This is what happens when you shoot two days in a row, then go work at the office for a full day, then come home and edit photos until 11pm. Your judgment gets a bit off. I posted the original version of this headshot with the studio background intact (well, minus a broom handle I cloned out). Looking at it again in the clarity of new morning light, I realized that the background stuff, while cool, was a serious distraction from the goal of the photo – getting you to focus on the model’s face. So I got rid of the background altogether in a remake – What do you think? Much better, no?
I was asked the other day to contribute some images to an exhibit at LOOK3, a photography festival in Charlottesville, Virginia, coming up shortly in June. I decided it was time to troll my negative archives and see what I could find. I came across these images that I had shot probably 15 years ago, maybe more. They were shot on Konica Infrared film, which was rare at the time (they only produced it once or twice a year), and is now defunct. The negatives themselves were pretty dusty, and a couple of them had damage (I was a clumsy darkroom worker when I was younger – what can I say?). Anyway, I thought they were pretty cool, so I scanned them, fixed the flaws, and voila, the results you see below.
The model is an old friend of mine, Jose. Part of the extreme effect you see in the images is due to the fact that he bleached his hair for Halloween, when he threw on some silver shorts, a bit of body glitter and not much else, and then made a big Chinese takeaway box to walk around in that said “Cream of Sum Yung Gai”. That, or maybe “Mi Fook Yu”. It was a clever outfit except for the fact that he could really only wear the box outdoors, it was so clunky. I got him in the studio maybe a week after.
This last one was part of the same shoot, but since the Konica was such slow film (IIRC, it was around ISO 25-50), we decided to play around with movement studies. I think this was about a 2 second exposure. By my current standards of night photography, that’s FAST, but at the time, it was probably the longest shutter speed I’d ever used.
My plan for LOOK3 is to make some digital negatives from these and make platinum prints. Here’s hoping!
As I’ve said before, you can’t really call these images that get sold as “Gay Interest” “gay” because the concept as we know it today didn’t exist in the 19th century. Men have always been physically and emotionally intimate with each other but the concept of two men (or women) living together in an emotionally intimate bonded relationship for life (or at least serially to the exclusion of the opposite sex) is very much a late 20th century concept. They are interesting though because they suggest possibilities – the absolute anonymity of the images leaves open the questions and suggestions to the modern imagination of what might have motivated the sitters to pose together, and particularly in the very openly affectionate and intimate way that they did.
These two men are very affectionate with each other. Their very similar appearance suggests they may be brothers, or they could just be very close friends. Quite possibly they were battlefield friends – the one on the right appears to be wearing a Grand Army of the Republic campaign ribbon. This may well have been taken at a unit reunion in the years following the war – note the photo was taken out of doors, on the grass, in front of a painted backdrop. I’m always interested to find images like this because it says so much more about the sitters than does a strictly studio portrait – there was some event occurring at which they wanted to record and remember their presence, and document their relationship. What was this event? Why use the painted backdrop instead of the landscape scene at the location?
This next image is even more ambiguous than the first one. Obviously from the fashions, a later image (end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century).
Again most likely just three friends, but the possibilities and suggestions are more ripe with potential for a late 20th century interpretation. The most interesting bit is the juxtaposition of the very fashionable dandy with the light suit with the staid middle-class burghers to his right and behind. Who was the dapper dandy, and what was his relationship to these gentlemen? Was he a foreign friend, visiting from overseas? Some exotic celebrity they had the good fortune to corral into posing with them, the 19th century equivalent of the cell-phone snap on the red carpet with a movie star? Certainly, the posing would have largely been the result of the photographer’s efforts to fit all three of them in the frame together, but the contrast between the dandy and the seated burgher couldn’t be more striking than if he were naked.