Hefty is the first word you’ll think of when you see Mark Henderson’s new collection of photographs, "American Eros" (Bruno Gmünder, cloth). It’s got a hefty list price of $139.99 (but is available for considerably less at a variety of online sellers). And it weighs so much you’re gonna need an easel to enjoy it.
The second word that will spring to mind is hot. While maintaining the luxuriousness of the photos in his previous four collections ("Household Idols," "Suburban Pleasures," "Poolside" and "Luminosity"), as well as the digital manipulation employed to heighten both color and beauty, masking every flaw and accentuating every perfection, these photos show more cock. Nearly every page showcases a glorious, full-blooded, rip-roarin’ hard-on.
At a whopping 13.5" by 10", the pages of "American Eros" provide 244 super-sized photos on heavy weight, glossy stock. An index gratefully identifies the men, who are of all races and ages. Some of them are porn stars, and some are discoveries, like Timmy Bear. Though Henderson’s half-dozen photos of Mr. Bear have made the model ruler of my heart (and gonads), I can’t find a word about him online. Who is my lord and master?
I could babble on here, but some experts better informed than I have already weighed in. So I’ll just quote them: Henning von Berg notes "a boldness of subject, and a heightened use of lush colors." Kevin King, the painter known as BEAU, admires the "opulent settings and heavenly objects" complementing "iconic bodies." Tom Bianchi admires the "muscular sexual vitality" Henderson has caught, while Fred Bisonnes voices the opinion of many when he finds no better compliment than to compare Henderson to Jim French. And Mr. French, in the second of two Prefaces written for the book, says Henderson’s photos "are superb delineations of the idealized male physique." I can only reiterate that the men depicted are not merely of idealized face and physique, but also of phallus. And that’s sort of the raison d’etre of the whole book.
Bob Mainardi, local collector, historian and store proprietor (the treasure-filled Magazine), provides an historical context in his Preface to the book. It leads us to Jim French, "who revolutionized the depiction of the male nude in 20th-century photography and almost single-handedly reintroduced both art and eroticism to the subject." The creators of physique photos have always struggled to balance art and eroticism, and Mainardi concludes that "Mark Henderson is a master of balance." The consensus among other artists and certainly his fans is that Henderson does a beautiful job of presenting beautiful men who present beautiful sexuality. There are some who would call this porn. But the cocks being hard doesn’t make photographs of them hard-core. The art/sex blend of American Eros is a career pinnacle for Henderson. The book is unlikely to be equaled in quantity, and perhaps not to be equaled in quality.
Henderson’s photos of Tom Lansing illustrate his skill. Lansing is attractive yet goofy-looking in photos of a JO solo and a hetero scene he performed for the NakedMen group (easily located for free online). His features are askew, and there’s an insecure look in his eyes. Under Henderson’s guidance, Lansing’s confidence is bolstered and he’s forthright; his poses become masterful, and the post-session photo-doctoring buff him up to glory. Henderson’s transformative work results in a Jim French sort of demi-god. Compare photos of the two Toms, and you won’t believe they’re the same guy.