A Short Film About Me And My Work

I’ve finally decided to post a short documentary film I made about a year ago with my good friend and sometimes photo editor, photographer, lecturer, and now filmmaker, Julie Sundberg.

Julie produced , shot and edited this documentary down to a finely crafted and sensitive story about some of the inspiration behind my work. I cover some of this in The Larrikin In Me, my introduction to Larrikin, but Julie’s film is concise and covers so much, beautifully, in just a few minutes. Feel free to leave a comment. 

The Larrikin In Me

If I had to describe, in a word, the kind of man I eulogise in my work, it is the larrikin.

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The larrikin is probably the favourite stereotype of Australian masculinity, though I think the qualities are universally attractive.The word itself is claimed by Australians, though it’s from England, where it’s recorded in Yorkshire, in the early-mid nineteenth century, as a derivative of the word lark, describing ‘a mischievous or frolicsome youth’ (English Dialect Dictionary, ed. J. Wright, 1898-1905), who would lark about or ‘larrack’ about. The Australian myth is that an Irish born policeman in Melbourne in the 1860’s, after arresting an unruly youth, described him to the magistrate in his brogue as ‘a larr-akin’ about, which the magistrate heard as ‘a larrikin’, and the word stuck as describing a hooligan or thug. But by the early twentieth century it had come to be used here more as a term of affection, to describe a man of courage and self-confidence, a free thinker who defies unnecessary pretence or hypercritical conventions in a likeable and warm‑hearted, or ‘cheeky,’ way. The larrikin became the standard bearer for Australians of a convict heritage, the likeable rebel who laughed in the face of adversity and often knew he was of a better calibre than his supposed superiors with their dubious rules. These characteristics take the old English word and give it an Aussie overhaul, adding sex appeal.

In a world where perfected beauty is valued and flaunted, I think we often find male beauty more alluring when the owner doesn't take it too seriously; his sexiness is enhanced when he carries his good looks with a certain nonchalance. It conveys a strength of character. Similarly, I think a photo of a naked man assumes greater potency when the subject is not flaunting generic or fashionable physicality, but seems happily detached from it. For years I’ve explored this otherness and what makes it so mesmerising. It’s these intangible qualities I try to elicit in my work and in this story of the larrikin.

I grew up suppressing my prematurely realised homosexuality in a religious family, in a quiet Australian backwater that would often seem bleak to me, despite its staggering beauty. An introvert, I loved to sequester myself for hours on end with books. I read escapist adventures before I graduated to more serious literature and non-fiction, mainly English history, full of real life drama and tragedy, human foibles and heroics. My early life was by no means all solitary gloom. I had a stable and very loving family, as conditional as I might have come to feel that love was. And though we were not well off, my parents were all about education and family.

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Relatives owned farms and orchards, and holiday shacks in gorgeous coastal hamlets, ripe for adventures with cousins, boating and fishing. We lived in the hills on the edge of a small city, Hobart, in a new subdivision where my parents had built a house, next to native bush land. With a gang of neighbourhood kids we constructed massive tree forts out of lopped branches, with walls of woven basket grass, and fought battles with bows and arrows made from tea tree and native ferns. We disappeared from supervision for hours on end, over hills, to search for caves, wild berries, and tadpoles in ponds, trespassing on old orchards, gorging on fruit and exploring deserted farmhouses. We fed our local kangaroo rats at night, at our back door, and we careered down the steep rocky track behind our house in billy carts made from prams and old timber boxes. We ran screaming from accidentally disturbed snakes and blue-tongued lizards, often falling over and running home, holding up stigmata bleeding hands for motherly tending and solace. And there was laughter. We were seen as a happy family. 

Along with a somewhat volatile temperament and a sensitivity protected by my mother and easily slighted by three older, competitive brothers, I inherited from someone a colourful personality and sense of humour, which enabled me to achieve easy camaraderie with the boys I fell in love with, but could never tell. I blended in at school, was good enough at sport, and could play the lad, despite my good grades. My attractions, which began very early on and could only ever be secret, evolved in me an escapist romanticism that was as paradoxical as the Catholicism I was raised in, Spartan discipline and self‑flagellation in maccabre but sensual Baroque surroundings.

My first crush was for the goofy, accident-prone and handsome Captain Parmenter (actor Ken Berry), from repeats on TV of comedy series F-Troop, a show about a hapless US army outpost in the late nineteenth century, and their attempts to control the equally spineless Hekawi Indian tribe. Daydreaming in one of the endless catechism classes at convent school, I cast Parmenter in the role of Jesus on Calgary, bleeding and in pain, in the moments before the cross was erected, he helpless in his nakedness and suffering, and I gently tending his fever and wounds with gentle kisses and a damp cloth, trapped in a painfully sensual, recurring farewell. I knew nothing of sex, except that I’d been mesmerized by Ken Berry’s hairy chest in at least one episode, and he was funny and loveable, much more appealing to me as Jesus, than the insipid, lank-haired depictions I’d seen of him. I was seven. I understood little of what it all meant, except, already, that it was wrong. At around this time too, I discovered photos of naked men in the Theatre section of an Encyclopedia Brittanica Yearbook, which my parents subscribed to, and which was kept on the bookshelf in the 'good' living room, used for visitors. I would sneak in there when it was empty and, behind a big upholstered rocking chair, be shocked and eroticised by the shameless hairy frontal nudity of the male cast of ‘Hair’ and ‘Oh Calcutta’.

My first real life crushes, from eight to ten, were comparatively tame, and were for two similarly angelic-looking pranksters at my school, the type whose uniforms were always un-tucked and disheveled, and who I loved to wrestle in the playgrounds so I could furtively relish their soft skin and squirming strength, and smell their tussled hair.

Two of the great loves of my life were unrequited, and occurred before I was twenty. They were both fascinating to me, popular with their peers, but slight outsiders. The first of these was an athlete and champion footballer, good looking in a careless way, and, somewhat uncharacteristically for a jock, the class clown and a bit of a nerd. We eventually spent a lot of time alone together, playing tennis or golf, which I pretended to love, or spear fishing in freezing dark coastal waters, near his house. It was worth it for the intimacy of the friendship and the long hot showers in change rooms afterwards, the whispered confidences of sleep-overs and the school-team bus journeys away. In endless phone calls we were in each other’s thrall, me working harder to be captivating. I fed hungrily off these intimacies, the only kind allowed. I was helplessly trapped. I was proud he liked me, anxious about it and possessive. I was impatient with others who interfered. I was angry at my mother when she’d want me off the phone. I was angry, period. I had nightmares where I was outed, though it wasn’t called that then. Now fifteen, frustrated and rampantly sexual, I obsessed over every detail of him, his body, his smell, his mannerisms and his personality. My brain was my smart phone, recording everything to be played back over and over in hopeful agony later. I practiced walking like him. I loved it when people confused our voices on the phone or talked of us as inseparable friends, an item, they joked. I wanted to be like him. Every waking moment was consumed by him, how I could be near him as much and closely as possible without raising suspicion, and then how I could ever escape the interminable pain. And despite my better judgement, I dreamt of him confessing his love for me. And of our romance.  

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My second love, at university, was a more thoughtful soul and modest, despite his popularity and looks. He was thick set compared with me, and muscled from sport. Devoid of vanity, he wore his favorite few clothes over and over, and the luxuriant dark hair which crowned his classic, mostly unshaven face, was always slightly unkempt, with neglected boyish tufts, sticking out here and there, that drove me crazy with desire. I envied his looks and his attitude, so different to mine. I found his vulnerability addictive, once I gained access. Again, it baffled me that someone so enviable to me could be so wracked with self‑doubt, and come to lean on me.  I exalted in his darkness. It was Shakespearean; he was an impenetrable mystery that I wanted to solve, a hero to save, as I had with Captain Parmenter’s Jesus. His problems, the world’s problems, made him broody, which I loved, along with his sardonic wit and playfulness in happier moods. I was insatiably patient, much to his constant surprise. “Why do you bother with me?”, or “What do you see in me?” were music to my ears.  What do you see in me, I thought, that you privilege me with your confidences?

I couldn’t tell him he was more beautiful to me lost and troubled, or that I empathised, and part of me hoped he hid a pain similar to mine. I martyred my own starving needs in order to be ever buoyant and dependable for him, though I didn’t care at the time. He fuelled my fascination with the loner heterosexual male. Even today when I see an apparently un-conceited good-looking man engaged in solitary activity, I am both sympathetic and attracted. I read into him those same characteristics I came to revere as essential to masculinity, not as discernible in the brash affectations of pack men.

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My jealousy and possessiveness, which might have given me away, were for the most part kept in check, and women kept at bay, by the fact we lived on campus in an all-male Catholic college. I could see women were drawn to him, but he was shy and elusive, for the most part. To my shame, I was critical of the occassional female object of his interest. He was the best friend and the big brother of my dreams. Again I did things I didn’t naturally long to do, but his patience in teaching me, and my willingness to learn from him, made them happen, and made me come to love them. In these times he was my rock, and seemed so much more manly and mature than me. I often felt silly, though I contained it, or dispelled it with comic bravado. One time, he taught me how to pull a car engine apart and put it back together. I learned to water ski and to scuba dive, and to take bravura risks doing so, swimming underwater, one time, in strong currents, fully outfitted, into a blow hole, a naturally occurring water cave carved out of seaside cliff faces, in order to impress him. I caught crayfish with a spear and swam calmly near a small shark. We flew in single-engine planes across the perilous Bass Strait for cycling trips, on Flinders Island, in the brutal winds of the Roaring Forties, took bushwalks in Tasmania’s wilderness, camped in storms, burnt off leeches daily, slept dirty and sweaty, bathed in freezing streams, walked endlessly wet or covered in mud, trudged across marshes and dangled over cliffs at Cape Pillar in Tasmania’s south, for daring ‘selfies’. We surfed, or at least I attempted to, in enormous and dangerous waves on Tasmania’s west coast, in bleak conditions. He let me drive his pride and joy, a souped-up Torana, even on my eighteenth birthday, when drunk, I insisted on going for a joyride, just the two of us, and we ended up in a ditch on a country road outside Hobart, until a police car found us and ordered a tow truck to take us home. And he taught me to process film and print black and white photographs, in a dingy darkroom in our campus college, something which was to stand me in good stead many years later.

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I eventually escaped this tortured happiness when he failed university and joined the navy. I spent our last summer staying with his family before returning to study. We shared a bedroom, talking about life way into the nights. We swam in the Launceston Gorge every day and listened to Fleetwood Mac, and his mother cooked us dinner and cared for me as part of the family. It was a bittersweet time. I couldn’t drag myself away but was relieved to be free. And today, some of him, and this repressed romance, inhabits my work.

Long years of this rich but punishing and lonely inner life, and the never- ending fear of discovery and rejection, grew into an irresistible urge for any kind of physical love, and an intellectual conviction that my personal truth did not make me a sick aberration, but the world around me did. And was. I have carried with me a resentment, an anger at a wrong done, a subconscious determination to speak out in some way, about the wretched denial of everything that should have been life-affirming and beautiful, as well as confusing and fraught, in the adolescence of a man loving man.

Life and love as a gay man in Sydney was colourful and eye opening, but the romance was juvenile and rife with jealousy and envy. I was immature and damaged, as were most of us in the gay ghetto, and I yearned for some past idyll that had never existed, for an impossible white knight to rescue me. I felt the need of an outlet for this frustration. I enjoyed my quota of oblivion in partying and sex, but suffered from depression and emptiness. Acting was meant to be my destiny, my salvation, but the satisfaction was as transient as a drug, or my sexual conquests. My insecurity made me fear it too much, yet my ego needed it badly. I either wasn’t good enough, or thought I wasn’t. Both thoughts filled me with dread.

But I craved a creative outlet, and photography kind of happened. Back home, where I had won my school art prize, my paintings adorned the walls of my parent’s home. But in Sydney, after a few false starts, the muses left me. I began photographing actor or model friends for headshots and portfolios, and picked up lighting tips and ideas from shoots I’d participated in as a model. Magazine and commercial commissions followed, and in my personal work I gravitated to photographing men. They say that in art you should pursue a subject you are passionate about, and for me, this was it.

It was often my female friends who helped me appreciate this work early on, just as it was they who gently helped me discover and face some of my issues around self-worth. These were my feminist heroines, trying to escape their own constraints, and hoping, back in the early nineteen eighties, that we subversive gay men, as we still were, would be their allies in dismantling the institutional relics of misogyny, and the personal restrictions those wrought. We didn’t, but my male photography, as it evolved, was as dedicated to releasing them, as it was to purging me.

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 For all my hopes and dreams about who I would become, and what would influence my later life, if you had told me that I would be best known for photographing naked men, against everything that had inclined me towards conventional success and acceptance, I would not have believed it worthy of me, or paradoxically, that I had the courage for such defiance of norms, let alone the audacity to expect the work to be accepted in the mainstream, as part of a male art tradition begun over two thousand years ago.

But my work is born out of my personal, as well as my cultural history, and I’ve learnt to embrace and defend it as valid. My early nudes emulated modern exponents of classicism in photography. Like many modern interpretations, most of them were sanitised, with none of the sensuality of actual classical art, and nothing of me in them. But my own unique and Australian story of repression, of dashed hopes of romantic salvation, and years of secret observations, mulled over painstakingly, have perversely instilled in me an unrepentant celebratory male aesthetic. A photograph of a fully naked man is a powerful statement. And it’s still controversial. Like the love that dare not mention its name, the penis is marginalised in photography as pornographic, shameful, unmanly, silly, or gay. ( Ironically I censor photos here on the website for entirely different reasons-to prevent the piracy and misuse of my images and the website being blocked.) Castrating the male to make him morally and fashionably palatable has resulted in the denial of primal masculinity, something I think we connect with when we see it, from deep within our genetic subconscious. This denial prevents us as a culture from a civilising appreciation of real male beauty, the only intrinsic beauty we are encouraged not to revere. My male nudes are not intended to be salacious, but cathartic. Each is an reverential story, told with unashamed honesty, about individuality and freedom, and the vulnerability that entails. Each eulogises a masculinity which, coming as it does from the very personal, speaks, I hope, to something universal.

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There are times when my objectives seem trivial, or I fear retribution, and times when the work seems like the most important appeal that could be made for the dismantling of a stifling bias. Any public acceptance of my work must first contend with prejudices to even be tolerated, let alone appreciated. Freeing men and women, alike, from the patriarchal suppression of something as intrinsic and natural as the beautiful naked male as art, is the promotion of a cultural and historic maturity, equality and joy, the removal of a veil, the forgiveness of a sin, the return to Eden.

I am grateful for the appreciation I receive. Like any striving artist, nothing is ever finished or quite right, but the process is rewarding, and the people who support the process and the work are my sustenance, liberals, in a world in which liberalism is under threat, from within and without. As a gay man in a challenged multi-culturalism, I feel I’m on the front line, defending myself against irrational beliefs I have feared and fought all my life to escape. I value the personal freedoms that my culture, however imperfect, has fought over and earned for us in the past decades, and over hundreds of years, and my work defends those freedoms, against a fearful compromised version of them. I’ve experienced enough judgement. I’ve served my sentence. And the men who collaborate with me and appear in my work, who face their own fears or pressures to be a certain kind of disdainful macho or follow a prescribed fashion, like my many lost loves, become the heroes of my romantic revisionist folklore, unashamed, individual and earthy, happily unkempt at work, adventuring or at home, imperfect in their perfection, larrikins.

Paul Freeman                                                                                             Sydney, August 2016

Two New Books And My First Kickstarter!

 

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 collectionsI’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. 

Four photographs from one of the shooting trips made for Larrikin  

Four photographs from one of the shooting trips made for Larrikin

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Instagram, I've Been Violated!

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.

This is the first photo Instagram removed, after I had spent ages placing foliage in all the crucial areas. Maybe a computer 'read' the obstructions as something else?

This is the first photo Instagram removed, after I had spent ages placing foliage in all the crucial areas. Maybe a computer 'read' the obstructions as something else?

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. 

My third banned photo was either proof that buttocks aren't always allowed, or that people or computers can stare at shadows and imagine whatever it is they fear seeing 

My third banned photo was either proof that buttocks aren't always allowed, or that people or computers can stare at shadows and imagine whatever it is they fear seeing 

  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?

My fifth and most recent post removal, was actually a re-post from last year,  when it evidently didn't offend anyone.  By this stage I think I am doomed to be shut down because I have now agreed five times that I'vebeen in violation of community standards I don't understand,  and don't think I have been, just to get my account back. 

My fifth and most recent post removal, was actually a re-post from last year,  when it evidently didn't offend anyone.  By this stage I think I am doomed to be shut down because I have now agreed five times that I'vebeen in violation of community standards I don't understand,  and don't think I have been, just to get my account back. 

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.

This second breach of community standards was probably again a case of something or someone reading detail into the shadows, which I had edited, but clearly not enough.

This second breach of community standards was probably again a case of something or someone reading detail into the shadows, which I had edited, but clearly not enough.

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

This is the fourth photo removed. By this stage I'm thinking that maybe they are taking down my most banal photos since I couldn't see who this would offend. Plus, the man depicted has the photo on his own profile and it of course hasn't been removed.

This is the fourth photo removed. By this stage I'm thinking that maybe they are taking down my most banal photos since I couldn't see who this would offend. Plus, the man depicted has the photo on his own profile and it of course hasn't been removed.

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.

I guess this shot may have offended based on the fact that I may not have cropped the male figure on the left enough?

I guess this shot may have offended based on the fact that I may not have cropped the male figure on the left enough?




And The Winner Is...

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.

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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’!