n e w f l e s h
Written by Efrem Zelony-Mindell
“Chapter 1: I Am Born
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born…”
-Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Photography has a sexual prowess. There’s an intrigue between the camera, the body, and the viewer. There’s a lot of photography that might give the impression that one’s body leads to sexuality and is integral to their gender and identity. Sure. But then there’s this flood of nudity and genitalia coupled with that photography. It’s social; it’s pornographic; it’s fine art.
There’s a roar of interest in gender, identity and queerness and the study of these subjects. It’s often exemplified by a kind of idealized sexuality. The body gets in the way. What’s behind that flesh? A person is not the sum of their genitals and their sexuality, nor is their gender and identity. A person is a whole wonderful thing. So capable—of anything—it’s not assigned. It’s not dictated or intentional. Behind that skin is more than a man or a woman. There’s a person – a human – full of so many parts, feelings, and ideas. Photography can abet the forming of these personal characteristics. The camera is a crafty thing; it is dangerous and intelligent in the hands of hungry and humbled makers. The self is not nearly as solid and definitive as it is pliant, abstracted and ephemeral. Queer is about acknowledging that state of possibility.
It becomes intimate. If you’ll have it.
Stripping the body of titles and forgetting about the specific parts so as to see the sort of effervescence behind might lead to a path of equality and inclusivity. That’s the hope. These photographs enclasp that desire to wander from the straight and narrow. They release the physical body and craft a broad-pressed intent. They have many things in common; homosexuality is not one of them. And yet they are totally queer. They alter the state of reality and document a kind of coming into identity. They allow for imperfections and unfamiliarity. There’s a cleansing ability of clarity in that uncertainty.
The works ascend peculiarity; they do have that in common.
Photography can be as much about constructed image as it is about the story it communicates. First impressions of these works may seem to lack identity. The truth is identity hasn’t been removed; it’s looking to be filled. Familiar features are obliterated. The magic of an effaced human is present. These images create often-virulent creatures, where as others try to reveal identity and study personal history through adornments, personal effects, and iconography. There is an aesthetic of confusion, wonder, and possibility. These images are as gestural as they are irreverent. The disorder and obscurity of a once familiar body plays on the desire to understand. The only way to craft an identity is to realize that you don’t know who you are. But you want to. These works are about the drive to know thy-self.
These photographers are crafting photographs as much as they are constructing precise architecture. They feed their images literal parts and flat pieces. Many use objects that have mass and surface allowing for shadows to be cast from disrupted light that pierce the point of vision. These objects are used in such a way that allows the images to be out of context with reality, but not totally out of remove. There are no illusions except the ones in a viewer’s head. They are quite literally parts in front of the camera. There’s a kind of touch captured in these frames. Different parts interacting; they don’t move - it’s a still image - but they’ve been allowed choreography. There is an intricate supporting structure of position to each composition.
The images are assemblies of objects - sculptural and intermixed - that bend and protrude in queer and peculiar ways. They become otherly and one loses sight of separation and differentiation. The works are performers - players on a stage of reinterpretation. The photographers are questioning the materials they photograph, both where the objects come from and what meanings they hold. The focus is rich and dripping with social, cultural, and economic meanings. It’s these photographs’ novelty that creates their sense of time and the composition of the image that allows them to transition into totally new objects.
What can be seen is temporary.
These images build new realities from fragments; they are beyond repugnant but rejuvenated in perception. They are a mass of vertiginous contradictions. That quality allows them to become truly queer in their humanity. Facts are held by individuals - but they are not simply their selves. We are learning to see. There’s a place inside each of us where we know nothing - there’s no telling what happens there. We are becoming ourselves, and everything’s equal. The body’s potential exists beyond its conventions. These photographs act as a pathway to illuminating manipulation; they create a new reflection so that we may see them for what they could become. The photographs are of a new flesh, they will expose that truth can no longer be finalized.