What is my intent? I am exploring Queer Identity as my broad umbrella theme.
Where is my voice? What am I trying to convey? Am I speaking for myself or for my peer group? Am I giving voice to my subjects? Who is my work aimed at? What do I want to show from my world? Is sexuality important in my work or is it the male in general?
Is my work about the Gay Male Condition; a general feeling or emotional response rather than a specific structured direction?
I have an interest in how our sexuality is intimately tied in with our sexuality; how our sense of self and queer identity relates to ourselves as sexual beings. The heterosexual world has a different set of rules for engagement, but as gay (men in particular) our sense of self seems to be ruled more by our physical look than the spirit within. When looking for potential partners, unfortunately it seems to be the veneer that is initially most important. The gay (and to an increasing extent the straight) media shows us unrealistic body types to aspire to which causes damage to our feelings of self-worth when we are unable to live up to those expectations.
I need to re-read Barthes – in particular what he says about how we perform for the camera; certainly something I have noticed myself when working with people in the past. Do I allow the sitters to act for the camera or try (or wait) and capture something more candid? There is also the issue of representing a minority group – gays are seen as ‘the other’ with all the power differential that involves. I want to de-exoticise and normalise us; something that should be authentic for me to achieve as I am complicit within the group and not approaching as an outsider (and therefore potentially part of the imbalance of power)
Steph suggested I take myself out of my comfort zone (my studio) and enter their comfort zone (their homes) with a view to trying something more editorial rather than the staged visual statements I usually use. Looking at the aesthetics of Wim Wenders and the film stills he took as a photo project while scouting locations for his film Paris, Texas; and also Gregory Crewdson’s mix of tungsten and daylight to give a cinematic effect. With this style of aesthetic I would be elevating the sitters to the position of film stars which is hugely complimentary to their self-worth. However I also like the bleached black & white aesthetic of Cig Harvey which neutralises the subject without the distraction of colour and gives a more classical look. I need to try different lighting and colour styles to find which best suits the message. Every aesthetic choice should be justified and not simply used as a gimmick because I like it.
Looking at Catherine Opie’s 700 Nimes Road, Kaylynn Deveney’s The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hasting, Christopher Nunn’s Falling Into The Day and Rinko Kawauchi’s serene images. Thinking about how to portray a person’s character (portrait in other words) through possessions and domestic still lifes – “surrounded by the little things that reassure, that reflect you” Marc Almond. Bringing in Sontag’s opinion that photography beautifies and bestows importance upon whatever is captured. And as Wolfgang Tillman’s reiterates the personal is political and therefore can be significant and noble.
Wolfgang Tillmans “I always try to resist the viewer’s appetite for explanation. That’s what happens with photography – the viewer wants to know how, when, what, where. I look at pictures as pictures. When you look at paintings you don’t ask these questions, you just accept that this is the vignette or situation you’re given. That’s very much how I see my pictures. I want to keep those questions out so that it doesn’t matter if it’s staged or not.” (In Hammer)
My intent now is to build a narrative of a person (we all have many tales to tell) through a selection of shots, some personal possessions, some environment – hunting for signs & symbols that signify. Maybe focusing on bedrooms with traces of intimacy / loneliness (think Felix Gonzalez-Torres) to reflect the intimate relationship between subject & photographer. Experiment with light, colour casts, black & white, angles and depth-of-field to see what works best.
Barthes, R. Camera Lucida (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981)
Sontag, S. On Photography (New York: Penguin Books, 1977)
Hammer M. The Naked Portrait, (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland Press, 2007)
Almond, M. and Ball, D. (1983) Barriers. London: Some Bizarre.