Adam Raphael becomes more painterly with every new portfolio of photographs he presents. Beginning with the almost shy 2001 FRIENDS, his photographic portraits of young men whose trust in the artist is obvious, makes the images gentle and casual and very honest. In his 2004 FRIENDS AND BROTHERS, the relationship between the single model and the model grouped, Raphael played with space and suggested poses that never appeared forced but began to offer some commentary between the fresh, young and naturally beautiful young men and the artist. In short, Raphael pushed his space to create not only celebratory images of young men at their zenith of physical development, but he also suggested interplay or dramatic statement. In his 2007 portfolio ROOM SERVICE that drama became more polished as his beautiful men in rooms that echoed histories and stories allowed the viewer to go beyond the initial thought of simply finding vital, naturally handsome youths, to create fantasies. And without pushing the edge of full nudity Raphael found the exotic and, yes, erotic communication between his subject and his audience.
In observing the model at rest, at play, and in repose in the elegant surroundings that suggested a proscenium stage, Adam Raphael developed those skills of telling stories with the camera, and in this newest and in many ways most successful portfolio, BARELY WORKING, his ability to find the visceral humor, the moments of stress and relaxation, and the interaction between the props of the working man and the model that result in paintings that just happen to be made of film, is polished and exemplary. Whether focusing on the grease smears of the boiler room men or the geometrics of the yards of contractors, Raphael finds echoes in his sets that serve as complementary designs with the bare-chested, muscle men of his choosing. These lads continue to follow Raphael's keen eye for the naturally beautiful men, at times observed at work and at times at play, and more often at times with direct eye communication with the artist. But now the composition of each photograph is more sophisticated, flesh tones are excitingly balanced as choices of settings, and color objects create a harmony that while not pulling focus as technique, successfully result in enhancing the chiseled beauty of the models.
Some may wonder why Adam Raphael avoids frontal nudity when the audience is apparently now prepared for that historically prejudiced stance. Perhaps one reason is that Raphael is able, by maintaining elements of garments that enhance the physiques of his very choice models, to communicate more sensual images by taking the viewer just far enough to make the imagination engage. And it is that step, that decision, that engagement, that keeps his art fresh, vital, eternally youthful, and now, painterly beautiful! Grady Harp
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