This subject asked me to explain my intent and to see some examples of the project so far. He then returned to me some interesting insights.
Masks as Fetishistic Objects (in particular exoticised ‘primitive’ cultures) and the mask of sexuality giving power; the fetishism of gay tribes (bear, twink, skinhead, leather) and how these can be put-on or taken-off at will & how nakedness equalises. How as the minority we are, that we are defined by external things (clothes, hair, accessories, fashion objects). One of the Ancient Greek myths about werewolves was that is was an active choice to become one. You’d take off your clothes, piss around them and then cross a river to become a werewolf. To change back, you’d cross the river again and get dressed. Like taking off and putting on a mask, no?
The intimacy of being photographed naked in a private space; staying private by exposing their ‘privates’ but being forced to keep their ‘publics’ hidden (their face)
“I think a lot has changed in my lifetime, but that the veneer of acceptability is still pretty thin. I think gays are accepted as long as they fit in with the mainstream of society”
(Fig. 1) – This ‘object’ was pointed out to me by the sitter. It ties in nicely with the Cardboard Project shot I did earlier in the year Link
And obviously it is a nicely literal symbol for the feelings of many LGBT folk. I am concerned, though that it is too obvious and the text too literal to be included into a body of work whereby I am actively seeking out ambiguity, serenity & poetically mundane banality.
(Fig. 2) – An obscure angle of a piece of clothing that this subject is often seen wearing. I was intrigued by the shape forming a cave-like opening drawing the eyes in to discover what lies within. The composition also reminded me of an internal view of the throat so we also have a rather unsubtle referent to our sexual activities as gay men. Comparing this with other shots I have captured I feel it does not have enough strength to make the final edit.
(Fig. 3) – Here we have the colour palette of this project coming to the forefront again. I seem to be drawn to these pastel hues of indigo and blue. Like a rock-face this tower of linoleum offcuts challenges us to climb. As a metaphor for the challenges we still face as a minority. Only today I read of a young Irish man who left his country due to homophobic attacks (Brown, Rakusen 2017) so there is still a battle left to fight before our sexuality becomes as banal as these little vignettes I am capturing.
(Fig. 4) – Again it was the vibrant colours that drew me to this composition. Possibly deliberately an attempt to steer away from the blues I am usually drawn to. The violent pink & plasticity of the form brought to mind latex as a fetish item and the Gimp culture that (while not exclusively gay) is a misunderstood form of sexuality. I also see the plasticity as a comment on the shallowness of current media representations where ‘all surface & no meaning’ seems to be the altar we worship at.
(Fig. 5 & Fig. 6) – I need to decide which of this pair I like more. Indicators of the subjects mode of artistry I am drawn to the regimented lines and chaotic scattered shavings that juxtapose. The grids are reminiscent of Physiognomy & Anthropometric Photography of the mid-Victorian era which attempted to compartmentalise the physical races of man with the resulting power-imbalance that creates. It hints at little pigeon-holes that society likes to place us within, whereas what we really are is the chaos that cannot be tamed – real people are not black & white and all the colours of the rainbow make for a much more vibrant life.
(Fig. 7) – This is supreme in it’s banality. It says nothing – just bands of calming indigo blue. As I am searching for these simple compositions to mirror and comment upon the shock values of the naked male body this is a good representation. There is little additional narrative except its symbol of the physical closed blinds shutting out the hostile world and allowing the naked form freedom in his comfort.
(Fig. 8) – I like the muted dark cinematic colour palette of this shot. It carries a distinctly voyeuristic feel as we stand unseen at the door to this man’s bedroom. There are objects within to catch the eye and inform and intrigue. While he is no Adonis, his relaxed open pose declares an acceptance and no shame in his body – this is a relaxed proud naked man. I need to see this image printed in comparison to a couple of others as the busyness of the room is a little distracting to my taste – yet there is so much that I like about the composition that possibly it is still stronger than the more simple shots I also took.
(Fig. 9 & Fig. 10) – Two very similar shots but each with its benefits of composition. The first I really like because of its simplicity and jarring angle. I also like the fact that his manhood is a minor part in the scene and not so blatant. I like the grain & colour palette of both shots and the gentle warmth that calms down any seediness at seeing the male nude in all his glory. For the second shot I like the addition of the print in the background. An image within an image with it’s own narrative to bring to the scene. The dog leaping out of it’s own frame adds a gentle humour which counteracts the more blatant positioning of his genitals. Comparing the three naked portraits I change my mind on a daily basis as to which I prefer. I shall leave to forget them temporarily so I can return to them in the hope that fresh eyes will explain my preference.