“13 Years of Bondage”–fantastic photographs

Castro, Rick. “Thirteen Years of Bondage”, Fluxion, 2004

Fantastic Photographs

Amos Lassen

The other day I got a wonderful surprise in the mail from Rick Castro, a copy of his book “Thirteen Years of Bondage”. Even though the subject matter of bondage is foreign to me, I must say that the book contains some of the most beautiful photography I have ever seen. Even in its boldness, the photos are alluring and impressive. It seems that Castro has snapped pictures of a culture that is forbidden to most of us and they give cause for deep introspection and reflection. The suffering that is seen in the photos is beautiful and the pleasure that the men are experiencing appears sublime. There are 150 photographs in the volume and just when you begin to think that you have seen something really exquisite, you turn he page and you see another truly beautiful work of the photographer.

From the very first page where Castro offers us his definition of the Leatherman—“all-American as baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”; the eye begins a beautiful journey of the profane and the profound. Castro’s exploration of the world of fetish and fringe sex is an eye opener filled with eroticism and evocation. The book is a celebration of whimsy, passion and the fluidity of desire. There are men bound by rope and leather as they represent the decadence of the hustler sub-culture. The journey the book takes us on is one of aesthetics and of culture as we peek at a world that many desire but cannot have. Castro challenges us with his camera and gives us a gaze unlike any many of us have ever had.

In the forward by the founder of Mr. International Leather, Chuck Renslow, we get a brief explanation of what bondage is and an explanation of bondage photography. He explains that this photography “captures the illusion of the illusion and allows the transfer of sexual stimulation back to the viewer”. There are also a series of essays including one on the Kinsean view of the nature of bondage. Castro’s rich autobiography, written as a chronological list of dates is also included.

Admittedly this is a book that is geared to everyone’s liking and I am sure there are those who will find it offensive. Personally, I am quite “vanilla” but that does not mean that I cannot appreciate what others think and do. I do have the ability to appreciate art even if it represents something I am not particularly fond of. The whole issue of bondage is weird as far as I am concerned but we are a diverse group of people and we should learn to appreciate each other. I have a whole new way of looking at the S/M scene after seeing its beautiful photographic representation by Rick Castro.

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