Jim French (photographer)
Jim French (born July 14, 1932) is an American photographer who under the pseudonym Rip Colt created Colt Studio to publish, what were to become, his iconic homoerotic images in the books, magazines and calendars that presented French's work exclusively and set a new standard for idealized masculinity in photography.
French began drawing and photographing male erotica in the 1960s, and his first published book, Man, was in 1972. Other books include Another Man, Jim French Men, Quorum, Opus Deorum, Masc., The Art of Jim French and The Art of the Male Nude.
French was formally trained at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art from 1950 to 1954 and went on active duty in the United States Army in 1955, having been in the reserves for two years prior to his enlisting. He was honorably discharged from the service in 1957. French settled in New York and pursued a successful career in fashion illustration. At the suggestion of an Army contact who had seen some of his early, mostly unpublished homoerotic drawings done under the name Arion, he and French formed a partnership to start a mail order company they named "Luger." This brand was chosen because of the strong suggestions of masculinity associated with the German Luger pistol.
While the Arion drawings had been rather romantic and glamorized sketches of Fire Island life and similar scenes (certainly hinting at the paintings of two of his favorite artists, George Petty and Alberto Vargas), the drawings he began to produce for "Luger" made a considered transition to decidedly more masculine subjects like bikers, cowboys, wrestlers and other familiar macho figures. When his art was featured on the cover and inside several issues of Mars, sales increased dramatically.
Because of legal restraints of the time, the earliest works did not contain frontal nudity but were nonetheless highly erotic and humorously creative in their suggestiveness. He also began offering prints of photographs he had taken as references for his drawings, and these too sold well.
Eventually French’s partner bought out his share of Luger, freeing French and a new partner, Lou Thomas, to establish another business called COLT Studio (again, a reference to a firearm, although before long, this image association was scrapped in favor of a young stallion logo). Having worked for nearly a year to produce the first drawings and photographs to be offered by the new company, Colt was begun in late 1967. Once more the images were offered in sets of prints by mail and the company quickly became successful. But after fifteen years in New York, often traveling to California to take advantage of the weather and abundance of models, French decided to make a permanent move West.
Finally, in 1974 he bought out his partner’s share of the business leaving Lou Thomas to start, briefly, his own company (Target Studio) and French made his home in the Hollywood Hills. From the COLT Studio offices in the San Fernando Valley he continued to run what was the most successful physique photography company since Bob Mizer’s Athletic Model Guild. For thirty-six years COLT Studio offered the singularly iconic, erotic and highly influential photographs for which French has become known worldwide.
French now offers limited edition art prints from his photographic archives.