Innewsweekly, July 2006

In the introduction to Self Exposure: The Male Nude Self-Portrait, Reed Massengill's ground-breaking collection of male photographers snapping themselves, the author states: "The history of self-portraiture in photography undoubtedly dates to the invention of the medium itself. Throughout time - whether through necessity, convenience, laziness or artistic introspection - most photographers have on at least one occasion aimed their lenses at themselves."

So prevalent is the phenomenon, says Massengill, that he literally had hundreds if not thousands of images from which to choose from for his book, which was published last year, and which will be on display at Radiant Light Gallery in Portland beginning Friday, July 14.

The gallery, curated by Thom Adams and well-known throughout the country as one of the preeminent showplaces for male nude photography and art, will welcome Massengill and a number of other subjects in the book for the show's opening on Friday as well as for a panel discussion, "Testosterone: Male Photographers Baring Themselves" at Holiday Inn By the Bay at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 15.

For Massengill, a photographer and writer from New York City, showcasing the works that appear in "Self Portrait" in Portland is a bit of a coming home. He chose the gallery on Congress Street to introduce his book "Roy Blakey's 70s Male Nudes" four years ago and says that the exhibit was a huge success.

"Portland is a fun town, and people get it," Massengill told In Newsweekly, adding that he will be joined by a number of photographers at the event including John Peter van Voorst van Beest, Douglas Prince, Christopher Westfall, Aaron Konieczny and a number of others who are, as of yet, unconfirmed.

For Massengill, the collection at Radiant Light and the book itself represent a unique peek into the lives of photographers.

"What I hope that people will take away from the show is an appreciation for the men behind the camera, the person who picks up the camera and becomes an artist. The ways in which they photograph themselves tells us more about them than the way they photograph others," Massengill, who is blatantly absent from the collection, suggests. "But, the truth is, there are actually a number of photographers who only use themselves, who don't reach out to the outer world at all, and a number of those people are represented in the book."

"Self-Portrait" is certainly at once both a lesson in photographic history (Massengill maintains that self-portraiture is as old as photography itself, and from Tom Bianchi to Andy Warhol to Robert Mapplethorpe to Pierre et Gilles, some heavy hitters of the genre are included) and a study of modern technique: some of the artists represented implement multiple negative images, digital images and even Web cam shots.

In all, Massengill said that he had no trouble finding images and proving his thesis that many photographers implement either benign or blatant narcissism in their craft.

"I did extensive research, from seeking on-line to looking at college literary and art magazines, and had actually hoped to do a more expansive introduction to the book, but had to cut it to include everything I wanted," says Massengill. "I had originally wanted to include a number of deceased photographers, but really had to pull back to people who are alive and breathing."

And, while most of the men represented in the book are by all counts attractive, Massengill intimates that he actually went out of his way to include all body types.

"I didn't want it to be all 'Chelsea Boy,'" says Massengill. "But, the reality is that the more attractive the photographer, the more likely he is to put himself in front of the camera."

That said, Massengill has his favorites, among them a haunting black and white photograph of Kelly Glider ("Hamden Woods," 2004).

"The shade and shadows of the photograph really make it look like something that was taken 100 years ago," says Massengill. "It's a really stunning example of a young photographer doing something that was being done a century ago."

As for a more modern example, Massengill points to a photograph by Russian artist Paven Antonov in which he is seen with a female, himself aroused, and snapping away with a digital camera.

"It's a great example of a big, colorful assault on the senses, shot digitally and with a more contemporary approach," says Massengill.

For Adams, AAron Konieczny, a Maine native whose self portrait "Roaring Spout 1," is among the best of the best in the show.

"He's a young photographer out of Camden, where I first saw his work," says Adams. "He produces some of the finest images of the male nude that I have ever seen."