You don't expect to see a 'Wedge'
turning up in the American Desert. It looks like the normal torments
of taking a long ride on the device are to be supplemented here by
simultaneous prolonged exposure to the scorching rays of the sun and
with a horse whipping thrown in for good measure. This sort of
cruel, extended punishment was supposed to have been practised by the
French Foreign Legion on disruptive men in the ranks, but I have
never heard of the US Cavalry employing such brutality against their
own troopers. That's assuming of course that the naked man is 'one of them' and
not some civilian miscreant they have decided to make an example of.
This four-legged wedge seems to be
sturdy and well-crafted with a slight tilt to the top edge that would
create an additional sense of precarious instability for the rider -
and potentially painful splinters too if he slips! On the face of it,
one would imagine that such an elaborate device would require regular
use to justify the effort of constructing it in the first place. But
I suppose, the world being what it is, it would only take one
devilish mind to devise and put the thing together and anyone in
authority who was impressed by it would soon find more opportunities to
Following a similar train of thought, it always surprises me how the frontier
townsfolk in Western movies, who must have been relatively
impoverished communities, nevertheless build the most elaborate of
timber gallows for their condemned felons, a task that would have
taken them days, if not weeks and required a good deal of timber not
readily available in the desert. If we are to believe what we see,
they even built multiple gallows for executing whole gangs of men
simultaneously, instead of making them queue up to put their necks in
the single, municipal noose one by one. One presumes that once the
job was done, the town spent more time and money dismantling the
whole thing, since they never seem to have had one available
when they needed it again.
My file of Ulf images for the year 2005 contains no less than 210 pictures - and I would not make any claim for that to be his complete output for the period. It's an astonishing rate of production, 5 a week. A fair chunk of the folio consists of explorations of artistic techniques and of what fetish fans might regard as fringe genres - Classical times, Sorcery and Fantasy with the artist giving emphasis to the dramatic, the atmospheric or the romantic rather than the erotic (which is the main interest of this blog, of course).
Ulf - This One's fresh
Classical settings were the staple diet of mid-20th century erotica making an acceptable cover for male enslavement and near nudity (think of AMG, Quaintance). Ulf's technique is to transplant his normal escapades and modern men into a stage set made up of assorted ingredients from various bygone eras. Gone is the paraphernalia of dungeons and were it not for the title it would be hard to detect any erotic edge at all in this picture. Others in the group are similar, invoking antiquity via the familiar iconography of urns, tombs, draped robes etc and producing a result not unlike the constructions of Priapus of Milet - but minus the sex. There's a nice dramatic image of a Roman Centurion in some sort of labyrinth and Ulf makes a good job of dressing him convincingly, but it's a bit off the radar for this blog ( I'm not into fancy dress, sorry!).
Ulf - Fantasy Landscape
The second sizable fringe group might be described as fantasy romance and typically shows soft-focus naked men exploring the lush and unusual landscapes of some imaginary, tropical world dotted with phallic rock formations. There's a certain wistful beauty to these scenes, a sort of back to nature calmness and comforting freedom from the cares of the word and yet paradoxically there's a certain bleakness about it too below the surface, a remoteness and sense of loneliness, of being lost - even where the explorer has a companion with him. You might put that down to the alien nature of the landscape and yet....
Ulf - Prisoner in a Pond (I jest!) - no title
.....this picture is haunted by the same emotions. More often than not the explorers seem to end up like this, ankle or knee deep in water, making a sort of sensual, erotic interaction with the landscape. However, water is an environment that is fundamentally inhospitable to man so it's a sensuality that doesn't really lead anywhere and the token bondage in this image seems to underline that.
This idea of man lost in nature was used by the German artist Caspar David Friedrich
to great effect in the 1800's and it related to his perception of God. I don't know where
Ulf sits in that department and annoyingly I don't have his usually helpful
titles either for these works. I find Ulf's images strangely disturbing in some ways and certainly not
representative of a gay Arcadia, but the psychology is interesting.
Ulf - Now You Know
Two young students in a bedroom, surrounded by their sporting and movie paraphernalia share a moment of life-changing intimacy. The title has probably been uttered to a best friend at some point in their life by nearly everyone reading this piece as they finally unburden themselves of their 'terrible' secret. It probably isn't seen as a 'guilty secret' so much these days, but that won't have lowered the hurdle very much since it seems that (perversely) we are often drawn to young men who bat for the other team.
This fearful gay seems to have hit lucky in as much as his very straight-acting pal is actually aroused by the news. But you can see that he's calculating the repercussions of having a friend who is 'out'. These figures are beautifully observed and it would be a great picture even without the powerful message. Interestingly it's possible to read it the other way round too as the sporting jock comes out to his empathetic friend who he fancies like f..k but can't get him to say he feels the same. Nice work.
If you've followed Ulf over the years, you'll be aware that his gay sensibilities are not exclusively encompassed by the sensitivity displayed in the previous picture, but also have strong political dimensions. This delightful piece of propaganda is simply stated but surprisingly powerful, shocking even. It succeeds in dis-empowering totally the unfortunate representative of straightdom - at first, but then we notice his physical and spiritual, under-dog beauty and this wins the sympathy of the gay viewer regardless.
There's no revenge for gay men here because Ulf hasn't reversed the physical stereotypes, pointing out that a martyr is a martyr and an oafish gay bigot is no different to an oafish straight bigot. It's quite right but a bit disappointing really and those painted-on un-gay clothes must be the ultimate insult!
Ulf - Cop Busted Me
This is one of my favourite 2005 pictures and I suppose it is shocking too in it's own way particularly when juxtapositioned alongside the two preceding pictures rather than presented as a variation of a bog-standard (if you'll pardon the pun) dungeon scene in fancy dress. This view of Cops will be widely understood if not necessarily shared, but we are invited to suppose that this arrestee is most probably of the oafish race and therefore unlikely to be able to enjoy the experience - even in retrospect. The tension in his cuffed arms (nicely modelled by Ulf) testifies to his efforts to escape this humiliation. The kneeling position he has been forced to adopt is itself well up the scale of indignity for such creatures.
Ulf - Corporal Punishment
This image also depicts humiliating submission to authority and if you think you recognise the positioning and stances of the two men you'd be right, it's Ulf's version of a very typical image by Franco, the doyen of Spanking Artists. Abuse of power in the Military is a regular Ulf theme but that and technique aside, this picture is not Ulf at all. The spanking corporal appears distinctly awkward, effeminate even, which is an unknown species in Ulfland, even in the role of humiliator-top (think back to the 'God hates Breeders' image above for example). Ulf's abusers dominate through their own physical strength. However, Ulf does capture the essential eroticism of Franco's style whilst placing it in the unmistakable context of his own world.
Ulf - Dawg House
This is genuine Ulf-style spanking, an altogether more serious affair. This offender has a cropped haircut suggesting that this too might be an unconventional militarypunishment. He is restrained in such a way that he is obliged to keep his backside presented to the paddle. He cannot rise and if he tries to roll aside he will fall off the table and dangle by his collar (compare the pose with the cop picture above). The simple, frustrating elegance of this predicament bondage is one of Ulf's best inventions and it adds a dark flavour of malicious excess to the otherwise conventional spanking scenario, recalling the emotional 'angry' early works. He has got a bit carried away with exaggerating the victim's rump, but you can just imagine him working excitedly over it, lovingly shaping and colouring that rosy, tingling target area. Such intimacy with the subject is one of the perks of being the creator artist.
Ulf - Can I Keep Him Boss?
This is another of my Ulf favourites. Finding a man tied up in the forest is probably not an unheard of event but this 'Misery'-like, kidnap follow-on is authentic, gay fantasy (take your pick from the two available roles). The title suggests that this tasty specimen has fallen into the hands of a hill-billy group who live according to their own rules. It's Finders-Keepers of course and the child-like red trolley provides an absurdly manic twist that even Stephen King might not have thought of.
In this year's output Ulf introduces some distinctive characterful faces into his pictures and I think the thoughtful, realistic face of the 'Finder' above adds immensely to the success of the image. The trolley dolly is Ulf's universally attractive male (also well represented in this selection) but in comparison he's something of a clone and rather bland.
Ulf - no title avail
This image indulges the same soft-kidnap fantasy but envisages a more pragmatic means of acquisition - mail order delivery complete with user manual and one pair of jeans to get you started. You'd think that most of us would simply whizz through the 'Quick Start Instructions' and get stuck in. However, many a flat-pack has defeated it's buyer and I suspect the humorous analogy here where the new owner seems daunted by the sheer maleness (and decidedly non-flat complexity) of his acquisition is probably nearer to the truth than we'd like to admit. If you look on top of the chest of drawers there appears to be a couple of left over pieces. I love the furniture detail in this picture especially the Van Gogh-like chair in the corner.
Ulf - Smell It
The beauty of this picture is that it is not entirely unbelievable as a military test of obedience and bonding exercise in some high powered, special forces unit. The petrol cans in the background suggest this might be some impromptu punishment rather than a scheduled training exercise but I'm not sure such a distinction is particulalrly meaningful in these organisations. Even the trainer urging on the naked grunt by imposing his physical closeness in a sexually threatening way is almost plausible. He, by the way, seems to be genetically related to the Corporal in the Franco tribute picture above, but turned out better. It's a another nicely understated piece.
Ulf - I only have two hands
Humour is rarely far away in Ulf's best pictures but it's a universal truth that the bottom can usually call the shots. The dilemma for the top is that when you've got him tied up, all you really want to do is drool over him but he is unlikely to be satisfied with that.
Again, this picture has the virtue of simplicity. Both captives are restrained just by a pair of handcuffs each and there are only two punishment instruments around, the ball press and the baseball bat. The absence of any other complexity allows the viewer to consider and enjoy the sensuously displayed body of the standing captive enduring his painful trial and obliged to watch the forcible subjugation of his companion (in another variation of the pose seen above in the Tunnel Cop and Dawg House pictures).
There's a slight miscalculation of perspective and size in the blending together of these two elements but they make up a harmonious whole with the curve of the bodies fitting together in a satisfying way and the phallic shapes of the bat and cock angling together suggestively at the very centre of the composition.