Beach Man: Photographs of the Male Nude

Almost simultaneously, St. Martin’s Press has published the above two coffee table books filled with photographs of male nudes. Beach is unembarrassedly homoerotic. Curiously, however, David Morgan, the author, declines to name the splendid beach whereon his engaging photographs were taken. My guess, which I’m sure is on target, is Fire Island, a legendary wonderland.

I like this picture book, Beach, even if all the men in Morgan’s photographs seem to belong to the Mighty Mountainous Muscles Society. There’s not one slender little dreamboat in the crowd. But no matter, says I, because its fun seeing all Beach’s curvacious naked bodies intertwined in friendly group gropes. What are muscles for, anyway? Beauty pageants? Please.


Morgan’s interest in the male torso has included yet another book he assembled: Basic Training: A Fundamental Guide to Fitness for Men (St. Martin’s Press, 1998).

Friendliness characterizes Beach and is what I like best about Morgan’s work. He captures the playful camaraderie of males on Fire Island, a kind of happy-go-lucky bantering that often leads to sensually satisfying nights, Island style.

This book isn’t, therefore, simply a parade of hot bodies. It is also a tribute to a same-sex sense of community on the Island. David Morgan’s eye for physiques is a good one and his sense of the erotic, like mine, requires, it seems, that faces be attached to torsos. Muscles are lovely, true and I’d demurely look twice at them as quickly as the next guy. But, I’ll admit, I’m really a ‘face queen’ at heart, hoping to see smiling eyes, thank you.

There’s a picture of author David Morgan on the Beach flyleaf. He’s got a handsomely kind face, one that I’d be likely to trust. A New York City commercial photographer for a quarter century, his finest works have included unique advertisements for a major underwear firm. His favorite posters, photographs and greeting cards will soon be seen at , a site that’s currently under construction.

I wonder if David Morgan has ever seen HE, which was the first coffee table collection of male torsos published, if my memory serves well, a book compiled by Manhattan photographer Roy Blakey. After the appearance of that book in 1972, I got to thinking that there were going to be few new ways leftâ??if anyâ??to present the naked male torso in black and white photographs. I’d say that David Morgan’s work transcends plain old torso art, however, because he wanders passionately into his surroundings. Through him we experience not only glimpses of naked human forms, but the contexts in which they move.


Morgan tells how on one morning the “Sun, sand, surf and men,” comprised his ingredients. He admits: “I am in awe of the sea. To me the ocean is the single largest being I’ll ever touch in my lifetimeâ?¦with my toe. Surely, it’s God himself enveloping the entire planet with his brimming life.”

This approach is characteristic of a way of perceiving that includes context. Westernized perceptions have been hampered because objects are too often noticed out of context. In a recent academic study of awareness, Orientals tended to mentionâ??when asked for a first impression of what they’d been shownâ??both plants and rocks in an aquarium. Westerners, on the other hand, mentioned only a singularly big fish, making no mention its lush surroundings.

Man: Photographs of the Male Nude contains the work of several photographers, Trevor Watson, Tony Butcher, Za-Hazzanani and Toni Catany. Their photography is nigh-perfect technically, but with 10 rare exceptions, the subjects are seen only in part rather than whole. Faces seem not to matter in this collection. Body parts do. This book, I decided, is simply another exercise in anatomical over-focus, a term I coined in 1969 as the first managing editor of SCREW, the groundbreaking U.S. tabloid that launched frontal nudity.

My realization that there was mass Anatomical Over-Focus among men came to me in my SCREW office, a place where horny men mailed unsolicited nude photographs to me in great abundance. Receiving a singular picture of the most unattractive male genitalia I’d ever seen alerted me somehow. The sender had written a simple statement on the back: “This is me.”

“This guy is definitely over-focused,” I opined, “He needs to appreciate himself in a larger sense than he does.”

By Jack Nichols


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