To my readers......

I'm playing with the mitchmen blog format to improve the display of landscape pictures and text readability.
If you see a post that's wrecked, please post a comment against it so i can fix it.

Thanks for visiting Mitchell's blog

(Feb 18th 2018)

Friday, 20 January 2017

Vintage Season 14 - Fight Fire with Fire

Whilst I have have a lot of fun over the last few weeks poking fun at some of the eccentric aspects of vintage posing pouch photography. I hope my readers will have detected a great underlying fondness for the garment which was forged in the heat of battle against Victorian-minded bigots, censors and other detractors who opposed not only male nudity but gay culture itself.

I set out in this series to show that the strangeness and absurdity that some people see in G-string is not entirely ill-founded. Each of my posts in this series to date highlights some of those absurdities but many are, in their own way, little gems of homoeroticism, from WPG's stylish torso's to Wally Grimme's astonishing banana boat. There are plenty more.

Vic Siepke (spectrum)
To me, Vic Siepke's posing pouch in this image is one of the Seven Wonders of the Vintage Era. It's skimpiness and tightness would be very sexy even if it's contours were less revealing. Is it ridiculously brief? Emasculating? Perhaps, but that is part of what makes it so erotic when it's worn (if that is the word!) by such a manly representative of our gender, a body-builder of some renown in his day.

Billy Joe Carr (WPG)
Billy Joe's pouch is similarly skimpy but even more minimal in volume terms. There's no doubting his masculinity but the photographer seems to be trying to emulate the flat appearance of female G-strings (where the censorship challenge was to see how small they could go). Carr's pubic overflow makes a jokey (and erotic) commentary on the futility of this endeavour for men.

WPG here presents it's gay audience with an image no different in substance from it's heterosexual equivalent. The relaxed, informal, smiling pose with erotic zone to the fore and eyes engaged with the audience therefore has a 'normalising' effect. Formal beefcake/body builder poses which made up much of 1950's fare were intended to be non-sexual and that made lusting over them seem furtive and inappropriate (and also relatively unrewarding). In this different style of picture Billy Joe says it's OK to admire my body and desire me, acknowledging the gay audience.

If you think this is just a couple of chaps larking around consider this.......
The playfulness of this pose draws on a common heterosexual stereotype where the decorative belle is carried aloft by her muscular beau. This simple juxtaposition is therefore daringly suggestive of men playing different sexual roles. There's also a contradictory, jokey implication that the 'strong man' underneath is not strong enough to lift his partner and we see too that his pouch is very small, underlining the subversive suggestion of the reversal of the 'normal' roles.

The G-string worn by the chap on top is barely visible and the impression that he is nude is just as challenging to social mores. While hiding the sexual organs of a nude with foreground objects and body parts gradually became acceptable, touching was still not, not even in heterosexual images. It's a moot point whether interposing a flimsy, posing pouch made it any less sexual.

The top man's apparent nudity also draws attention to the improvised, artificial modesty of his companion. Once again we see that G-strings are not really fit for purpose as 'active wear'! There's an element of intrinsic vulnerability and insecurity in the garment which stems from it's crude simplicity and is readily apparent in this shot where it's no longer pulled flat against the abdomen. That looseness makes you wonder about the one behind his head.

This is not a particularly ourstanding image, but it demonstrates how posing pouch 'duos' are full of interesting undertones and I plan to return to this subject at a later date.

Don Farr by Scott of London
The thick-looking, towel-like material of this pouch could easily have been included in one of my more satirical posts, but I think it's redeemed by some extremely neat 'tailoring' that makes every square inch count and creates a plush 'upholstered' look. While it's not quite as skimpy as Vic Siepke's G-string, it's equally well-filled and there's an indication of openness at the side, a gap into which some very suggestive lines disappear. The close cropping in this area is very clever, the whole composition flows down to this corner and Scott has ensured that our eyes go no further, but linger to drink in every detail. 

With Don Farr's smooth and gleaming body, Scott has also captured an element of how female glamour photography works, but without undermining the masculinity of his model. Photographs of men who were not body-builders were not uncommon but they were rarely as sensual as this. Nor would full nudity necessarily be any better. The G-string screens off and packages up what we are not allowed to see, adding an element of mystery if you like, that matches the intense mood of the picture very well. 

Photographers who successfully utilised heterosexual, glamour techniques were speaking to their audience in the erotic language of the day, but these images also had the subtle effect of 'normalising' a genre and a group that society was trying to exclude. Gay men seeing these images could witness an assertion that they were no different to their heterosexual counterparts and that was tremendously postive.

(However, for the model, this seems to be one of those tantalising, memorable photos that defined not just the peak but the full extent of a career).

Ed Gloeggler
This image predates the era of AMG and Co., but not by as much as the sepia finish suggests, methinks. It's the lean, deeply-cut physique of the model that makes this picture sing but nevertheless this early example of a pouch shows that with sensible proportions matched to the lines of the body and a bit of erotic enhancement the garment can put up a respectable showing in the sexy stakes.

The model's slightly apprehensive look and stiff pose suggests an uneasy relationship with the photographer. That is the stuff of fantasies and elevates the image from familiar beefcake to unexpected eroticism. That sense of vulnerability which the posing pouch conjures up contributes to the story. It offers modesty whicle concentrating the male essentials into one very obvious and highly grabbable handful.

George O'Mara (by Kris?)

That idea of grabbability also features in this image. The handsome model seems so preoccupied with positioning and shaping his foot that he seems to have left an opening for us to imagine a hand grasping for his dangling assets. If the guardians of morality missed that lascivious angle they had no chance of spotting the appeal to foot fetishists in this image!

Paradoxically, the posing pouch, intended to preserve modesty and decency, became a fetishistic object in it's own right. Because it had no other purpose than to contain and conceal men's gentitalia it came to represent them to the intended audience. It's inaccessibility became it's attraction.

More next time
Read this series from Part 1


speedoric said...

Mitchmen: yr G-string series - up to 14 - is one of yr best. Not sure I follow all yr deconstructing of the G-string however it certainly makes many of the models sexier than today's nudes.

Mitchell said...

Thanks for your comment. I have tried to clarify the wording of this post now and am happy to field questions on other posts as well.