“When one, anyone, tries to represent someone else, to ‘take their picture’ or ‘tell their story’, they run headlong into a minefield of real political problems. The first question is: what right have i to represent you?” (Levi Strauss, 2003, p.8). Being as this is a personal project I feel it has more authenticity than photographing ‘the other’ as an outsider.
Surely by the very fact we work with photography, which is one of the foremost forms of visual communication, then everything we do has a message. But I struggle to pin mine down to a nice little sound-bite. I am exploring the human condition and how it applies specifically to the minority that are gay men. I hope it could be seen as empowering by offering a different set of role-models to the usual stereotypes seen in the mass-media. And by reacting to those stereotypes I am also trying to normalise and de-exoticise how we are seen by the heteronormative majority. There are the additional threads of rebellion against the Adonis iconography that the media feels we should live-up to “We are shaped and fashioned and educated, not by our experiences, but by representation within media” (Chandler, 2007, p.81). As well as an attempt to combat phallophobia (these are not unique to the gay community, but apply to the male population in general.)
Those of us of a certain age have grown up under a cloud of disapproval by the media and it is only recently that we are becoming visible as a minority. But visibility does not necessarily equate to acceptance (Scholder, 1995, p.181) and over the years the damage has been done and set in the bone. I hope that being part of this collaboratory project will help to give back a little measure of self-worth to combat all those years of derogatory depictions. By showing the shocking banality and aesthetic mundanety of normal gay life I intent to give a positive role-model to the younger generation. As well as combat the stereotype in the media of us being superficial and hedonistic with the use of this gentle velvet subversion. The naked portrait will, I hope, help to show that you should not have to subscribe to an unrealistic body image to be considered attractive and I hope to tone-down the shock value of seeing a naked man – it still beggars belief that the nude male is still considered taboo and you could almost consider this a form of body shaming “People see a dick and freak out.” “Naked men make people much more uncomfortable than naked women.” (Miner, 2013)
When it comes to disseminating the finished project I do not want to rely just upon the gay media and gay community. My preference would be to reach as wide an audience as possible. After all; what is the point of preaching to the converted? How I go about this is yet to be cemented. Initially the way the project runs it would appear to be best suited to a book format – yet there is a dearth of self-published photography books out there so i would be liable to be a little fish in a very big pond. I suspect I shall rely upon as many forms of display as possible; competitions, joint exhibitions, social media, collaboratory zines etc. There is a spark in the back of my mind that keeps making me consider how Wolfgang Tillmans created his displays when his work was exhibited – a mixture of different size images splatter-gunned across the wall in a seemingly haphazard way which enabled the images to create their own narrative with each-other; each time I consider this it is more and more appealing. This would also enable me to invite the collaborators to a private show in order to show my appreciation for their time and also a chance to network in a county with little in the way of support mechanism for the gay community.
Blake, N. Rinder, L & Scholder, A. (1995) In a Different Light: Visual Culture, Sexual Identity, Queer Practice San Francisco: City Lights Books
Chandler, Daniel (2007) Semiotics: The Basics London: Routledge
Levi Strauss, David (2003) Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography & Politics New York: Aperture
Miner, P. (2013) Ryan Pfluger on His Encounter With Fred Phelps and Hooking Up With Guys via Photography The Huffington Post [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/phillip-m-miner/ryan-pfluger_b_4142621.html [accessed 31st Mar. 2017]