Reed Massengill continues to gather images and historical data that enhance his own very fine books of photography of the male nude. In UNCOVERED: RARE VINTAGE MALE NUDES he has gathered the works by ten brave men who had the courage to create images of the nude male before the censorship by the publishing firms changed following the 1969 Stonewall turnaround. While some of the photographers included in this monograph are well known and bridged that hiatus separating forbidden and completely accepted work, there are also 'new faces' whose work demands attention.
The 'uncovered male nudes' in this collection are often only partially revealed, as in the photographs by George Platt Lynes (1907 - 1955): positioning and shadows protect the eye form the full model image. Don Whitman (1916 - 1998) worked with body builders and carefully used the 'posing strap' to prevent viewer disdain. Likewise Al Urban (1917 - 1992) and Earle Forbes (1897 - 1970) focused on the posing Greek ideal for their Physique Images.
But with Plato (1925 - 2003) and John Shreeve Barrington (1920 - 1991) the element of eroticism in the art of male nude photography opened some doors: models were captured more in the privacy of the wild then in the studio and the freedom of posing choices expanded, but still with a sense of restraint. The images of Antonio Arabia (1931 - 1993) are more natural (models in the woodlands) and in many ways more erotic, and the images by Vulcan (b. 1921) and Robert Galster (1923 - 1991) invite the viewer to become involved in the scenario. Many of these images have never been published and Massengill provides a welcome bridge between the art of the male nude as popularized by the many practitioners of excellence today.
This is an important volume and one that will find a larger audience than many other books on the male nude: the images are less threatening to the viewer than the subsequent work of say Mapplethorpe et al. Massengill introduces each of the featured photographers with a brief but historically and artistically significant essay on both the artist and the particular constraints that surrounded the art of each. Grady Harp, May 09