Breaking away from his past as the quiet gay kid in Port Colborne who became agoraphobic, Mark Siddall presents himself as a chatty, confident photographer who has no qualms asking models to take of their clothes for his latest exhibit, Men.
“These guys should make a lot of people happy,” he says of the 35 images of men with Atlas-like bodies he’s chosen from a collection of thousands. “There’s a few that should make people giggle, there’s a few that might make some people go, ‘Oh my god’ and not want to see anymore.”
Siddall, 46, taught himself photography during the 10 years he was dealing with agoraphobia. After acknowledging he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life sneaking around alleyways hiding from people, he forced himself to spend time outside and eventually borrowed a friend’s old Pentax film camera.
“And that’s when I really fell in love with photography… It wasn’t my intent to label myself as a photographer, that’s just what I do right now.
But I’m still no Ansel Adams,” he adds, referring to the celebrated American photographer known for his black and white photos.
The transition from shooting inanimate things — like flowers and buildings — to naked men was fluid for Siddall who takes pride in how comfortable he makes his subjects feel in front of the lens (so comfortable, one model regularly fell asleep while posing).
“Flowers like to pose for me. Flowers to humans was just a migration. I like to zoom in on different areas of the flower. So it’s like shooting people as flowers: Get in there and shoot a part of them that speaks.”
And for Siddall, those parts include hands, feet, face and genitalia.
Besides the tightly cropped images of men’s parts, the collection also includes full body shots of strong, masculine men posed in playful, vulnerable positions.
“I find a lot of European people think it’s nothing to wander around with a shirt off or in a Speedo, but in our society, we’re so afraid to be naked. I’m just trying to ease it up.”
Although Siddall wants people to see that being naked is very natural, he admits he has in own insecurities when it comes to revealing all.
“We are who we are. We cover up for a reason. We cover up for insecurities. We cover up because society wants us to.”
• Mark Siddall’s Men is on display through July 4 at the Mark Siddall Gallery, 40 Wynford Dr., Suite 106.
• For a preview of the show, or to see his other work, go to marksiddall.com.