The term ‚Cheesecake‘ comes from combining two English slang terms. The photographer trying to capture the model in the act of smiling would ask them to say the word Cheese to mimic this action to make a happy looking face. Cakes commomly referred to the the butt. Thus the genre of Cheesecake photography was born and it fits somewhere between glamour shots and by today‘s standards – very,very soft porn.
Paul Richmond is a gay storyteller and activist from the USA who uses his art as a medium to open discussions about LBGTQ equality. Having been married to his partner in a group ceremony in front of the US Supreme court in 2013 to his co-founding of the You Will Rise Project, an organization that empowers those who have experienced bullying to speak out creatively through the language, visual, and performing arts, he has dedicated his life to this cause.
Where did the idea come from to do your Cheesecake series ?
The Cheesecake series grew out of my fascination with pin-up art from the 40’s and 50’s. It was a more innocent time here (at least on the surface), and I love the elaborate scenarios that artists like Gil Elvgren with model Bettie Page and others concocted in order to justify disrobing their subjects. A loose nail, a doorknob or a brisk wind would all work in a pinch, resulting in hapless models accidentally exposing their unmentionables.
How does your Cheesecake art differ from the original style ?
I’m interested in exploring how gender roles were reinforced in that time period by these artistic expressions of sexuality. It intrigues me that it was considered sexy for a woman’s skirt to be ripped off before a crowd of oglers, while the male pin-up was only exposed when he wanted to be.
Yes I hope that we have progressed some since then, haven‘t we?
Times certainly have changed! I used the basic framework of this genre and updated it to reflect the issues of the decades we now live in. Men may have had a free pass on
wardrobe malfunctions in the good old days, but my Cheesecake Boys are here to even up the score.
Have you had any personal Cheesecake moments?
Awhile back, I spent an afternoon hanging my paintings in a coffee shop, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible since it was during business hours. The owner didn’t want nail holes in the wall, so I had to string fishing line to each canvas and loop it through hooks at the top of the crown molding. I was sporting some very baggy, paint-splattered clothes. By the third or fourth painting, with the pockets of my cargo pants stuffed full of spare fishing and tools, I started to feel the weight of gravity tugging on my trousers.
I was midway through securing the line for a particularly heavy painting and positioned directly above a gay couple enjoying their afternoon lattes. Something had to give – I was either going to lose the painting and possibly take out some innocent bystanders, or lose my pants. Helplessly, I felt them drop to my knees, revealing whatever obnoxiously colorful underwear selection I had made that day. A chorus of laughter punctuated my humiliating moment of being the unintentional Cheesecake subject.
While with today‘s technology, the boundaries of what is available to view are almost limitless for most, it is refreshing to see how one artist‘s use of a style from the last century is tweaked to provide a sweet but steadfast viewpoint on our sexual freedoms.
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