Friday, August 10, 2012

A Good Problem To Have...

The Naked Man Project has suddenly grown exponentially beyond what I had ever imagined. This morning when I called a client back about scheduling a headshot for the beginning of next week he informed me that my Cyr Photo website was not working, and he could not get directions to the studio location, he mentioned there was some sort of J loop error and he could not access it. I took down his email address so I could send him directions and jumped on the site, it was indeed not accessible. I then jumped on The Naked Man Project site and saw the same messages. I then tried to log onto the server and it too was no longer accessible. I immediately sent an email to Julian to see if there was some sort of server malfunction. Indeed there was! It turns out The Naked Man Project was having so much traffic that it blew out the server causing disruption to all the sites on the server. Once Julian had stabilized it and began to figure out what was going on, he shot me an email that I have created a monster that is no longer containable with the equipment we currently have. It is time to either abandon the project or take it to a new level.

Oddly enough I had almost abandon the project and because I had not worked on it in months. After devoting an entire year to the project, I had somehow felt it didn’t really take off, and that it was perhaps just a narcissistic lark I had chosen to pursue. My life seems to be filled with abandon larks that never take off. I did manage to complete the year, satisfied but exhausted. Some of the models I had worked with were requesting that I remove them from the site or change their names because they didn’t like the notoriety and how popular the site had become because of being able to search their names on the Internet. Though they had signed model releases and initially agreed I respected their privacy and adhered to their wishes. In a sense it was just a bit much for a place like little old Missoula Montana, after all we are all a part of very small community. It disheartened and broke my pride a bit to have committed so some time, energy and determination into a project that not many, well within my community, seem to appreciate. I began to questions if I had crossed the boundaries of social and ethical morals, of exploiting those who had trusted me with their greatest intimacy. You see most of the models were from my community, mostly Montana, nobody has ever been paid, including myself in the creation of the project. It was all born out of passion and the desire for the exploration of the process. Last January the site had outgrown the original server and we had to upgrade. When we did the migration to the new server issues began to arise and my energy was consumed with how to maintain the site. What was supposed to become a self contained entity suddenly began to eat all my energy because of my inexperience and lack of knowledge with how the Internet works pushing me further away from the creation of art and what brought me to the work from the beginning. There was also suddenly a lack of interest of subjects to be photographed. What was happening? I begun to realize most everyone was intimidated by me and my little art adventure. At this point I decided it was time to lay it to rest for a bit and put my focus elsewhere, give it some distance. My boss at UPS called me into her office one day and said close the door, and in a whisper she said I saw your sight, and looked around as if we were doing something naughty said it was very good. She seemed quite impressed, though it was only appropriate to mention in a whisper. The origins of the horse whisperer had begun in Montana, had I now created the n____ man whisperer? It then dawned on me as I began to realize the ambivalence I was feeling from other people toward the project was more of a hushed appreciation.

It’s been churning in the back of my mind for some time now to get back to the project. But now it beckons me. After an intense afternoon of franticly trying to figure out what to do; we have decided to put the site into a maintenance mode so we can restructure and organize it to keep up with the influx of traffic. The real kicker is I was completely oblivious. I had no idea and was astonished when Julian began to tell me the numbers that were coming off the site. It is now time to dig deep and decided what is really important. Consider what is it I really want out of the project? Is it worth a new investment? So here I am wide awake in the middle of the night sitting in the middle of my empty studio, naked, trying to come to terms with this monster I have somehow created.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ghost Of A Creative Conscience

I realize that life is merely an illusion that the only thing really important is our emotional connection to things. How is that we feel the older we get the more disconnected we become from our feelings? Is it really the business of our lives, the desperate race to fulfill our desires? To somehow find meaning sometimes where there may not be any at all. Sometimes the desire taking us further away from who we are to the point that we become lost and begin to abandon the things that are essential to our livelihood. I keep trying to be an artist in Montana, but it seems the harder I pursue it the further I get away from connecting to what is meaningful. I have somehow forgotten what brought me here from the beginning.

This morning I had a dream about my Grandmother Elise Cyr. I saw her living out her last days in a hospital bed and I would go to visit her. And though her body had become lifeless, I could see the vitality within her eyes and expression. I somehow helped her to relive that vitality again as we became suspended in a reverie of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and memories. In my dream I took her to a place of life and I could see within her soul that she was contented. Though she could not speak, she was filled with joy. In the dream I was trying to move her to a retirement center that was filled with other people similar to me, artists, where she would find inspiration and live in adoration. You see my grandmother always delighted in entering my world. It is my grandmother who gave me the passion of my creativity. You see, she saw things in me that no one else could envision. I was a very strange kid, enveloped in a darkness I could not understand. All I can remember from childhood was an angst, perhaps because I was so different. Where everyone else found fault in the difference, she somehow took delight and helped me explore it, to celebrate in my uniqueness. She was the most wondrous cook and she taught me magic of her world. But somehow the more I learned from her the greater a suspension grew out of me becoming a sissy as dread began to strike others around me, plunging me into a world of isolation and for the first time I found harmony in a world of creation. She taught me to sew, I soon pulled the old brightly colored flour sack curtain from the windows in the little shack and made myself a shirt, taking apart one I had already had to imitate the pattern. My grandmother poured every creative talent she had into me, and she believed in me when no one else could see my remarkable potential. My life flourished as a creative kid and I was further ahead than most others my age. I was ridiculed and tormented on the playground. I become fascinated with theater and the possibility of telling a story acting it out. I sang a solo at the Christmas Pageant. And when I finally went to the University, barely able to afford tuition, she secretly bought me a season subscription to a performing arts series to see all the amazing talents coming to our small town.

Many years ago I was working my way through a program called The Artist Way and one of the exercises specifically asked me to name the true champions of my life. My grandmother was at the top of that list. She still is.

In my dream she found the solace she was looking for at the end of her life in the adorning place of my creation. Tears filled my eyes. Not with sadness, but with joy that someone could see the remarkable qualities in me and allow them to flourish, when I know others chided her not to encourage such behavior.

A strange series of events the past could of days keep leading me back to the beginning; what is essential. I have taken a break away from my creative process, filled with distraction. Now my grandmother comes back from the grave as the ghost of my creative conscience, to hold my hand and remind me of what was once forgotten.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Creation within a Fragile Existence

Someone sent me a text late the other night saying they had read one of my blog posts and wanted to tell me how much they liked what I was doing. Somehow the project seems in the distant past, almost forgotten. I realize how much I miss it. How is it that something that seems so vital in our lives seems to slip so far away? I begin to look back at the last couple of weeks and see how busy my life has become. My target and goal is still aligned toward this project, but it seems plagued by a host of technical difficulties that, in many ways, I have allowed to derail me. Since the migration to the new server it seems most time working on this project have been resolving issues and of course the lack of time to commit to it. I have also begun to focus my energies back to shooting and working on getting back to the core of what brought me here in the first place. The new images have a greater depth than I have ever worked before. The connection is stronger more focused to and with the subjects. It’s not so much an experiment anymore because my technique has been sharpened and honed. This project has given me a deeper sense of myself and a greater appreciation of the moments I am living.

Yesterday I learned of a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer and passed away. I see how fragile our lives become. He was younger than me and it’s been haunting my thoughts the past couple of days as I begin to make sense of where I currently am in my own existence. My own life is so vast, that I am lucky to have such woven such a richness in most everything I undertake, the biggest question is am I really taking the time to appreciate it to it’s fullest. It is now five years since I was also diagnosed with cancer, underwent treatment, and was lucky to survive this long. I see how survival has put my need to accomplishment into a sort of hyper drive that now consumes me. In a way making me fearless. But the real question is why did it take me so long to get this motivated. Why is it that it takes facing annihilation to awaken our lives to what is really important and essential to what we need to become? There really isn’t time to tread water anymore. Many years ago my dearest friend Gilbert was diagnosed with a brain tumor the week he decided to retire and was gone within 6 months. He was a man of great means to accomplish whatever he could possibly desire but spent too much of his time consumed in unhappiness. I have really begun to question myself. Am I really happy? Am I too consumed by my need for my own accomplishment to see what I have become? The process of becoming an artist means we must dwell in what we have created. To us as artists, the fresh vibrancy of what we create becomes dulled because it is rooted in a deeper connection of continually living within it. Someone sending me a text in the middle of the night sees a freshness and vitality that I can no longer recognize. But it does reawaken ourselves to see some thing we have created from a new perspective and reawaken our own bewilderment to what we have become. Though I may have been derailed from my original intent I still become aware of the extraordinary of my ordinary self. This is my process of discovery and creation.

VIEW FULL IMAGE: Colton #452

Monday, March 5, 2012

Reconnecting to the Inner Passions

I have reached a quandary in the direction I need to go? The website seems to have grown, although it has become a lot of work, but the focus of the work seems more based in the business of maintenance and refining the underlying structure. What I really miss and love is the daily blog and connecting my thoughts, concepts, and ideas into the project. It is becoming more and more difficult to understand where the focus needs to be and what takes priority. I still work a part time job for UPS in the evenings and recently my two other management partners have quite so I am dealing with the turmoil of that environment as well. I felt last year’s blog project was important enough and there still seems to be massive enough traffic on it that I have spent a great deal of time the past month trying to clean up and create an integration into the new site. I have also been shooting a tremendous amount of new work with new models, trying to refine what I think is becoming my style. But what I seem to be lacking is the addition and updating of new content to the site. Yes I have now built and created galleries of last year’s blog posts, but it seems to be a rehashing of old ideas. It is also creating a broader perspective of my body of work that I am hoping will begin to expand into new galleries. My life seems to have become a flow of diligent work toward this end that I am becoming very absorbed within. But it just seems to take more of my time than what is available to go around. Perhaps I would need a staff of people to pull of what it is I envision and dream of what the project should become. How do I prioritize where my energy needs to go? How do I find time for myself? Is this me? Not many people get an opportunity to stir their imagination and explore their creative side as much as I have. This appreciation grows day by day as overwhelmed as I may feel. This site has become a legacy of who I am and how I have lived my creative life. The network seems to grow closer and closer to my home as I am reaching to understand my own community and the source from where my creativity springs. This too takes time.

The other day I set up a connection to things I love by creating The Naked Man Project Store. It is a store that contains many of the books and media that is dear to me. That which has inspired, captivated, and excited me toward my creative process. It has been fun to revisit all that and make the connection to that past. In a way it sort of defines my present and reminds me of my dreams. I love books and they are the passion of my existence. I am currently watching a series called The Tudors and see a living painting in every image. This is what creativity is about; to stir the imagination, to see beyond and within ourselves what it is we desire to become.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

A New Beginning

What a productive week.  It’s hard to believe I have not written here for about a week.  The week away from any “actual work” has turned into a string of creative endeavors.  On New Years Day I was able to create a series of new self-portraits for the year as I began to see myself from a new perspective.  I had been working on creating a vintage image of an actress for a film project being shot in Butte, so I had studied the old lighting techniques.  I printed and framed the image in an old vintage frame and it looked vintage as if it had always been in that frame, and was of the 30’s.  So I decided to take the same approach with my own self-portrait and loved the result.  I then went to Butte for a couple of days and worked as a lighting consultant on a low-budget independent film project, being shot throughout the old historic city.  Unfortunately just as things were just getting rolling I had to leave to come back for a photoshoot in Missoula. 

It has been a week of reflection as I have actually done a lot of work on the website.  Beginning to build galleries of the old blog images, month by month, which were used last year.  Creating a snippet and link to the blog to make it more accessible, which in a sense, means reworking all the links and loading new images into the new web blog, essentially archiving it.  It’s fascinating to go back and look at what I created last year, the progression and flow of it.  I also had the opportunity to begin working through a backlog of shoots that were done last year but never processed or sorted; there are so many beautiful images beginning to emerge that had been completely overlooked.  One of the funniest things beginning to happen is that I’m able to catch up with old friends I have not seen or talked to because of last years project. Looking back I am quite surprised that I was able to achieve such an undertaking and maintain the project throughout the year.  I started conversations with other artists and feel I became a part of an awesome community of artists.   

And yes I have been watching movies, some good, some not so good, trying to catch up on what I missed taking the year off.  Best of all I am back to doing research as I have a sensational new kid coming to work with in the studio this afternoon on some new images.  It is time to put together the test of all I have gained through out the year now in practice and see where it will take me.  I have also had days with absolute nothing, and I must say I felt a bit lost, but tired to remain in it.  I thought last year was a sensational year for me and everything this year seems to be growing out of it.  It’s funny that I now see so much change within myself, that I could not see evolving because I was too close to it last year.  The project must have been a big success because though I have not contributed to it in a about a week there is still traffic upwards of 500 to 600 a day looking at it.  It has been good to step away and have some time to reflect.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

You know me, I have got a song from musical theater buzzing through my head this morning and it seems appropriate for the final blog of this year long project. (play video at bottom of page) The second act of the musical RENT opens with a fantastic production number call Season’s of Love in which the cast asks, “How do you measure a year in the life?” As they break the year down to “five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.” Well here it is the last day of the year, and somehow beginning this project I didn’t think I would quite make it to the end. I was never sure where the project would lead or where it would end up. Today is a celebration of accomplishment and thus begins a new era of my life. I have faced the world and myself without trepidation and now see both from a new perspective. Beginning this year long process of facing my fears as a man, who had felt his past his prime, moving into middle age, living in an environment focused mostly on the vitality of youth. Finding myself in a despondent world of sensual/sexual ambivalence. Questioning the essence at the core of my identity as one man's exploration in finding himself and his search for light, beauty, desire and art. As the year closes I can say I found all, especially myself. To examine one’s life it seems to give it meaning and certainly greater understanding of fear, doubt, and lack of self confidence that have oppressed most of my adult life. Recognizing not just to the negative, but also the positive. I have seen and felt great moments of joy and elation through out the year as it was filled me with lots of surprises. I have always felt a certain amount of shame that I had never arrived at that moment in my life that would say you have made it, and now I wonder if such a moment even ever exists. Does it become a part of the mythology of who we think we are? As an artist I learned to question life and learn and grow from every experience good or negative. To search for meaning in myself, then interpret that meaning into a form of expression that I can share with others. The medium held lots of barriers for me, as I am not a writer, was terrible at grammar and genetically could not spell, yet I some how saw beyond those barriers to express what was most meaningful to me. I see now I have always been filled with a passion that is far greater then can be contained. My images follow the same pattern, there is no formula for what I do and each set of images becomes a unique as the subjects I work to create. I am a mostly self taught photographer whose passion again is greater than myself and the expression manifests itself through the vastness of my life experience. I have discovered that art is never about what is on the surface but what lies within it. How does it make me feel? If it elicits a response then the artist is successful. As a man I was taught to reject the male nude figure, to suppress emotions, and to become a pillar of strength and morality. To become a gay man always seems to be a contradiction of all those precepts culture thrust upon me. I always thought perhaps this was a Montana thing because we do not embrace the things we can not understand, yet through out this year, as I began to communicate with others I see it is universal. Things we don’t understand typically get pushed away and often times become suppressed because we don’t have to tools to deal with them. Being a gay man growing up during my time and in the place I did, I have been greatly misunderstood. But I have also seen people’s perceptions change once they realize and begin to see who I truly am. It seems there are very few role models in my world of gay culture that seem healthy and strong and so much of my community becomes self-loathing. Yet that beauty exits breathtakingly through out the history of art. We see the beauty of the naked man, without shame, in the glory of god’s light and grace. That strength and morality become radiant filled with a visible passion for acceptance, tolerance, and compassion.

Today’s image is the earliest surviving images to the digital era as my first exposure of a nude man. The subject was a straight man with whom I began to shoot portraits and experimental images in the studio. Eventually, after many months, working up the nerve to expose him completely. My own internalized homophobia becoming my greatest obstacle to overcome. At the time it seemed less complicated to him than me. This is simplicity at its purest form for me as I still adore this image. The moment of this image became the greatest leap in my life, a leap I am glad to have taken. A moment when I knew my life would change forever.

The project will continue as will the blog, but not on a daily basis. I have found it takes a lot of perseverance to bring myself to this process everyday, but for now I am taking a break to realign my myself, redefine my objectives, and recharge my life. The website now will become a focus as I hope it will grow to become a collective to other artists expressions. I still have my sights set on reviving the Man Art site in the upcoming months. So here ends my year with a great appreciation to all those who have embraced me and helped me to this end. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love? Measure in love”

Music and Lyrics my Jonathan Larson from the musical RENT


Friday, December 30, 2011

A Reflection Of Myself

Has this project actually become a reflection of myself? Have I become Narcissus merely looking into a pool of water only seeing myself? As the project comes to a close I am beginning to question the process from which it all springs. I wonder if showing a man exposed and the process of exposing myself has really been appropriate. Should such intimacy be left behind closed doors? But I see such beauty in the world and classic art is adorned by such images. I cannot imagine the world without such images of Hippolyte Flandrin’s “Young Man Beside the Sea” or the works of Michelangelo and Caravaggio exposing the soul without exposing man as he truly is: naked, alone, radiant. Today’s image I had originally rejected because I could see myself working in the reflection of the mirror behind Chad as we shot. Also the source of the light is visible over his shoulder. To me images should be without either; flawless and seamless, to stand alone without distraction. But such an image seems appropriate as I close this project because it shows me involved in the process and in a sense becomes a self-portrait, a reflection of a years work.

I went to the bank yesterday to make a deposit and all the female bank clerks seem to recognize me. I popped into my friend Monica’s office, who is my banker there, and we began to chat. She began to tell me how incredible the project has become and how touched she was by what I’ve been writing, particularly about the kid who committed suicide a while back. As I watched her talk I could see how utterly moved she has been by the entire project. Apparently it had become a topic of conversation amongst her coworkers, around the water cooler sort of stuff. I had no idea she has been following the project at all. The other day Thor said he was working at a place in Hamilton, a small community 45 miles south, when a woman came in and recognized him from the project, who also was moved by it. I am suddenly becoming aware that I really do have a following of people in Montana that are mostly straight women. It feels most everywhere I go, when I actually get out that people have a spark of recognition. Perhaps this project has reached deeper into my own community then I originally thought. My afternoon was filled with a sense of satisfaction that I am finishing the daily blog portion of the project knowing that I have had an influence on the world the surrounds me. That the themes are universal that so many others in my community find their own truths in what I say.

Next week I am scheduled to work on a film project in Butte as a lighting consultant for the cinematographer. I will also be working on the publicity images for the Montana Rep’s upcoming national tour of the play DOUBT. So my week and days off are beginning to fill with other creative ventures.

What has brought me to this project is light; I am still deeply fascinated by light. It has such a psychological impact on the way we attach emotional context to our world. I know the upcoming weeks I will get back to my exploration of light. I have grown so much this year and have paved my way for a remarkable future of creative exploration. The new year will bring for me a greater sense of self confidence as I begin to reconnect back into the community that surrounds me, and reach out to other artists who are here. This year long project has isolated and confined me a bit because it has consumed so much of my day. Missoula is a fantastic place to get out and meet others, we have the most amazing coffee shops and restaurants of anywhere I have ever been in the world. It’s time to move back into that social realm of living again.

The Naked Man Project will continue to grow, I have vast plans to clean through the old blog and begin to organize it. My garden job has not been renewed for next summer, due to budget cuts, so my focus this year can be mostly on my own creation. In a sense it is a huge relief. It will now force me to find other ways to make money and see if I can somehow make my photography more fiscally viable. So if anyone needs a photographer I am open for anything. Right now my focus needs to be back to myself. When I began this year I was at the prime of fitness in my life working out everyday. But as my mornings were filled with blogging for a year, I have grown a bit soft from too much sitting. It is time to bring that focus back to my physical self, to climb a mountain and look out over the vast wilderness that still surrounds me.