You would think at my age and bearing in mind the subject I am studying, that I would have learnt not to judge a book by its cover?
This subject is one of the few who sent me images of themselves prior to the shoot which was why I was concerned about spending much time in his company let alone what I was going to try to capture. But one rule I set myself at the start of the project was that I would not refuse anyone’s involvement as each person’s opinion and ‘portrait’ are equally valid if I am to broaden the body of work as much as possible. Well a couple of minutes in his company put me to shame for pre-judging him. I am struck by the candour with which these men are willing to open themselves up to me both body and soul…exposing secrets as well as their bare naked flesh to the harsh reality of my camera.
This man was brutally honest and expansive when it came to his interview. He poses an interesting question regarding the age of consent. His first sexual encounters were not long after puberty – around the age of 13 or 14 and he readily admits them to be highly enjoyable. Yet at the time (and even today) they could result in legal proceedings as the other participant was an older man. He asks us to question where we draw the line of paedophilia as he was as complicit in these sexual encounters as the older men – as he says, he was willing and wasn’t pushed into anything against his will. Many would be horrified at these thoughts but again as he says he was endlessly curious and this discovery of different sexualities was another form of curiosity. I can relate to his feelings as I can recall how hormones made me feel at the age of 13 or 14 and had I know of the opportunities then I too would have been searching out the company of older men at that age. Obviously I am not stating a case that child exploitation in any form is acceptable, but merely showing the world is not so black and white.
With his images I am again searching for signifiers of masculinity. If I consider this then it could be true to say I am looking to represent him as the figure of the older man that my teenage self would have been attracted to…looking at muscle tone, taught tendons and body hair that spoke to me of The Male. Trying to find images that provoke a feeling of a sexual encounter and the detail you can only get when the subject allows you to enter their personal space in such an intimate way.