Along with Lon of New York, Bruce of Los Angeles, and Bob Mizer of Athletic Model Guild, John Palatinus helped create a new genre of male photography. Palatinus’ models often appeared solo in nonsexual poses. In 1959 he was investigated by the U.S. Postal Service and police, who raided his New York City apartment and studio. Accused of sending explicit photos through the mail, a criminal offense, he was arrested and put on trial in 1961.
Born July 6, 1929, Palatinus grew up in Indiana. He served during the Korean War with the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers in the south of France. It was after his military service in 1954 that he began photographing male bodybuilders, who were usually friends who wanted to document their bodybuilding progress. Early on, he said he realized the images had a “certain amount of art in there.”
“When I was in court in 1959, the judge said: ‘by today’s standards it is considered pornography but who knows? In 50 years’ time it may be considered art’ and that really is true.”
After a decades-long hiatus, Palatinus began showing his work again in 2009. It was greeted with enthusiasm from galleries and festivals. His photographs were featured in exhibitions from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Paris and Berlin, and published in numerous magazines.