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Orphanos, Stathis (b.1940), and Sylvester, Ralph (b.1934)  
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Orphanos bought his first camera, a Rolleiflex, in 1955, and he still considers that he learned everything from his first roll of film: especially to use natural light and to avoid cluttered backgrounds.

Orphanos's photography moves from extreme close-up portraits to elaborate images that rely on darkroom and other techniques that he taught himself: dodging (i. e. shading part of the photographic paper while making a print), using paper negatives, using silk screen printing. Most of his work is in black and white, but he has also combined images and colors in large silk screen prints.

One of his favorite portraits, that of David Hockney, was shot on a bleak day with little light. Orphanos found that he had one negative he could print and created a work to represent the rushed mood of the sitting. In the darkroom at the time of enlarging, he manipulated the image to spill down from the center of a bent sheet of paper. He has noted: "All final judgments are made in the darkroom. To be able to work on your own processing is a great advantage. Most of the celebrated photographers of today do not work on their own prints."

His formal portraits are usually of mature persons with bodies of work in art or literature. Their faces have the features of prescient age, and his presentation of them pays homage to their achievement and personalities. He uses little or no background, at times swaddling the sitters in black cloth, since "before black a face glows."

Orphanos has also photographed athletes, military men, and even young men of the street, as portraits and as nudes and figure studies. His models for these photographs are most often straight men, and his work follows in a tradition extending from ancient Greek painting and sculpture to the paintings of Tsarouchis. Orphanos's images of Greek and American soldiers and sailors in uniform explore and homosexual intersections in depicting the male figure.

One work from Orphanos's "Nude Athletes: Locker Room Series" shows from the rear the body of a mature athlete reminiscent of the famous sculpture of Agias in Delphi. The image is close up, framed as many a statue has come down to us, as a fragment, to stress not personality but the detail of the composition.

The series taken of athletes in the locker room illustrates Orphanos's ability to isolate from the mundane chaos the chance pose and to engage subjects for quick figure studies. Imaginative framing presents the images like film, catching moments when strict playing field relations are exchanged for horseplay and banter, when uniforms are exchanged for the expressiveness of the body. Reynolds Price has observed that these pictures "go well beyond the usual hurly-burly to the core of male bonding that's so mysterious, so threatful to women, yet so necessary to men's continuance as whole upright and unconsumed creatures."

In an interview Orphanos has spoken of his sexual awakenings and attempted seduction at boarding school. With candor and humor he has discussed the different constructions of homosexuality as he has experienced them in Greece and the U.S. He has also noted the different practices in circumcision in the two countries and expressed his relief that Greek art depicts young men uncircumcised, as was he: "I have always sought intact males as my models. This is definitely an influence garnered from Greek art, particularly the vase paintings."

In his figure studies and male nudes, Orphanos prefers to photograph young straight men, who get less attention than gay men. He has observed, "Young men love to be photographed. Young men crave attention. When it is finally bestowed on them through the intensity of a photo shoot, they are almost mesmerized by it. This results in vulnerable, uninhibited moments where I am able to capture their rare male grace. This is true of the young man, the 'Greek Soldier.'"

This work might be called a nude portrait rather than a figure study. A young soldier is posed contre jour (i.e., against the light). He sits in a chair against the available natural light always used by Orphanos. The penis is awesome in its size, edged in a light that gives it volume and weight like sculpture. The face is kept from the light and is without contour in a shadow that flattens the features as in a Minoan profile. In the tension of this composition, the face could be about to appear or disappear, to signify life or death.

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