For my continuing exploration I am drawing influence from a quote by Jeff Wall “take away the verbal description…you get into the pure picture then you have to relate to it like a poem”. If we look at the serenely delicate images of Rinko Kawauchi it puts you in mind of visual poems much like Japanese Haiku that are short, simple yet deeply spiritual, often comprising just two elements. I want to use visual poetry to combat our reputation (as gay men) of being dirty little perverts. I have said before that I want to normalise how we are viewed and to de-exoticise the queer ‘other’. We are vilified for who we love, which presumably boils down to the ‘disgusting things’ we do in bed. I want to use personal objects as traces to create a diary of other things that hopefully build up a portrait of us as ‘just like you’ (or Good As You which there is a theory GAY stands for).
Alfred Stieglitz describes a portrait as “…not just one picture…would be a photographic diary” built up of a body of images rather than one single moment. After all we are complex beings whose minds and interests flit among many different influences. Taking myself out of my own comfort zone of studio work that is staged and carefully lit; I want to visit my subjects safe spaces (their homes) and work with available light to create a small portrait of those “little things that reassure; that reflect you.” (Marc Almond). I do not want to let go of my nude work so I shall combine these harmless still lives with some gentle naked portraits to show we are not monsters to be scared of.
The naked portrait is a means of payment for the model’s time and patience for being involved with my project. It is also a way to fight against the unrealistic body-image the media seems to think we should subscribe to. I respect the work of Adam Moco & Jean Mailloux who’s intimate domestic portraits of ‘Real’ men are beautiful reactions to the modern worship of youth or Adonis.
My intention is to try to work with a mirror for these nudes for while Sontag says we ‘may fear the camera’s disapproval’ we also fear what the mirror shows us when we dare to glance at its representation of our physical form; so I would like to ease that fear and give back some self-confidence for those that are brave enough to expose their physical and often spiritual selves for me.
So far I have not had the time or models to try out this new approach on another. In order to see what works and to try some ideas I have done some test shots around my own home. The results you can see below along with a condensed contact sheet of things that didn’t work. I would rather not de-code these too deeply as a) I am too involved and it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees & b) I would rather there some degree of ambiguity (which is a concept I have used in the past and think it could be effective for this project). I have noticed however they do have a degree of melancholy which aptly reflects my personality. This is something I shall have to watch when I try the real thing on another as I want their character to come across. I shouldn’t impose my version of who they are upon them. I hope at the time to reflect some degree of intimacy of the collaboration between myself and model. I want to represent the respect and admiration I feel for them for if can create an image that stirs my heart then I hope this will stir others.
Jeff Wall Pictures Like Poems [online] available at https://vimeo.com/123074890 (accessed 7th March 2017)
Alfred Stieglitz [online] available at http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/271570 (accessed 7th March 2017)
Almond, M. and Ball, D. (1983) Barriers. London: Some Bizarre.
Sontag, S. On Photography (New York: Penguin Books, 1977)