One of the most fascinating people I worked with in California was a retired ballet dancer named Ric. He'd injured one of his legs dancing and had to stop performing but his love of dance was too deep to just walk away. So he began working as a masseur and physical therapist for the troupe he used to dance with. When I met Ric he was doing bodywork for some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry; he was just that good. I was introduced to Ric by a mutual friend asked me if I'd ever had a massage to which I had to honestly answer no. She gave me Ric's phone number and said she was treating me to something really wonderful by buying me a session with him. I was reluctant, to say the least, but I called Ric and set up an appointment. I cried most of the way through that first massage; probably because I was releasing a lot of anxiety and fear that had been trapped in my body for a long long time. I had no idea that having my body touched in that way could be so powerful and healing.
It was during that first session that Ric told me a little bit of his story and how he got to be one of Hollywood's most in-demand bodyworkers. It was an interesting story but the first thing that came into my mind was how amazing it would be to photograph him. He jumped at the chance to dance for my camera and though clothed for most of the first session the clothes quickly gave way to the magnificence of his nude body. I had done a lot of nudes by that time but this was something very different; a dancer in motion, wildly free and challenging me to keep up in a way that I was wholly unaccustomed to.
Our first session together as photographer and dancer took place in my studio; most of the work being done in B&W film with beautiful results that I never could have imagined. We became friends and continued to work together many times over the next few years, opting out of the studio and into the deserts and wildlands of the Mojave Desert in southern California. Sadly, the negatives from our work in the studio mysteriously disappeared and all I have left are a couple of prints which are too large to scan; they're framed and hang in my home. The transparencies and negs of the work we did in the Mojave Desert remain safe in my posession though and continue to inspire me more than twenty years after their creation. I've scanned some of them but the better part lie waiting patiently and beguilingly for me to invest the time it takes to find them and work with them.
The above series of Ric was shot on Polaroid film in various locations at Vasquez Rocks north of Los Angeles. Originally the images were to have been hung upside down and titled Man at the Bottom of the Earth. When hanging the mounted prints for a show in Hollywood though I happened to be looking at them from a different angle and realized that they all seemed to flow together. I started rearranging them and came up with the top row where the rocks seemed to naturally connect together even though they'd all been shot at difference places. I hung it this way and began calling the series Manscape. The original mounted pieces are in my personal collection and hanging in my home.
On two or three different occasions Ric and I headed out to Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert east of Los Angeles to do pictures. This is where my love of doing nudes out on location really began to take root as Ric's lean, muscled and graceful body contrasted beautifully against the textured roughness of the massive rock formations. Most of this work was shot on 3mm transparency and I've scanned them from the original slides. They are unaltered and as close to the originals as possible.
In looking back at these pictures that were taken more than 20 years ago I can clearly see where my love of getting my models out in the wildlands began. Ric's complete and unprotected nakedness against the epic beauty of the Mojave Desert really moved me. There is something primal, beautiful and intimate in the blending of flesh and earth that's as inspiring as it is beautiful.