Posts Tagged ‘ethnic male nude’

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• Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series

October 28, 2011

I came back to Honolulu for a few weeks between travels (see the “On the Road” links above if you’d like to read more about that) and one of my goals was to get some painting done.

Frustratingly, so many other things demanded my attention in the short time I was on the island that it was difficult to find time to draw or paint. But I did find some! I did 3 paintings while I was in Hawaii.

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There was something compellingly beautiful to me of the profile of Steve Chen in the center of this sketchbook page---I wanted to make it into a painting.

I’m drawing in my sketchbook a lot while traveling, and the first painting I did was inspired by a small sketch I did of Steve Chen’s face. (Steve is my newest model and you can see photos and read the story of my Malibu photoshoot with him here.)

This was the first time I’d painted in several weeks (it’s just not practical to take all my painting stuff on the road with me), and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it came together. Painting heads, or more specifically faces, has always been my favorite thing and it was nice to just be able to focus on that.

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This acrylic-on-paper work was a joy to paint. Everything just flowed. I titled it “Boy in Shadow.” It’s not a portrait of Steve Chen, but it was inspired by him. (Click on the image above to see it on my website.)

It turned out to be a couple more weeks before I was able to find time to paint again. I used to feel guilty when I couldn’t get as much painting and drawing done as it seemed I should, but this, like so many things in my life, is changing. I’m finding more and more that when it’s time to paint, it will happen. It’s not about trying hard to make it happen, it’s about allowing it to happen.

That’s how my next painting came to be. I found myself sketching from my Brazil photographs of Baiano and almost immediately, I had a sketch that really worked and I knew it could become a nice painting.

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I loved the energy of the photograph and the sketch that came from it, and had an idea it could make a nice painting. Click on the image to see the sketch on my website.

I approached this painting in my usual way, transferring the drawing to the canvas, then doing a purple wash over it, then painting the outlines in black paint before applying color (look at any of my previous step-by-step painting entries for a review of all that). However, once I began laying in the actual colors, something was different. I was MUCH LESS CAREFUL. I don’t mean careless, not at all; I mean I simply didn’t bother much about whether I was slopping paint into the wrong areas or covering up some of the underlying outlines. I didn’t bother with it because I knew I’d be cleaning up anything that needed cleaning up much later, when I was doing the finishing touches on the painting.

But because I was so much less careful than usual when I was laying in the colors, there was a LOT MORE ENERGY in the brushstrokes and in the overall painting. This was a wonderful development because, as you know if you’ve read previous painting entries, it’s always a challenge for me to loosen up and keep the painting bold and energetic. And the truth is, it’s really not even necessary to be as careful about where the paint goes at this relatively early stage of the painting. It had just been fear, or you could say lack of trust in myself, that kept me from letting loose this much in the past.

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Here's the finished painting, entitled Tiririca. Click on the image to see this item on my website.

The finished painting rewarded my boldness. Not only is it filled with dynamic energy, it also took a lot less time to finish. It’s not always true that less time spent equals better work, but here that was definitely the case. The older and more experienced in life I get, the more I realize that the best results always come when you can find that place of effortlessness and fluidity.

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This is one of a series of shots I have of Kaimana paddling on a surfboard which I used for the next painting.

It was another week or two before another painting “happened.” This was just a few days before I took off for another 3 months of traveling so I was glad this one came along in time for me to finish it before leaving. I had been thinking about a stylized, almost decorative painting of a nude surfer. So I began doing sketches from a series of Kaimana photos.

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Here and below, some of the exploratory sketches I did for the surfer painting. Click on the image to see this item on my website.

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Click on the image to see this item on my website.

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Click on the image to see this item on my website.

This painting experience was a lot like the previous one, where I found myself much more willing to just take chances and let the paint go where it wanted to. Again there was an effortlessness to the painting, and it took less time than usual.

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Here's the result, a painting I call 'Paddling.' Click on the image to see this item on my website.

My experience with these most recent paintings was wonderful and it seems clear to me that this is just another unexpected benefit of my new lifestyle. Living as I do now, where I often don’t know where I’ll be staying or what I’ll be doing tomorrow, let alone a week or month from now, requires a lot more thinking on my feet and trust in myself. It consistently challenges me and forces me to move through my fears. It’s not surprising to discover that living a life that requires more courage and daring is translating into more courage and daring in my work!


Every couple of days I spend an hour or so preparing the next photoset for my Simonson on Location photography website.

This is always an opportunity for me to review past photo shoots, and occasionally I run across images that surprise me. By that I mean I see an image differently than I had before. I see some possibility that had not previously struck me. When that happens, I tag the photograph so I can come back to it later and maybe do something with it.


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This is the photo I started with. Left, the untweaked image; Right, I've lightened it and added some filters, including Posterize.

That’s what happened a recently when I was putting together a photoset of Israel and Wellington, the two models I photographed in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil a few years ago. There was a photograph of the two of them on the beach at Massarandupió that intrigued me. I especially liked the way Wellington was sprawled in the wet sand, looking out at the ocean. I thought it was very strong and a painting could be built around it. So a few days ago I went back to that photograph and started making sketches of it.

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I started by sketching the figures separately until I liked what I had. Then I scanned them both and put them up on the computer screen. I wasn’t sure about the composition of the original photograph and I wanted to experiment with moving the figures around in relation to each other, plus changing their relative sizes. I could have done this by sketching and re-sketching but it’s much faster and easier to do it on the computer.

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After trying out all sorts of combinations/compositions, I decided to reverse the positions of the figures. I actually kind of liked the original composition of the photograph, with its unconventional arrangement of the figures, one looking out of frame to the left, the other walking out of frame to the right—but it was a little too unconventional, I decided, and also said things about separation and isolation, and I didn’t really want to go there with this painting. So I rearranged things for a less edgy, more appealing composition.


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I used Photoshop to make a color digital sketch of the painting. It's much easier to try out color possibilities digitally because you can manipulate the colors and arrangements endlessly, experimenting without penalty to find the ideal solution.

For the next step I also used the computer. I wanted to do a color sketch and again, doing this sort of thing on the computer is much easier because you can change the colors easily and try out all sorts of possibilities without having to do sketch after sketch. After completing the above digital color sketch, I decided I was ready to tackle the actual painting.

The painting itself was kind of an anticlimax, which is both good and bad. When I’ve planned a painting this well, the final execution tends to be fairly straightforward, although there will always be some surprises. I like that. But I also like to take chances and work without a net sometimes, too. This time, though, I liked the fact that the painting played out pretty much as I’d planned it. I spent 3 days completing the actual painting process, so this entire painting took about a week. I call it “Surf Boys.”


My latest painting, entitled “Symmetry”, was a surprise.

By that I mean, I never expected this one to turn into a painting. I was sketching from a photograph of Rico lying on a beach towel. This was a photograph I had never tackled before because it’s kind of a weird angle and I thought it would be hard to draw. And it was—I was having some trouble with it. But then I thought, what if the point of view were directly above Rico, and not from an angle?


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This is the source photo I began with (Rico is the model)

I liked that idea, and I thought it would be cool to make it perfectly symmetrical. Or close to symmetrical, anyway. So I tried it. I did a rough sketch where I changed the angle and made the image more or less symmetrical, as if you were directly above and looking straight down on the figure.


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This is the rough sketch I began with.

I wasn’t expecting much—this was just a little sketch experiment. But I liked the drawing so much I decided to take it to the next step, which would be a drawing that was more detailed and more carefully symmetrical.


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Here's the final preparatory sketch before I transferred the design to canvas.

So I took my rough sketch and re-drew it using a ruler so that everything would be fairly close to equal on both sides. This worked out really well, and I began entertaining the idea of actually doing a painting of this. I hadn’t yet even visualized it or worked out color ideas in my head—which is unusual for me—but it seemed to want to be painted. So without much conscious thought, and a lot of just ‘surrendering to the flow,’ I grabbed a piece of canvas and tacked it up onto my easel.

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Next I scanned the symmetrical drawing and then used a digital projector to project the image onto the canvas so I could trace it with pencil (rather than having to re-measure and re-draw the entire thing to do it in a larger size). Then I laid a brownish-purple acrylic wash over the whole thing. I was still able to see the pencil lines, so once that dried, I painted all the lines in black. That’s the stage you see above, with a couple of daubs of yellow paint added to see how the color looked.


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Now I begin to lay in colors and get an idea of how they're going to work---or not.

Next I began mixing colors, and putting some of them onto the painting, to see how they worked together. What you see above is a result of some experimenting with the upper panels on the towel—trying a color here, a color there, and lightening or darkening or changing the color altogether until it starts to hang together. (As you can see, I wasn’t happy with the design on the towel in the photograph, and created my own design. Not sure why but I kept seeing this sinuous line on either side of the figure—so that’s what I created.)

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Now I’ve laid in most of the colors. At this stage it’s all kind of rough. I wanted to get the colors laid in to make sure it was all going to work. Now that I see that it does, I have two challenges. One is to work with the flat flesh tone of the figure to give it more life. The other is to go in with a small brush and do the fine work of painting carefully around all those black lines.

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The final painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

Above is the final painting, “Symmetry.” To bring the fleshtones to life, I used some of the oranges, pinks and yellows from the colors in and around the towel and worked them into the colors on the figure. Also, rather than leaving the colors flat, I made the figure more three-dimensional by varying the light and shadow a bit—not much, just enough to make the figure seem more rounded. I also saw that the black lines for the abdominal muscles was just too heavy-handed, and I got rid of those and instead used some fairly subtle highlights to delineate the abs. Then I spent a couple of hours doing the fine work of filling in all the little edges around the black lines, both on the figure and on the beachtowel—the ‘finishing’ touches—and I was done!

This painting was an interesting experience because it kind of just happened, rather than being something I purposefully created. And now that it’s done I’m looking at it and I’m not quite sure what I’ve got. It’s a painting of a boy lying on a beach towel, but because of the way I painted it, it almost seems like a symbol or an icon. The way I painted the beach towel looks almost like a stained-glass window, and the symmetry of the figure adds to the iconic feeling. As I’ve said many times, I don’t always know what I’m painting, or what I have painted. I sometimes see or understand things I didn’t see or understand before about my art when others tell me what they see. So if you have an impression of this painting that you’d like to share, please comment on it here. Thanks.


As you’ll remember, if you’ve been reading this blog, my second photo shoot with Jeff took place at a gorgeous location—my friend Doug Smith’s beautifully landscaped tropical pool and garden. (If you don’t remember, read that entry HERE.)

I was thrilled at how many really amazing and beautiful photographs I captured that day. But I found that when I started looking through them for images to paint or draw, I was intimidated! The photographs were so great as photographs that I wasn’t sure that I shouldn’t just leave them alone.

But as I thought about it, I realized I was limiting myself unnecessarily. I was thinking I had a duty to do something realistic before taking off into more stylized, inventive directions. I’ve always had this idea that I have to justify my less realistic work by balancing it with more realistic works. And with all these gorgeous images, I was really feeling that.

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No, this is not one of my paintings. It's a famous work by Matisse called Bathers by a River.

So to give myself strength, I opened a book about Henri Matisse. It takes courage to paint the way he painted, especially back then. I took courage from his story and his paintings. One of my favorite paintings of all time is “Bathers by a River” by Matisse. I decided that would be my inspiration for my first Jeff-at-the-pool painting.

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The photograph I chose to work from is one of Jeff standing by one of the many fountains that adorn the pool. As I said, I could’ve chosen any one of several hundred great shots from that day. But there was something aboout this one that felt a bit like Matisse to me—not sure why. Anyway, that’s the one I chose.

I began sketching. My job was to begin simplifying the forms and shapes—looking for the essence of the image. You can see my progress in the four preparatory sketches shown below. One of the major changes I made was to add a second, invented figure in the pool at the lower right. Another invention was to give the standing figure a vertical staff to hold. These changes were all instinctive. That’s what the sketching process is about for me with a painting like this. I think of stuff, and try it, and see how it looks. If I like the way it looks, and it feels right and fits, I keep it. I don’t necessarily know why I added the second figure, and the staff, I just know they looked right and felt right. I must admit, I like having a bit of mystery in the painting. What’s that staff about? What’s the relationship between the two figures? I don’t know that I could put it into words, but I have a feeling about what is going on.

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The 4th sketch shown was my final sketch. I’d taken it as far as I wanted to go with pencil. It was time to put it on canvas and see what happened.

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The final painting: 'Boys at the Fountain' (click on image to see this item on my website)

I kept the tones muted and somber except for the greens of the foliage and the water streaming down (or up?) above the fountain. The idea of putting white behind the standing figure came to me as I was painting, and it worked. I had a bit of trouble with the water in the pool. I had to repaint it several times before I got it the way I wanted it.

I like the final result. It’s more realistic and less stylized than I intended—not as bold and uncompromising as Matisse’s Bathers painting, certainly, but I like the feeling of it and I like the hint of mystery and intrigue it contains. I call it “Boys at the Fountain.”

(For more info on “Simonson On Location” see the previous blog entries, Creating Simonson On Location, Parts 1, 2 and 3)

After 3 months of preparation and work, Simonson On Location is finally online!

I finally got to send out the e-mail announcing Simonson On Location’s debut on June 1st. It was exciting to watch the subscriptions start coming in. You may already have subscribed. If you haven’t yet, you can do so by clicking here: Simonson On Location

Or keep reading to get more information on what you’ll find once you do subscribe!

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We added a white 'storybox' to make it easier to read the story of each photo shoot.

One of the things that changed in the final days before we went online is the way I present my storyline for each photo shoot. I wasn’t happy with how hard it was to read the stories: the type was too small, plus it was black type on a dark blue background—way too hard to read. So I worked with Mitch to create a vertical white “story box” running along the left side of the first page of each gallery. As you can see from the screen shot above, it’s now an inviting, easy-to-read design.

We made a lot of other small changes too, but the version of Simonson On Location that’s now online is pretty close to the screen shots I showed you in Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the “Creating Simonson On Location” blog entries.

Pricing is $14.95 per month to become a regular subscriber, or $24.95 if you’d like to subscribe for just one month with no automatic renewal.

WHAT’S IN THE LINEUP, EXACTLY?

We went online with about just under 3,000 photographs in 53 galleries, spread over 14 different models. Here’s the lineup, in case you’d like to know the details before you make the leap and subscribe to the site:

BAIANO: 2 galleries, total 88 photos. Baiano Gallery 3 will go online June 15 with another 42 photos. This is the story of how I found and photographed Baiano in a little Brazilian surf town.

BRUNO: 5 galleries, total 278 photos. How I took Bruno to a nude beach south of Rio de Janeiro for a photo shoot, and found out I had to get naked too!

EDUARDO: 3 galleries, total 153 photos. Eduardo Gallery 4 will go online June 15 with another 122 photos. All about how I met Eduardo at a little cafe in Rio, then photographed him in the nude on the veranda of my 12th-floor Rio apartment.

ISRAEL-WELLINGTON: 5 galleries, total 251 photos. The story of how I found two models in Salvador, Brazil, and our trek to a deserted beach 3 hours north of the city.

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Since I shoot at least 1000 photos on most of my photo shoots, each photoshoot on the website will end up with between 10 and 20 galleries when I've finished telling the story. I'll be putting up additional galleries every 2 weeks.

JEFF: 4 galleries, total 226 photos. How I met and photographed mischievous Asian boy Jeff at my Waikiki apartment in late 2009.

JORGE: 3 galleries, total 134 photos. How Dominican-Nicaraguan hunk Jorge and I dodged a storm and wound up having a wonderful photo shoot at Diamond Head Beach at dawn.

KAIMANA: 3 galleries, total 171 photos. How I took Kaimana to a secluded Oahu beach and had him go surfing naked.

KAINOA: 3 galleries, total 197 photos. All about my backyard-pool photo shoot with gorgeous Hawaii local boy Kainoa.

MARCELINO: 4 galleries, total 189 photos. The story of my California photo shoot with cute Mexican boy Marcelino.

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Keep in mind this is just the beginning of the story; over the next several months there will be an additional 10 to 15 more galleries added for each model, to tell the story of the whole photo shoot.

MARCUS: 4 galleries, total 185 photos. Marcus Gallery 5 goes online June 15 with another 75 photos. The story of my very first photo shoot with Marcus on a deserted beach in Angra dos Reis, Brazil.

MARCUS-SANDRO: 4 galleries, total 202 photos. All about our wild weekend with the Brazilian Boat Boys, Marcus and Sandro, among the many islands of Brazil’s beautiful Costa Verde.

NOHEA: 4 galleries, total 217 photos. How I took a beautiful jewel (Hawaiian boy Nohea) and placed him in a beautiful setting (a backyard jungle with pool).

TOMMY: 3 galleries, total 144 photos. How I met tall, beautiful, dark-skinned Tommy and took him to Diamond Head Beach at dawn to capture a series of stunning images.

VICTOR: 3 galleries, total 216 photos. How I met Nigerian-born Marine Victor and photographed him in two gorgeous Hawaiian settings in one day.

So that’s the lineup as of the first week of Simonson On Location’s debut. As I said above, there are now nearly 3,000 photos, and more will be added every 2 weeks from now on. Join now and watch the stories as they unfold! Here’s the link: Simonson On Location

(For more info on “Simonson On Location” see the previous blog entries, Creating Simonson On Location, Parts 1 and 2)


Things are heating up! We’re just a few days from going live with Simonson On Location. Mitch (my webmaster) and I have been meeting almost every day as we get closer to the release date. There’s still so much to do.

I built my first website years ago (1995, actually) but these days I’m really glad to have a webmaster, especially one like Mitch who knows his stuff—and thinks about all those little details that you have to think about. I’m talking about the kind of details that guarantee that when you click on that link, the website WILL charge your credit card and let you in! AND that it’s an absolutely secure encoded transaction! There’s a whole lot of work that goes into setting something like that up.

So I’m glad he’s doing that, and I can focus on what I’m good at. Which right now consists of going through thousands of male-nude photographs and putting them together so they’re not only fun to look at, but they tell a story, too.

One of the groups of photographs I’ve been working on is the series of photo shoots I did in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil in April 2007. This is a particularly interesting group of photographs because there are lots of stories to tell. We had many adventures during that trip, from spending days and days looking for models with no luck and then having two models just fall into our laps in one afternoon, to getting lost in the wilds of Bahia looking for a very hard-to-find location, to my two new models doing naked capoeira on the beach!

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Here's a preview of one of the Israel-Wellington galleries. This is the part where they were doing naked capoeira on the beach.

There are lots of other stories I’m reliving, too, including my photo shoot with Hawaiian boy Nohea; Dominican-Nicaraguan Antonio, whom I photographed at Diamond Head Beach one morning as a huge storm approached; Kaimana playing the nude surfer on a Hawaiian beach; Marcus and Sandro on a deserted island south of Rio de Janeiro…and many more!

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This is a small part of the Nohea galleries you'll soon be enjoying on Simonson On Location.

Each model has several galleries, or photosets, to tell the story of his photo shoot. When Simonson On Location first goes online, there’ll be 12-14 models, and each model will have 3 to 5 galleries, which usually amounts to 150-250 individual photographs. Then every couple of weeks or so, I’ll add more galleries until each model’s entire photo shoot is online.

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Here's a sample page from my photo shoot with nude surfer Kaimana.

And of course as I work with new models, or do additional photo shoots with existing models, those new photosets will appear on Simonson On Location as well.

Mitch told me today that there are just a few more issues he needs to resolve on the website before we can go live, and that we are in the final week of preparation. I’m probably more impatient to get this site online than my collectors are to see it! I can’t wait to send that e-mail out to my collectors saying, “Come on over, Simonson On Location is ready for you!” But I can’t do it yet. Soon!!

I shot Antonio at Diamond Head Beach at sunrise. This is one section of his galleries.

(For more info on “Simonson On Location” see the previous blog entry, “Creating Simonson On Location, Part 2”)


When Mitch and I began talking about the look, feel and structure of Simonson On Location, we decided to keep it very similar to the current art website. For one thing, we have a good, stable, user-friendly web design, so why change it? On top of that, it makes life easier for my current collectors if the new website has the same easy-to-use design as the fine-art website they’ve been visiting for years.

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This is our design for the main directory page of Simonson On Location.

But of course at the same time, we wanted to make it clear that this was a different website with a slightly different focus, so we gave it its own distinctive look. We changed the background to black, and changed the theme colors a bit. I chose a blue-green theme because it reminds me of the color of the ocean in the tropics.

I Start Choosing the Photographs

When I actually got started putting the Simonson On Location galleries together, the very first set of photographs I worked on were from my first photo shoot with Marcus.

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These are some of the photographs from my first Marcus photo shoot.

The first part of this photo shoot showed the progression from getting on the boat in Angra dos Reis, sailing around with Marcus getting naked on the boat, then arriving at a deserted island, where Marcus dove into the water and we followed him to the beach in a rowboat.

Structure of the Site

As I worked with this first set of photos, I started to get clearer on the structure I wanted for the new website.

In a situation like this it would be easy to take an entire photo shoot of 900 or 1000 photographs and just upload the whole mass of them to the website, and call it “Marcus Photo Shoot” or whatever. But it seems to me that would be a bit like writing a novel without any chapters, paragraphs, or punctuation! You could read it, after a fashion, but it wouldn’t be much fun.

I certainly didn’t want to do that. In a way, I’m presenting my own story here, and I want it told properly. I also want it to be fun and entertaining for the reader/viewer.

Each Photo Shoot is a Story

So I decided to look at each photo shoot as an entire story. I would divide each shoot into several galleries, so that I could tell a bit of the story with each gallery. The number of images in each gallery would depend on what was going on in the photos. Sometimes I might shoot dozens of photographs of the model with just minor alterations in his pose or expression. Not much story going on there so that would be kept in a single gallery.

But if there was a lot of action, changes of scenery, etc., then I would divide it into smaller galleries, because there would be more story to tell. It’s a bit like dividing a story into chapters. You want each chapter to have a basic subject or theme, and to move things along in a logical yet entertaining way.

This meant that some galleries might have 100 images in them—while others might have as few as 25 or 30. My goal was to let the photographs tell their story, and to have the viewer see and “hear” the story of the photo shoot as it happened.

I Create the First Three Galleries

So the first 3 galleries of the first Marcus photo shoot went something like this:

Gallery 1: We’re on the boat in Angra dos Reis, sailing out into the islands to find a deserted beach. Marcus is wearing speedos, and I start shooting photos as he lounges around on the boat. At the very end of this gallery, he begins stripping off his speedos.

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Here's an actual gallery page from the new website. You'll be able to click on each of these thumbnails to see the full-sized image.

Gallery 2: Marcus lounges around naked as we’re still sailing around the islands.

Gallery 3: We finally find our island and Marcus dives off the boat to swim to the beach.

These would be just the first 3 galleries. The entire photo shoot might end up having 20 or more galleries, with each one telling a bit more of the story.

As I put these segments together and wrote a narrative for each, I began to really enjoy myself. I liked the way this was unfolding, and it felt like it would be fun for my collectors to read and view these “stories.”

I put together the first three galleries from that Marcus photo shoot to get things rolling, then moved on to another photo shoot. I decided I’d tackle Eduardo in Rio next.