My first Kickstarter campaign for the new Larrikin book has been a huge success and this is tremendous for a self-publisher. Here's a peek behind the scenes.Read More
In the two years since my last book, Outback Dusk, was released, I took some time out to travel and refresh my creative voice. I have continued shooting, travelling to some great locations, and found I had accumulated a large library of new work. I have divided some of this into the two new photographic collections. I’ve been sitting patiently and quietly at my desk, ( well, sometimes chatting to myself and singing), and editing for what feels like an eternity, but has actually been about nine months. Now I am happy to offer the books up for previewing and sale.
Because of an appreciative following by you all, I have a reliable track record of self-publishing popular and well-recieved books, having produced and distributed worldwide twelve similar large format collections of my work since 2004. For those familiar with my books, they will be similar in style and look to my previous books. Each will be a quality, dust-jacketed, hardcover, large format book, of one hundred and eighty pages of my male nudes and portraits.
This time around, I have decided offer everyone the opportunity to order discounted and signed copies of these first two books of a new LARRIKIN series, through my very first Kickstarter campaign. This will enable me to self-publish both books in the next few months, the first to be delivered before the end of this year, and the second by March 2017. The first book is actually already at the printers in Italy, and the second is being laid out as we speak.
I've also been busily making two short films in order to introduce a preview of the books and to talk about the work and some of the inspiration behind it.
The word Larrikin is probably only familiar to Australians. I explain the word in an introduction in the first book, and how it in so many ways conveys my male aesthetic, since it basically refers to a man of free spirit, a bit rebellious and questioning of standards and mores. The introduction, which I hope people will find interesting, also explores the origins of this aesthetic, my childhood and early loves and influences.
The first book, titled simply LARRIKIN, could have been called OUTBACK LARRIKIN, since it has been photographed in diverse, largely outdoor and rural locations, on vast farming plains, amongst fertile hills and rocky mountains, and along slow winding rivers and bubbling desert streams. Some of it was shot in California, so strictly speaking, not the outback.
The second book , LARRIKIN YAKKA, is photographed in several countries in Europe, North America and Australia. The word yakka is another Australian word, meaning hard work. LARRIKIN YAKKA is a photo essay on the blue collar man. It expands upon the themes of my earlier book BONDI WORK, but is much more varied and rural, and includes a strong Classical flavour, particularly a series shot on location in Italy. (This book represents a determination to expand my repertoire of international locations.)
There is something honest and at the same time naïve about male strength and beauty captured around basic and constructive tasks. Sometimes, in my eulogising, the worker is oblivious to his beauty, unselfconsciousand therefore exuding nonchalant innocence , other times overt and buoyant , cheeky and unsophisticated in his confidence. Either way there is a rawness and sensuality I find within this genre that exemplifies true sensual masculinity, and a kind not so revered in a consumer society that tends to sanitise and neaten or 'perfect' rough bestial edges. I recreate them into my own romanticised vision which reflects the awe in which I held this kind of larrikin man, growing up. It’s a subject I am continually drawn to explore, probably in much the same way a writer or poet might eulogise the working man in writing, I like to visually idealise him .
Those of you who have collected my work from the beginning will know that my work has evolved and matured in many ways over the years and I have become more confident of my own photographic voice. In the beginning I emulated those masters of photography whose work inspired or moved me emotionally as well as visually. I was careful and reverential as I re-interpreted and imbued my work with something of my own. Slowly over time I grew confident about expressing what was intrinsic to me, and learned to trust my own instincts and to explore those much more.
The book world has just been through its biggest revolution since the invention of the printing press, and this applies in particular to the publishing of books such as mine, that contain what is still considered, in most countries, a controversial subject, the fully naked male. Even in free societies, where specialty books stores have closed in large numbers, and sales rely ever more on on-line marketing and shopping, the exposure people have to liberal publications in public places has diminished. The real world is getting restrictive, while so much content is now made available to people on the internet, free of charge, often by blatant theft and disregard of artist copyright. Within this new paradigm, it has become more important for me to reach out to everyone online as a way of sustaining my art and of continuing to produce and publish it in a form that is collectible and presents the work in coherent visual essays, in proper and respectful context.
The world in general is very censorious when it comes to the male nude. Rapid change and globalisation, from my perspective at least, is often regressive rather than progressive. For all the faults you may perceive of our societies, the liberal democracies, there has never been a safer place to explore our personal freedoms and we should cherish and be prepared to defend them. In some ways I feel as though I’m on the front line of change, being challenged and pushed at every turn.I think it’s more important than ever to hold onto the precious liberal values such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
I feel personally my work has a political statement attached, a kind of defiance and insistence about the place the male nude should have in mainstream art, but which is continually, and more so today, being denied it. We as humans revere and cherish beauty in all other things.
By embracing this art form, we ensure a greater maturation of our civilisation, a normalising of appreciation for the beautiful male form, and a victory for feminism against patriarchal controls. We are in danger of falling back into a world in which heterosexual males dominate and command females and their sensuality. My work is not just for gay men but for women and for all who appreciate the natural beauty of the human form. I don’t make my work strongly sexual one way of the other but make it personal and therefore part of a universal story.
Last Saturday morning, January 30 2016, I received a text message from a friend 'Where did you go?' I didn't understand what he meant until later when I pressed the Instagram icon on my phone and was greeted with the screen shown here. I had been 'disappeared' with no warning and no means of alerting my followers on Instagram, who might think I'd just blocked them. I felt violated.
I've been subconsciously fearing a moment like this since I started to use the application about 18 months ago, a) because of the subject matter I post- I’m a professional photographer who publishes books of male nude portraits, and it is often a censored version of this work that I share on Instagram, and b) because, having been raised religiously, and having realised my homosexuality at an early age, and being of a sensitive, creative and depressive nature, although I like to challenge myself and societies mores when it comes to my art, I live in fear that I will be punished for it. I carry the baggage of emotional abuse in my all too accessible subconscious, along with a lot of unresolved anger about it. Yes, this was inevitable.
Oh, and c) Instagram has removed several of my photos over the past year. In those situations I am blocked by a different screen when trying to access my account, which announces that I have ‘breached community standards’, and my only option if I want to continue, or even ascertain which post has offended, is to agree by pressing 'OK’. The first time this happened, I was shocked, and flailed around trying to understand what it was specifically about the image in question that had been offensive enough to have it taken down, judging from their fairly vague 'community standards', the range of content across the site that seemed to be acceptable, and my personal barometer: ‘What would I be happy for someone of teen age and above to see?’ From what I could tell, nudity, which was banned, was any depiction of genitals, or of female nipples, unless in 'Art', which seems to be anything which isn't a photograph of a real person. ( I have seen hundreds of photos of quite photo-real pictures depicting frontal nudity and sex.) It was consensus, too, that since the notorious Kim Kardashian buttocks photo, Instagram will accept photos of the human rear end . That is pretty evident across the site, though Instagram does not officially confirm this.
I asked and read around and got a lot of inconsistent myths and theories about how posts get ‘reported’ and how they are assessed. I got told that anyone can report an image for any reason whatsoever, and Instagram will act on it, but I never worked out whether removals are a result of clumsy computer- automated assessment, or of conservative religious men in call centres in third world countries. There is no way to query the decision, and lots of people had horror stories about how many ‘strikes’ I would get before they would shut me down. The system seemed terribly unfair. If you think you haven’t breached their standards, and I certainly never intend to, not only is there no way of appealing- Instagram have made sure there’s no email address for such ‘help’- there is no way of ensuring you don’t offend someone or something again. It's just a matter of time, in my line. This is kind of totalitarian nightmare for me. I am not in control at all and it seems the bar that is set to ensure a safe environment for everyone, can be moved at any time at Instagram’s discretion, depending on their needs, maybe to placate their global consumer interests in ‘communities’ that look nothing like the western liberal community I like to think I still live in, and which I had assumed Californian IT nerds like them would be proud to defend the world over. But perhaps it is an American Puritanism they peddle after all?
One of the photos I had removed a few weeks ago ( above) was actually a re-post of a photo from a year ago, which passed muster then, but which evidently breached community standards now! I think that was my fifth, and by that stage I was thinking I was doomed to be closed down and there was nothing I could do. Each of the photos that I've had removed are so different in what they depicted and how.
I don’t want to seem like I am ungrateful to Instagram. It is a social media site that has enabled me to connect with over one hundred and sixty thousand people, most of whom had not heard of me or seen any of my work before. For that reason, when you are a self-employed artist and book publisher, and print magazines and book stores that used to be the means of garnering publicity are mostly gone, applications like Instagram perform a great service. Although by far the majority of followers are happy to enjoy a free sample of my work, and perhaps can’t afford to buy anything, I have accessed a good number of new customers and perhaps as importantly, wonderful new patrons who ‘get' my work , and offer intellectual sustenance, without which a self-employed artist can't survive.
After the disabling of my account, I followed the instructions on the screen and pressed ‘learn more’. This lets you contact the help centre if you feel you have been closed down in error.With nothing to lose, I did that and received an email acknowledging my contact. Then you wait. I had read that Instagram takes anything from four hours to four weeks to reply, or they may not reply at all. On Wednesday morning, I got a text from the same friend who had alerted me to my being ‘disappeared’, saying simply ‘yay’. I assumed then confirmed the account was back, and I got an email from Instagram advising this, adding ‘we apologise for any inconvenience’. And that was it! So, even though I still have no idea why I was closed, if it even was about content, since this time they did not remove any posts, whether the past strikes against me have been removed, whether common sense prevailed because a lovely sensible liberal human in California assessed my account and didn’t find it wanting, or how long I will be in their good books, for now, I am able to continue to use the app, and although I will try to limit my dependence on it and attachment to it, and although I would love them to be more communicative, I am a little happier, though still fatalistic.
In the event that such a thing happens again, and if you are interested in keeping up with what is happening with me, and my new work and book releases, please subscribe to my email list ( it's free) so that I can keep in touch
February 23, 2016 Update.
Well, I was closed down again, on February 18. That morning, a different message flashed up on my phone screen when I pressed the Instagram icon. It said that there had been suspicious activity on my account and that I should immediately change my password. I followed the link given and changed my password and received all the relevant emails asking if I had requested this password change, and confirming that this had been done. I then proceeded using the app as normal. A few hours later, when I pressed the Instagram icon on my phone I was greeted with the same 'Error' screen shown above: my account was disabled for violating terms, except THIS time, when I followed the 'learn more' instructions in order to dispute the closurer, I was unable to contact anyone, because on completing the form provided and pressing send, I got a message back saying that my account @paulfreemanphotographer did not exist!! So my one avenue that had enabled me to get in touch with Instagram last time, was shut off to me. I could only assume that they had deleted my account out of existence this time. Thoroughly disappeared me. This time I knew the closure was not about content, but about some nefarious IT goings on that were beyond my comprehension.
I was at a loss as to how to get in touch with Instagram this time. In what I thought was a futile gesture, I decided to email the lady from Instagram support who had sent me the lovely ' re-activation' email last time, and explain what had happened. This was one of those 'do not reply to this' automated emails, 'contact the Help Centre with any further queries' , so I assumed any reply would at this stage surely go into the ether. I went to bed that night quite fatalistic, and wondering if I could be bothered opening a Tumblr account next. Next morning when I checked my emails, she had replied to say, once again, that my account had been re-activated, and apologised for the inconvenience! Another scare resolved. But now I am just waiting nervously for what almost seems to be inevitable...For the first few days since this last closure I was tentative about posting any photos. Now I just think, it doesn't matter what I post, if they want to, whoever 'they' are, they will just shut me down, and if it is about content, then it is just about the fact that the men I portray and the way I portray them is dangerous in someone's eyes.
Last week I asked for suggestions for a caption to accompany a recent photograph I’d taken of two naked men staring across the Bogan River in Outback Australia. I was overwhelmed at the response, and have finally had a chance to read and enjoy the hundreds of suggestions. I have to mention some of my favourites.
There were many captions that involved the hatted man asking a question of, or pointing something out to, the other man, who has apparently turned around to look across the river in reaction.
Most were about them being discovered naked, or doing something sexual, along the lines of “Do you think they saw us?”, but more elaborate or graphic! I liked Eric Scot’s“Are they coming this way?”, Herm Wiemberguer’s“Someone's coming!”, and Kire Trenkosky’s“Looks like the Bogans are coming.”
There were some good Australian folklore and wildlife references: Bob Sullivan’s ‘Duelling banjos’, Andrew Bagala’s 'Once two jolly swagmen camped by a billabong', Doug Henry’s ‘Bill-a-blokes by the billabong’, Matt Tunguy-Desmarais’ 'Wildly wattle wonderers', and Heath Sangster’s ‘Drovers break’. John Innes quoted the second verse of Banjo Patterson’s poem ‘Clancy Of The Overflow’.
Many involved a crocodile allusion or scare, such as Barry Van Den Berg’s “Look at the crocs. Now we can't swim back”, and Leo Harley’s “Okay, so our clothes are just over there where that croc is. How are we going to do this?”
There were more general literary or film references: ‘Deliverance’, and pigs squealing generally, got a few mentions, as did Hemmingway, and The Bible, (Exodus?), in Rich Dock’s “So that's the apple tree we are supposed to stay away from”.
The bucolic nature of the river setting won poetic appreciation in Melanie Hanson’s and Vincent Graves’ variations on ‘Lazy river days’, Justin Easton’s ‘Across the river and into the trees', Lawrence Olsen’s‘Afternoon on the river’, and Maximus Alegria’s ‘Mysteries of the murky waters have always caught the eye of Man.’
Charles Smith brilliantly surreally incorporated the fact that the actual photo itself was cropped for social media, into the conversation taking place in the photo, “What was that mate? “The censor, faster than the speed of light.”!
I was reminded what it’s like to judge something as ephemeral and subjective as art and creative writing, and somehow reduce a myriad of valid approaches to a numerical ranking or score. In the end it was the simple yet effective captions that I responded to on a number of levels, and I have to give honourable mentions to Richard Hart for 'Don't worry mate I've got your back', Brian Finstad’s ‘Crossing over’, Henk Benson’s 'The way back' and David Bartley’s ‘Distraction’, and finally award the book to Andre Schouten for ‘Looking’!
My new book Outback Dusk is loosely divided into chapters. Each successive one represents a gear shift in mood and sensibility.Read More
Besides the social media decency rules that restrict what may be shown, there are other reasons for censoring work on-line if your work involves showing real life people naked, no matter how artfully.Read More
I am forever trying to convince potential models to grow back their natural body hair for a shoot, ‘Oh yeah, I know, you like guys with body hair ’ some say wearily, like I have some eccentricity, to which I reply ‘ no, it’s not that I like body hair, it’s that I like a model to be natural.Read More
As book eleven nears production, Paul shares his thoughts on selecting the all important cover image and title. It's a fascinating look at how these iconic books come to life.Read More
"To this day, the outrage or embarrassment at real or photo-real representations of full male nudity that is still felt and expressed, is at odds with the public art which we inherited from the classical tradition"Read More
The recent noise in Australia over professional footballer George Burgess’ viral nude ‘selfies’, again demonstrated the gulf between conservative opinion and real lifeRead More
Before the Sydney Olympics I was commissioned by magazine (Not Only) Black and White to shoot some of the Australian Olympic team members , including diver Dean Pullar, who, because of the graceful aerial aspect of his sport, we decided to capture as a kind of Aussie superman.Read More
I took this photograph on the Noosa River in Queensland, in February 2001, in the bewitching dying light, after a long day of shooting Steve, a model who became a good friend and, on this particular trip, a great host.Read More