Saturday June 22 will be the funeral of Jim French. I’m sure a big chunk of my readers know this and also know who Jim French is. What he was was simply the best erotic photographer, ever. Ever.
He started a called a business called “Colt Studios” in 1967. The Post Office had recently lifted the ban on sending pictures of hard dicks through the mail. French was a man in the right time.
Before him, gay smut was black and white with whatever trashy hustler/rent boy the photographer scraped up that day. French shook all that up. His early work is klutzy, understandably, but once he got his footing, goodness, how everything changed.
For one thing, French was a good photographer with a background in shooting fashion. His lenswork was admirable, crisp and well balanced, but his real talent was lighting a set. Never had bulging muscles been so three dimensional, cocks and asses gleaming and inviting. And he was interested in their faces too, which other photographers never even looked at. His only weakness was in posing his subjects. There’s a lot of classic body-building style or stiffly interacting with some prop that’s sort of quaint.
One of his best and most frequently reused pose, is where he is on the ground beneath the model, shooting up at those mountainous titties. The pose didn’t do much for me, but I recognize it for what it is: worship. His best shots were the models lounging around looking supernaturally gorgeous. Every muscled honed to perfection and symmetry as perfect as a plumline.
The real zenith of Colt was being reached right at the time I was flaming out into la vie homosexual and many, many of Colt’s models matched the creatures who populated my fantasies. Good heavens, how thrilled I would be to find a new Colt magazine at the dirty book store. With no internet, Colt’s magazines were the best thing we had Even now, 30 years later, Colt Studios, which French sold in the 90s, still use images from those long gone glory days to flog their merchandise. Sometimes I look around in the Castro and think “Some of these little old men in their cardigans and knee braces, shuffling home to feed the cat were the godlings French aimed his lens at.”
I’m illustrating this with my favorites, I know many of you have your own. I encourage you to dig them out on Saturday and remember the man who made them possible. And then rub one out.