Friday, November 14, 2014


First things first, I thought I'd give this photograph a new perspective by turning it on its head.  Obviously, the first thing I thought when I saw this picture was that it's the reflection of a beautiful man. It's a man with his pants down standing in water with his hands behind his back, and we see him through his reflection rippling in the water.  I have always been a sucker for a photograph that gives you just enough to leave you wanting more.  This picture does that for me in spades.  The water distorts the picture just enough so that you can't make out perfect details, but there is no doubt this man has a phenomenal body.  So that is a largely superficial look at the photograph.

Photography is an art like any other, with the photographer as the artist.  How they situate their model or what part of the scene they focus on, can tell different stories.  Now to get philosophical...I am assuming that the photographer took this picture with the gay male aesthetic in mind.  That being said, I would say that the photographer is attempting to make a statement about how gay men see themselves.  As a community, we are far too often hypercritical of one another and that makes us hypercritical of ourselves.  Therefore, we often see a distorted picture of ourselves, much like the water distorts the picture of the model.  Often our distortions can be harmful to ourselves, which one might say is the reason the picture is taken with the model standing in water.  

The two major points of symbolism in this photograph are the water and the reflection.  Since water is often a sign of life, many times water represents life.  Water can also be put into two categories: fresh water and bad/polluted water. The water in this photograph appears to be fresh water which usually represents good health.  Water can also mean purity and cleansing. It also represents thirst, since people drink water to quench their thirst. Furthermore, the reflection in the water calls to mind the symbolism of the mirror.  The oracle of Apollo at Delphi demanded of the ancient Greek ‘know thyself,’ and mirrors have often been used as symbols of wisdom and self-knowledge. But Apollo also required ‘nothing in excess,’ and the mirror can just as easily imply vanity, an unhealthy amount of self-regard. The peril of over admiring one’s mirror image is encapsulated in the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, the beautiful boy who having fallen in love with his reflection in a pool, pined away and was turned into a flower.  One way in which an artist can make use of the mirror is to show us something that we would not otherwise be able to see; the reflection of an object or person outside the scope of the painting perhaps. In the case of this photograph, it's the upper two-thirds of the body.  The most distorted part is the face leaving us with anonymity.

Therefore, considering that we are looking through the lens of the gay male aesthetic, I gather a few points about the interpretation of this photograph. I assume that this is a photograph from either the 1970s or 1980s, but I could be wrong.  I am going to postulate that the picture reminds me of a thirst for life and that the reflection in the water not only implies a narcissism, even thought the model is looking away trying to hide his narcissistic tendencies, but that the distorted face symbolizes the anonymous sex and hedonistic lifestyle of the pre-AIDS era.

Then again, the photographer may have just known that the model had a large penis, asked him to stand in the water and drop his pants so he could take a picture of his reflection so that the photographer could claim it was art because of the artistic angle and not a pornographic picture of a man with a large flaccid penis.  Furthermore, this picture could be part of a larger picture and was merely cropped this way by someone at some point.


Michael Dodd said...

It is a bit of a Rorschach test, isn't it? Perhaps all art is, to an extent.
I did not comment yesterday, but the way you inverted the photo today encourages me to share a thought that came to me when I first saw it.
There is an old legend that St. Peter was crucified upside down. One story is that he asked this because he was not worthy to die in the way his Lord had died. Another, more interesting version is that he asked to be crucified head down so that he might leave the world seeing it the way most men do -- upside down.
All of which fits in with your notions about distortions in the way we view ourselves, others and evverything.

Joe said...

I love your way of looking at it. I'd never heard the second story of Peter's crucifixion.

Susan said...

Very interesting, Joe. You got a lot out of that picture. Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts with us.

Jay M. said...

I've enjoyed these two posts! Thanks!

And Michael Dodd, interesting look at it!

Peace <3

Amanda said...

I love learning new ways to look at things. Sorry for not posting sooner. (This time of year is busiest at work with winter coming.) Thanks for your posts with this pic yesterday and today. And, I hadn't heard that story of St.Peter so thanks for sharing that Michael. :)

Anonymous said...

I love your thoughts about this picture. It's beautiful and can have so many meanings and emotions. I like thinking about what might have been going on before during and after this picture. My BF and I like to play what we call "story". It's when we are out shopping or at dinner and people watching and one of us will see someone or a couple and say to the other, what's their story. And then we make up a story as to what they are talking about or why this guy is standing outside or what those people are laughing about. It's kind of like pictures, art, music or poetry. It's often what you get out of it that matters. How does it effect you, what impression does it make, how does it make you feel. It seems when I was back in school I never, I mean NEVER interpreted things like poetry or art in the way it was "supposed to mean" according to the teachers and it always made me feel bad when I would voice my opinion and they would tell me no you're wrong that's not what it means so after a while I stopped giving my opinion because it seemed to always be wrong because it meant something different to me. A very dear friend of mine has helped me realize that it's not always important what the artist or poet or musician had in mind when he or she created a particular piece but rather what it means to you and what emotions if any it evokes in me. Thanks joe for sharing this beautiful picture and offering your thoughts.