get published. Much as I hated to interrupt this scintillating conversation, my need was urgent: my readers were complaining about the lack of naked men on my blog.
Clearly, one of my male friends needed to step up to the camera.
Midwestern Writer had just been complaining about how difficult it is to sell your non-fiction work when you don’t lead an edgy, urban life. “Agents hate the word quiet,” he said. But when I offered him a few minutes of fame on my blog, he spit out his beer in laughter, gave me an incredulous look, and turned me down.
My male friends knew they were safe. It was late at night. I prefer natural light for photos, and I won’t take photos of anyone who has been drinking. (I figure if readers want blurry naked drunk photos, they can go to facebook.)
So the men talked eagerly about the project, secure in the knowledge that I wasn’t even carrying a camera. One man told me about the time, 25 years ago or so, that he had surgery for a melanoma. He had a photographer friend take photos of his skin, systematically documenting every square inch of his body so that his wife could check his body for any changes. “I’ve still got those photos,” he said. “Like a deck of playing cards.”
He yanked his shirt up to show the scar on his back. “My husband has the same kind of scar,” I said. “I think his is bigger.”
You would think, after living in house full of teenage boys, I would have learned to stop myself before that kind of slip.
The men were all still joking — which is pretty much the reaction any time I bring up the naked photos — when a young writer spoke up. “I might pose this year.”
The best part is that he was completely sober. I usually drink ginger ale at the bar, or maybe cranberry juice. He drinks water. Yep, he’s even more cleancut that I am.
We took the photo the next day, taking a few minutes away from the frenzied florescent mob scene at the book fair to sit in the natural light coming in a fourth floor window. We talked about scars, body image, and transformative moments in our lives. He wanted his wedding ring in the photo, and I agreed it would be a nice touch. “Put your hands up on your head,” I said, “And we’ll get the ring into the picture.”
I couldn’t help envy his tan line. Where I’m from, no one has a tan line February. We’ve forgotten what sunshine on skin feels like. “Yeah,” he said. “I swim every day.”
Several editors told me that this young man’s novel is going to make big waves when it gets published. “He’s going to be famous,” my roommate said. So I figured I’d better get his picture fast while he’s still an innocent farm boy.
“Yeah, catch me after my novel is published,” he said. “And I’ll be an addict, strung out and living in the gutter.”
Having spent some time getting to know him, talking about his high school experiences, his wife, and his writing, I doubt that very much. But I liked taking a photo that catches him in transition, a young man about to embark on the next stage of his life.
(Readers who want to know the history of the naked photo tradition can check it out here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. )
Posted by jo(e)