Reviews of Heroics

Heroics: Costumes And Attitudes From The Past In Full Bloom NOW!

Grady Harp, October 21 2011

Paul Freeman always takes his large following of admirers of his photographic artistry on an experience with every new book he publishes. With a reputation for finding the finest models in Australia to appear in his previous volumes of the outback in Australia (Outback, Outback Currawong Creek, Outback Brumby, Bondi Classic, Bondi Urban, Bondi Work, Bondi Road) the reader expects to see stunningly handsome hunks on the pages of his monographs. But this new book, Heroics, is a different step for Freeman.

Continuing the same exceptionally high quality of photographic art – black and white, duotone, full color, and color tinted images, with the most sophisticated lighting effects available and a top sense of composition – this book places his models in the uniforms and attitudes of European historical concepts of the Hero. His basically nude models are adorned with swords, shields, armor, hairpieces, and an array of dazzling uniforms from many countries and many periods and from his matrix he recreates the ‘old concept’ of heroism. Many of the images are tongue in cheek – gladiators posing in front of a kitchen sink, men alone and together with allusions to great warriors from Greek legend and Roman times, men reenacting famous sculptures. Theses images may contain humor and parody, but they still retain Freeman’s ability to find that special macho alluring sensuality that is his trademark.

An aspect that makes these images so refreshingly new from his other work is his use of color on otherwise monochromatic photographs. The artist in him flows freely and that aspect we hope to see more often. Just to give this collection of Heroics more validity, Freeman includes photographs of many works of art in ancient sculpture: the reader may have to look twice to realize that these sensitively placed addenda aren’t live models, so well are they integrated into his book concept. This book represents a new step for Paul Freeman and to know that he can maintain our dedication to his work with each new thought is one of the marks of a very important artist. Kudos!

Heroic Start To An Exciting New Photographic Journey

Andrew Nelson, October 22 2011

The male form in all its splendour has been all but obliterated from Australian popular culture. Australian films in the 1970s for instance, could show full male nudity, but 40 years later, this is almost impossible. Plays performed in Sydney frequently have nudity removed, and literature once deemed suitable for study in schools that contained nudity such as Equus have long since been banished from reading lists.

Given the increasingly conservative tenor in Australian popular culture, it is entirely appropriate that his latest work should be titled ‘Heroics’ as Paul Freeman is one of the few artists courageous, dare I say heroic? – enough to present the male form uncompromisingly naked. No coy side on poses, or strategically placed hands in this photographic collection, no waxed / trimmed / plucked torsos; rather, a sensuous celebration of masculine beauty. Thematically, the book recalls earlier periods in history when the male form was valorised – as in the Roman times of gladiators depicted on the book’s cover – and where there was nothing shameful or embarrassing about male nudity.

I was somewhat ambivalent when I heard about the release of the first Outback book several years, as I so loved the five Bondi books and believed they could not be topped. However, the Outback series actually surpassed the Bondi series in my view, elevating Paul’s photography to an even higher level artistically. While it is too early to make predictions about where the Heroics series might lead, I must say it is a stunning beginning.
Stylistically, Heroics is very different to the Bondi and Outback series. The Australian landscape is no longer central to the work, and there is a universality underpinning the photographs. The use of colour and lighting is more elegant and sophisticated than in the other two collections, recalling the Hollywood portrait photographers of the golden years in their glamour and beauty. The tone of the book is fascinating; at times mocking, at other times reverential.

Where Heroics is at one with the Bondi and Outback collections is in the depiction of masculine physical beauty, and in Heroics there is a more diverse, more beautiful collection of models than in any previous work. Some models are breathtakingly beautiful and all are presented fully naked. The work confirms Paul’s status as not only the best photographer of male nudes in Australia, but anywhere else also.

If you enjoy beautiful photographs of the male form, you will no doubt love this new and exciting photographic journey!

Metrosource Magazine Interview
Art & Design - Masculine Ideals

Jean Paul Zapata, March 2012

Paul Freeman continues his photographic exploration of the male form with a new twist.

Few topics inspire controversy like full-frontal nudity. For as long as there have been works of art that depict the nude human form, there have been those who protested its display or labelled it pornography. So it makes sense that photographer Paul Freeman sees his depictions of nude men as acts of courage. Part of his goal in presenting nudity is to challenge the public’s insecurity with the idea.

The truth is: We have a love/hate relationship with nudity. Even as society tends to label it shameful, most people seem inherently fascinated by depictions of the naked human body. The very fact that the body is such forbidden fruit tends to lend an air of sensuality even to depictions not meant to be erotic. For example, Freeman remembers that, when he was a child, the nuns at school would reward students with religious cards that featured depictions of holy men whose bodies he found very sexy. ”It probably wasn’t what they had in mind,” jokes Freeman.

Though he was aware that his attraction to the male form might have be considered “sinful,” Freeman didn’t let that deter him. Instead, his desire to “somehow confront the sin” helped fuel his drive to create beautiful images of men.

Manly Men

The Tasmanian-born Freeman (who is now based in Sydney) tends to feature traditionally masculine men in his work — capturing their well-muscled bodies in blue-collar settings. His first book, 2004’s Bondi Classic, showcased the buff bodies of Australia’s Bondi Beach. His subsequent Outback series paid homage to the rugged men of the Australian outback.

However, when Freeman discusses the idea of masculinity, his attitudes on the subject sound anything but traditional. “Masculinity is about the courage to exhibit weakness freely, to admit emotional vulnerability and to express doubt and uncertainty,” he explains. Freeman aims to shoot subjects who represent what he describes as “paradoxes of masculinity: toughness and sensuality, courage and sensitivity, provocation and innocence.”

Holding Out for a Hero

In his most recent book, Heroics, Freeman continues his exploration of the male nude, but with a twist — incorporating the kind of neo-classical imagery popular in Renaissance art. He was inspired by a trip to Europe, during which he photographed many of “the dramatic and sometimes homoerotic male nude sculptures that were publicly displayed everywhere,” he recalls.

Freeman wanted to recapture the way these historic celebrations of the male form often stood in plain sight throughout busy modern cities. So, for Heroics, Freeman created photographs that blend elements of past and present. In one image, a model dressed as an 18th-century Spanish nobleman dons a 20th-century leather harness. In others, models wearing regalia that recalls imperial Europe pose in distinctly modern urban settings. “For me,” Freeman says, “it was another way of putting the historic romance back into the male nude at a time when so much male nude imagery is about portraying a man as a science fiction plastic fantastic super hero, removed from organic sensuality.”

One of a Kind

The scope of Freeman’s award-winning work ranges from controversial nude portraits of Olympic athletes to depictions of Australian working men. But the results are anything but an undifferentiated sea of flesh. Freeman attributes this to the fact that he strives to capture what is unique in each of the men he photographs — another aspect his work shares with that of centuries past.

“If you look at Classical art and European art post-Renaissance, it is the idiosyncratic facial features of people that are often celebrated as exquisite,” Freeman explains. “The variety of types of beauty is what makes the beauty so enchanting.”

Freeman notes that finding this uniqueness in each of his subjects is one of the most important parts of his work. “It’s not so much that my models are any different from other handsome men in photographs,” says Freeman. “But I hope there is something different in the way I portray them.”