Reflections Mod3 Week3

Prior to this MA I guess my work was very self contained. While I obviously did work with others I had a very distinct aim in mind for what I wanted to achieve. Invariably they went away with images they could use for their own personal use yet my priority was in capturing the shots I needed. During the development of this project however I came to realise their collaboration was becoming more essential to the body of work – to the extend indeed that I now think of the project as a voice for the subjects as much as it is a body of work for myself. I have always listened and been interested in the tales my models have to tell – not only is it a wonderful way to connect with and empathise with your subject but of course it helps them to relax in front of the camera so we can get more natural shots. But with this MA to consider it enables me to explain my motivations so that they can feel more involved, yet invariably they also feed back to me some snippet, phrase, point of view or piece of experience which brings greater depth to the narrative I am exploring and atmosphere I wish to capture.
Without exception every subject that has been involved so far did not consider themselves photogenic (I know people that do see themselves that way are rare anyway) so something I wanted to tie-in with the project was a sense of empowerment. As gay men the majority of us have grown up with negative views of us in the press and it has only recently begun to change…however for many this is too little too late…the dye is cast and the damage done. I keep returning to this quote by Aydian Dowling “The feeling of having to hide, or cover up yourself, can be very traumatising to one’s feeling of self worth.” So for a large part of this project I encourage the subject not to hide, but to deliberately and blatantly reveal all in an act of defiance for those years of suppression. Of course they cannot actually reveal all as invariably anonymity is required by my models when I arrange these shoots as they are rarely in a position to be able to show their face in conjunction with their naked body.
When it comes to the ethics of looking and representation; and in particular representing the ‘other’ I have to be very aware of the usual power imbalance inherent in this kind of image making. There is a tendency to either exoticise or patronise any kind of minority; whether they be ethnic, religious, sexual or differently abled. I have to ensure that my representations empower simply through their normalisation rather than seeing them as the ‘other’ – whenever the ‘other’ is mentioned there is automatically a comparison with the norm and the implication that this is somehow better than the ‘abnormal’. I think; I hope that my being part of this minority enables my work to come from a more stable standpoint in that the issues that affect my subjects are the self same issues I have experienced. If I exploit my subjects then I hope they are complicit in that exploitation and they fully understand my reasoning and intent. And as mentioned earlier I hope this project gives back to them something more worthy than the time they are kind enough to grant me.

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