I do photograph male nudes.
During a “Conversation“ interview, on Sunday evening, an incredibly talented photographer and a prolific art model and I ended up having a fairly lengthy discussion of the relative rarity of male nudes in photography (and contemporary art as a whole).
This isn’t a new phenomenon; Jorge Lewinski’s The Naked and the Nude: A History of the Nude In Photographs from 1839 to Present (1987; Weidenfeld and Nicholson), devotes it’s final chapter to the fact that the male nude is almost completely absent in art photography. (Though, interestingly, one of the oldest nude photographs is a male subject.)
For me, the biggest problem has been one of finding willing models who comport themselves in an appropriate manner.
The male model community is much smaller than that of their female counterparts, the majority of male models work in fashion, not art, and see being photographed nude as something that could threaten their long-term employment prospects. (Female art models face similar prejudices; many of the models I photograph work fashion, editorial and/or commercial campaign, under different names, with separate portfolios, so clients can’t find their nude work.)
Though I’m happy to work with amateurs, I’ve also learned, through experience, that a significant number of the men willing to respond to a craigslist or ModelMayhem casting call for male nudes do so, at least in part, for reasons of sexual gratification and exhibitionism. I’m far more likely to get an inbox full of crotch shots from a male casting than a female one, even if I specifically state that I only want headshots and full-body clothed images, in lieu of an existing portfolio. (I don’t care what gender you are, 99.99% of the time, I don’t want your crotch in my inbox.)
Logistically, environmental/guerrilla shoots are much easier with women — both in terms of ease of quickly undressing and covering-up and I’ve found that people tend to ascribe benign motivations to stumbling up on a woman nude in an unusual setting, whereas a man nude in the middle of the woods must be up to something nefarious or creepy. (This was born-out in the closure of the Jordan Lake waterfowl observation deck — female nudists along Jordan Lake are infrequent, but tolerated, but the reports of a few nude men resulted in the immediate and permanent closure of the state-run recreation facility.)
Finally, though I’m loathe to admit it, whether or not I post male nudes is sometimes a question of playing to my audience — I’ve posted male nudes that I feel are just as beautiful and just as captivating my work featuring women, but as a result, I’ve lost followers and received nasty, invective-filled and often markedly homophobic anonymous messages from tumblr and flickr users complaining that they “didn’t come here to see penis.”