drkrm is pleased to present the male physique photography of John Palatinus, one of the pioneering physique photographers of the 1950's. Along with Lon of New York, Bruce of Los Angeles, and Bob Mizer of Athletic Model Guild, he helped create a whole new genre of male photography. He was a major influence on Robert Mapplethorpe and may be one of the last living photographers from the 1950's golden era of physique photography. This exhibition will be on view from June 8th through June 29th, 2013 with an Artist reception on Saturday, June 8 from 7-10pm.
John Palatinus is perhaps one of the last living male physique photographers of the 1950s. He was one of a handful of photographers who documented the male body through photography of semi-naked, body-proud weightlifters of the time. His first shoot was done in 1951 in his own living room in Indiana. Palatinus crafted his own photographic style which was recognisable by his use of light and minimal background. The pictures echoed Palatinus' influences, who included Horst P Horst and George Platt Lynes, while documenting a sub-culture of body perfection and hyper-masculinity that emerged in the post-war era.
His photographs were published in numerous bodybuilding magazines of the era, most notably Tomorrow's Man, a pocket-sized publication featuring males with posing straps or other coverings for their privates.
In 1954 Palatinus moved to New York, and set up on West 13th Street in Greenwich Village, taking male physique photographs and distributing them to eager collectors. He continued to be featured in "TM" and did a thriving mail-order business, selling his photographs nationwide. In 1958, Palatinus started shooting and selling full-frontal nude photos through the mail. This proved to be an unfortunate move. His studio was raided by the US Postal Inspectors in cooperation with the New York Police Department and all of his photographs, original negatives, cameras and equipment were confiscated, never to be returned. Palatinus was very effectively put out of business. After a trial, he was convicted not of distribution of so-called pornography, but of conspiracy, a misdemeanor charge, and spent no time in jail. "When I was in court in 1959," Palatinus recalls, "The judge said: 'by today's standards this work is considered pornography, but who knows? In 50 years' time it may be considered art' and that really is true."
Palatinus has lived long enough to see his work become appreciated by new circles. The nineties saw a huge resurgence in the collection of Vintage Male Physique photography, spurred on by a voracious online community. Palatinus now lives in Palm Springs, California and exhibits his work thoughout the world.
drkrm is an exhibition space dedicated to the display of popular cultural images, fine art photography, documentary and photo journalism, cutting edge and alternative photographic processes. drkrm is located in the historic Chung King Road of contemporary art galleries in Downtown L.A.'s Chinatown. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday – Saturday 12-6 pm, Sunday 12-4pm and by appointment.
All gallery events are free and open to the public.
Gerry was photographed by both AMG and Bruce of LA, but this looks like it could almost be a Milo shot. To muddy the attribution waters further, this photo has a DSI code number superimposed in the lower left corner, and was published in DSI's "Rugged" #1.
I'm not 100% certain that these photos feature the same duo. But don't you just love those oh-so-Fifties haircuts on full display in the first shot? (And I have a special love for tall/short duo pics...)
I'm at a computer terminal in Los Angeles, waiting for my flight, and thought it might be a good time to give you a couple more links to check out...
In the last few months, John had some real nice coverage in two internet magazines. The beautiful Rhiannon Edwards interviewed John and I via Skype and put together a great article that appears at Trebuchet Magazine.
The very impressive Polish photography magazine doc! sent John a bunch of questions and gave him a lot of space to tell his story and talk about his love of photography -- and presented a lot of his pictures! -- in their second issue. Please check it out!
Oh, and for fans of Hollywood -- would you believe that Uggie from "The Artist" is sitting across the way from me, getting kisses from the girls while waiting for his plane? Ah, Los Angeles.....
My pal Bernd has put together another opportunity for you all to meet 1950s physique photographer JOHN PALATINUS at his latest gallery exhibit in London!
Please come over to Space Station 65:Orbits in Contemporary Art on Friday, October 19 at 6:30 -- John will be there to meet friends old and new as we view not only his physique photos but a selection of his early 50s photos of Paris that originally gave him his love of photography, and jumping forward to some of his recent work that includes views of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "The Gates" in New York and young ballet students he photographed on a recent trip to Cuba.
Space Station 65 is located at Building One, 373 Kennington Road, London SE11. It looks to be a real exciting space and I can't wait to see how gallery owners Jo David and Rachael House will showcase John's work in one of his favorite cities!
I have the great good fortune to be joining John and Bernd in London for this opening, so I hope any readers of this blog who have a couple of free hours that Friday night will come by and say Hi! This will be my first time in London and I'm really looking forward to seeing the sights and meeting some new friends.
John is going to be interviewed tonight, October 13, at "Duckie" at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, London SE11. And he, Bernd and I will be at the Big Gay Lifestyle Show2012 -- "The UK's Biggest Indoor LGBT Expo" -- on Saturday October 20 -- yes, the day after the opening, so we'll all still be high as kites with the excitement! That will be in the afternoon at the Grand Connaught Rooms, 61-65 Great Queen Street, London WC2B.
I'm arriving in London this Monday to do some siteseeing and meet up with some friends and friends-of-friends before the big events, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to post again until I get back in a couple of weeks. I'll try to sneak into someone's computer when the chance presents itself, but if you have any questions about the events, please follow the links above for more information and contact info.
It is always an exciting party at a John Palatinus Opening Night, so please join in and make this the most memorable evening yet for this wonderful artist!
Let's close off with one last photo -- a true rarity that arrived in the mail today! Linn Wickizer on the cover of "Physique Speak" #1 -- as photographed by (who else?!?) Mr. John Palatinus.
The presentation of the name and/or photograph of any of these classic models is not to be construed as any indication of the sexual orientation of that model.
While this blog is compiled by a gay man, and 99% of the audience is sure to be composed of gay men, the vast majority of vintage models were actually heterosexual. Shocking, but true! The Golden Era of the 40s and 50s was when bodybuilding took off in a big way, and getting a photograph taken in a studio setting was an important way for many of these men to exhibit their hard work. The leading studios often got their work printed in the "legitimate" bodybuilding press -- they certainly advertised their work in the back pages.
Did the models who posed nude realize what the audience for these pictures ultimately was? I think we must assume they did. No matter what the impetus for beginning training, once a bodybuilder hit a particular point (and that point would be different for each and every one), a certain amount of narcissism and exhibitionism is hard to avoid. Posing for photographs, no matter what the audience, must have been a great way to indulge those impulses. For those who posed nude, the rush must have been even greater!
All praise to these men, straight or gay, who stepped in front of the camera to record their accomplishments!
John Palatinus in Berlin! - Sep. 7 - Oct. 15, 2011
Cafe des Artistes
John Palatinus in Antwerp! May 12-15 and June 2-26!
Winkelhaak Design Center
John Palatinus in Paris - January 18 to February 23, 2011
Galerie Au Bonheur du Jour
John Palatinus in Hollywood - Feb. 14 - March 27, 2010
I became fascinated with the world of musclemen and posing straps when I discovered Valentine Hooven's book "Beefcake" in the early 90's. The (mostly) straight men posing before the camera, exhibiting their finely-tuned bodies to the gay cameraman, were an instant turn-on for me. The history of these men and the photographers who immortalized them (albeit in someone's secret stash under the bed for 50 years) has pre-occupied me for the past 15-or-so years. I look forward to sharing some of my finds with you!