“to photograph people is to violate them by seeing them as they have never seen themselves, having knowledge of them they can never have. It turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. “ (Susan Sontag; On Photography. Harpenden: Penguin. 1979, p.14)
With such a sensitive subject as I have chosen for this Final Major Project I return again to consider Ethics and morals (of looking / of capturing / of representation). There is always inherently a power relationship between photographer & subject and I need to ensure the participants are aware the power does not lie wholly with me. My intent is to challenge a stereotype from a more tender perspective. These Bisexual married men are on the fringes of society…neither accepted by the Gay world nor the heteronormative. Their place in the world is shaped by culture / society / patriarchy so little wonder they are anxious over identity and the ethics of their representation.
For my part I wish to act as their confessional; my intent is to be non-judgemental and approach the subject in a more neutral way. Asking the viewer to pose the questions of what constitutes a taboo? Scopophylia? / Voyeurism? / Fetishisation? / Exhibitionism? And question their own judgmental standpoint.
As part of a historically excluded group I have the advantage of understanding; no pejorative ‘Daily Mail’ readership opinions from me. I merely bear witness and ensure they are not photographed in a compromising way.
I have trouble with finding models as these men have an extremely small window of opportunity to get their needs fulfilled so they do not have the time to spare for inconsequential interviews…their priority and need is to gain satisfaction as they do not know when they may have the opportunity again. So very often they are looking for what might occur during / after / instead of a photoshoot. I can tempt them with the payment of good quality ‘boudoir’ photographs which may help increase their chances for these random encounters, but still many decline when they realise a photoshoot is all that is on offer.
They are hostile & sceptical of the camera & my project (they don’t want or need validation for their ‘dirty little secret’). And would rather be left in peace to enjoy without having to psychoanalyse why they do what they do. Also the fear of identification & having their face discovered on the internet with the potential damage that could cause to home life or career puts the majority of participants off the idea from the outset.
In this age of Toxic Masculinity I am very aware this self-same toxicity is as poisonous to a large group of the male population as it is to females & minorities. So it is understandable many men are reticent about the thought of what my project represents.
So I have a huge responsibility to ensure the end body of work is a worthy one and there is no disparity between intention and results.