Introduction to The Bear Sessions

Introduction to The Bear Sessions

A few months ago, I was asked by the artists of a photography project called The Bear Sessions to write an introduction to a collection of their images. Joel Benjamin and John O’Connell have been shooting bears everywhere — creating a series of ursomasculine images — and have started to release their work in several parts in magazine form. The first one, very nicely produced at 70 pages, just came out in time for TBRU.

Here is the front cover (looks like a fun time to me!):

The Bear Sessions cover
The Bear Sessions cover

And here is my introduction:

The Bear Sessions intro
The Bear Sessions intro
by Ron J. Suresha

Expressions of homomasculinity evolve over time, and we perceive these expressions differently over the course of our lives. How we view and exhibit our maleness varies also across oceans, continents, and political borders.

Ultimately, there is something about the mature adult male nude – even in its most modern pop-culture forms – that always hearkens back to classical images of powerful masculine deities, immortalized in statuary and other art.

Ever since the gay and bisexual men’s community called Bears emerged in the late 1980s, its definition by the photowork in Drummer, Bear, American Bear, 100% Beef, and similar magazines has helped to shake up stereotypes of queer masculinity, and to shape gay men’s culture into something broader, if you will, than it was during Stonewall.

In his 2005 Abu Ghraib oil paintings, Colombian artist Fernando Botero depicted the fully mature, bearded male nude as a bound, tortured captive in a terrifyingly vulnerable pose, thus utilizing the naked bearish male form to craft a heartrending political accusation against USA policy of prisoner abuse.

Although the images in The Bear Sessions are far less severe, critical, or figurative, they share with Botero’s art a classic style and subject that represents the big man as he is.

This portfolio features the best of The Bear Sessions to date. The crisp black and white images collected here present their subjects’ maleness up front and center, as a sexual, political, and social identity.

Testosterone rises like wisps of steam from the pages of The Bear Sessions. Whether the subject’s mood is raunchy, romantic, or reflective, there’s no mistaking the homoerotic energy of these fully adult men. These guys are Bears, and these photographs are their moments in our time.


Ron J. Suresha is author or editor of more than ten books, and a three-time Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. His latest work, a coffeetable art book coedited with Scott McGillivray, FUR: THE LOVE OF MEN, received a 2012 Rainbow Book Award in nonfiction. Suresha abides in Western Connecticut with his husbear of 10 years. <>

Introduction © 2013 Ron J. Suresha.

You definitely should check out The Bear Sessions at their Facebook page. Better yet, order their Session 1 collection here. And please let them know how much you like the introduction!