WHAT DEFINES GAY PORN? IF YOU LOOK IT UP THE OFFICIAL DEFINITION SAYS “THE REPRESENTATION OF SEXUAL ACTIVITY BETWEEN MALES.” HOWEVER, THAT SEEMS A BIT GENERIC AND LEAVES A THE FIELD QUIET OPEN. WHERE DOES ONE DRAW THE LINE? AND HOW MUCH OF IT IS RELATED TO THE NORMS AND VALUES OF A CERTAIN ERA?
Even though homosexuality exist ever since we started waling on two legs, and gay pornography appeared as soon as we invented photography, our self inducted laws of obscenity has provided it from becoming a general accepted thing. In the United States, the country that was a pioneer when it comes to photography and film, gay pornography has always been a much – or maybe not so much – discussed topic that mostly lived in the underground scene under pressure of religious and puritan values.
The first photo’s that were considered gay pornography were portraits of individual men, sometime naked, but mostly wearing in a G-string. The 1940’s and 50’s introduced the beefcake images: athletic men in statuesque poses, not much unlike ancient Greek statues, mostly young, muscular and hairless and presented as being fitness images. With the 1960’s came the sexual revolution and gay pornography started to be included in experimental art projects. Artists like Kenneth Anger, Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol explored the territory with suggestive films and for the first time and actor active in gay porn, Joe Dallesandro, became a mass audience celebrity, having his picture grave the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Still it wasn’t till the 1970’s that gay pornographic movies were legalized and only in 2003 the United States decided that the old obscenity laws that pushed gay porn in the underground circuit were unconstitutional.
Today the offer of gay porn is unlimited. New videos and magazines are hitting the shelves almost daily and of course the Internet has made gay porn accessible to everyone. Either to watch or to produce. It seems that today no taboo has been left unturned and photo and film material is available in every possible taste variety you can imagine. But after all this time, and in an era where magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse have grown into established commercial and well respected imperia, gay porn and – yes – gay erotica is still frowned upon by many.
Photographer JR Rickard discovered Chris Topel on Model Mayhem and really liked his look from the first moment he laid eyes on him. JR had been playing with the idea of doing a photographic homage celebrating the vintage beefcake images from the 1950’s and found in Chris the perfect man to embody his concept: “Chris exudes a magnetism that sets him apart from others I believe. Physically I think he fit the beefcake aesthetic perfectly.” Recently JR had obtained a mint condition first printing of The Male Figure magazine from 1956, which was a pioneer in the field of male physique photography: “Those of us working in the field today owe a great deal to Bruce [of Los Angeles], Bob Mizer and their contemporaries. One must remember that "gay porn" was illegal then. Also the definition of "gay porn" was largely different then as well. So the photographers and models put a lot on the line, yet they clearly enjoyed their work. It shows in the images they produced which are enviable still to do this day.”
For JR Rickard the shoot he executed with Chris Toper was an inspiration by itself. Chris knew what they were going for and acted accordingly. He perfectly embodied the spirit physicality, posing in the mood of the images from that bygone era. Their first was such a great success that they got together again just weeks later and did altogether different images. Though Chris is new to modelling, he has a wonderful knack for intuiting what the photographer needs from him and just runs with it. His innate ability to step out of himself and be whatever is needed for the images being captured is in no small part the base for the result of this wonderful set of portraits by JR Rickard. And for us to take a look back in time and rediscover, revalue and readmire with our 21st century eyes what artists in our recent past already saw: the male figure is something that deserves to be admired. –BM-
JR RICKARD | BEAUTIFULMAG
CHRIS TOPEL | BEAUTIFULMAG