This is the first shoot I have actually done with a stranger. All previous shoots were with friends / acquaintances I had met before and therefore were a lot more forgiving with my requests.
It was also very helpful that he is another man who requires anonymity so this was a real test for this project and my skills as a people-person in enabling him to feel comfortable and confident while attempting to capture the shots I required to speak the narrative for this project.
(Fig. 1) I explained the intent of this project and how I was searching for objects to create a portrait of the person to replace and represent the face they are unable to show. This model of a bull is a very powerful totem and symbol of strength; it brings to mind the Pamplona tradition of the running of the bulls whereby local men would show off their bravado and machismo by running ahead of the bulls and jumping and leaping around them. A sign of hypermasculinity which is interesting to consider when our sexuality means we are often viewed as less masculine in comparison to our heterosexual peers. Having the shutter as f1.8 under very low light means the area of sharp focus is almost non-existent in this shot. But rather than being uncomfortable to the eye it gives a gentle serenity which is mirrored in the bowed head of the figurine.
(Fig. 2) There is an irony in a gay man having a symbol of Catholicism proudly displayed in their home, when organised religion has a long tradition of non-acceptance of our sexuality which continues to this day. We question whether the owner leads a Christian life or how he reconciles his religious beliefs with his sexuality bearing in mind how intolerant the Catholic Church’s teachings are. Or is there a tongue-in-cheek irony in having this icon among his collection of personal possessions?
(Fig. 3) The geometric form of this shot simply pleases me. It has no real symbolism; just a simple form of colour and texture which references abstract painting. The subject did mention the red glow cast by this lamp was suggestive of the red-light district of Amsterdam maybe; in a light-hearted reference to a hedonistic lifestyle. The rich, warm sensuous nature of the image gives a calming feeling to the shot.
(Fig. 4) This is another simple geometric shot, but I get a feeling of monumentalism when regarding the composition. I cannot put my finger on why, but this is my favourite image from the possessions I captured even though there is no symbolism, narrative or meaning. Perhaps this is why I like it so much as it is supreme in its mundane banality.
(Fig. 5) The last light of the evening lights this stained-glass sun-catcher giving its usually vibrant colours a more muted tone. The rainbow has been adopted by the LBGT community as a representation of pride and inclusion. The cooler colour cast in this image adds a more sombre melancholy mood – as if to reflect that the world for the gay community is not always brightly camp and cheerful.
(Fig. 6) Looking for naturalistic ways to create anonymity for my model I also sought to create an intimate atmosphere of sensuality not usually associated with the naked male. I am also seeking to have the threat of the dick still feature in the shot yet in a more subtle way so that it is come across while viewing the image rather than being the very first thing noticed.
I always edit black & white versions of virtually all shots I take & it was when I edited this shot (Fig. 7) the work of Daido Moriyama (Fig. 8) came to mind in his captures of the seemier side of Tokyo during the 1960’s. The B&W high contrast version with added film grain to imitate high ISO film is a completely different shot and adds a more crude earthiness to the narrative. I really like the difference this makes to the shot, but it doesn’t fit with the intent of this project, but I may keep one or two of these shots to add to my website portfolio as they are still strong images in themselves.
(Fig. 9) I have mentioned before my desire to utilise mirrors as a weapon to combat our battle with self-image and the resulting self-worth. In a discussion with this sitter he mentioned struggling most of his life to accept his body shape and is now at an age when he is happier about his looks which brings out a degree of self-confidence that can be far more attractive than any 6-pack. I feel this is a more natural form of retaining his anonymity than the previous shot. There are many signifiers of masculinity about his body and pose which fight against our stereotype of being effeminate, the body-hair, shaved head, broad shoulders and subtly prominent dick portray his place in the patriarchy. While his naked body is surrounded by simple domestic objects that speak of a natural intimate moment as opposed to a studio-created set-up. With the colour cast and simple lighting giving a nod to cinematic style I am pleased with the results of this shot & feel it has captured the mood and intent of the project so far.
(Fig. 10) Had this model not requested anonymity then this is another shot I would have been proud to include in the project. I like the warm tones to the shot and the simple domestic arrangement. His pose is proud and defiant although possibly his blatantly spread legs are a little too suggestively sexual and takes this beyond a naked portrait towards the objectifying nude.