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Two guys in a hotel room. Then in another hotel room
January 28, 2009 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Two guys in a hotel room. Then in another hotel room. Photographer Richard Renaldi (blog) documents the global travels he and his partner Seth have made over the years. His organizing device? Hotel rooms (and motel rooms and wicker shanties). (Some nudity and sexuality; some photos NSFW.)

Renaldi has done commercial work for Microsoft ad campaigns, is the subject of an academic-style monograph, and has just self-published a new book.

Previous Renaldïsm on MeFi: “Touching Strangers” (second mention).

(Renaldi is giving a lecture in New York on 2009.02.23.)
posted by joeclark (63 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
So who took all the photos?
posted by Lotto at 2:00 PM on January 28, 2009


Boy, these guys sure get around.




Um, Lotto, at least read the post heading.
posted by captainsohler at 2:11 PM on January 28, 2009


Press Release:
We regret to inform you that, due to severe sponsor cutbacks, this sequel to "Where the Hell is Matt" contains no music, dancing, nor native participants. We've included several flattering bum shots, however.
posted by terranova at 2:26 PM on January 28, 2009


I think that Lotto's comment was a joke, because Renaldi is *in* the photos and is also the *photographer*.
posted by mecran01 at 2:27 PM on January 28, 2009


The Wicker Shanties is a good band name.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:31 PM on January 28, 2009


Boyzone
posted by Optamystic at 2:32 PM on January 28, 2009


Some really beautiful portraits in there. But so serious all the time!
posted by yiftach at 2:50 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hawt, sure, but not interesting as a photographic project (and not explicit enough to be porn...the other kind of interesting!). I feel like I've seen better photo/video projects about casual, everyday intimacy, and the "look! privileged gay white men stay in expensive hotels and look pensive!" sort of grates on me.

Still, I'd hit that [NOT BOYZONE-IST].
posted by LMGM at 2:57 PM on January 28, 2009


I think the “affectionate” angle is what makes it work for me. Now, if the two lads weren’t as attractive but were just as affectionate, it probably wouldn’t work, I grant you.

Also, congrats, LMGM, on trotting out the “privileged” angle. Actually, I think Renaldi worked for what he got.
posted by joeclark at 3:02 PM on January 28, 2009


Ah, the busy lives of those who do gay as a profession!
posted by troybob at 3:07 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, the busy lives of those who do gay as a profession!

Gay for pay?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:09 PM on January 28, 2009


These are my least-favorite of Richard's photos, actually, though I like the conceptual premise. (I can only say that because I love love love the rest of his work.) The Fall River series is FANTASTIC. But the Fresno/Newark series is absolutely A++. (That last is sort of a self-link; I was briefly privileged to be one of his dealers.) And the boys certainly do get around, don't they!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:09 PM on January 28, 2009


I love the one on the train - so lovely and romantic.

on preview thanks for the link to fall river and fresno/newark RJ Reynolds!
posted by dog food sugar at 3:12 PM on January 28, 2009


Cute couple, but hate the tats. Hate tats in general. But very cute.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:19 PM on January 28, 2009


Gay for pay?

Not necessarily; just the guys (we all know them, amirite?) whose career is homosexuality. [extended snarkiness redacted; they're cute, though]
posted by troybob at 3:24 PM on January 28, 2009


These are also my least favorite photos of Renaldi's, although it is kind of a cute project. Here is a really good interview that was just posted a few days ago on a site for emerging professional photogs where he talks about his work, publishing, and the photo industry in general.
posted by bradbane at 3:27 PM on January 28, 2009


NSFP. This officially satisfies my manlove fetish for the day. oooooo My, does it. Thank you for the post joeclark, you are one helluva enabler.
posted by psylosyren at 3:30 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


the "look! privileged gay white men stay in expensive hotels and look pensive!" sort of grates on me

To a degree, I would agree with you. If there wasn't the gay angle, these would be the holiday snaps of any European couple doing the banal tourist dance of the well-to-do. Perhaps that's the point, on some level. They are a cute couple and certainly easy on the eyes. I don't know if it is worth taking much more from the photos than that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:36 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, congrats, LMGM, on trotting out the “privileged” angle. Actually, I think Renaldi worked for what he got.

I'm sorry if that messes with your aesthetic experience, but I think the angle is pertinent. Most of my life, I've lived in urban areas where there is a palpable divide between gay men that can live within homonormativity (i.e., the normative notion of "the good life" in a gay context) and those that can only live in its shadow and manage that distance with a mixture of aspiration and frustration. So, when I click through the whole slide show, I see healthy, fair-skinned, conventionally-attractive, well-groomed men documenting a life of world-wide travel that includes exclusive, expensive locales. So I see that, it highlights some difficult contrasts with the realities of gay urban life for some, and it grates on me. It's my reading of the project coming from my perspective of what is possible for some but not for others, which I think merits more than dismissive snark.

And I don't think that privilege and hard work are mutually exclusive. Lots of people work hard to accrue and secure the sorts of advantages that sediment into privilege over time. As I understand it, the definition of privilege is the kind of social/economic advantage that is normally invisible to the person that benefits from it. Pointing out privilege doesn't have to be an ad hominem attack or anything; it can just be a reminder that inequalities can easily recede into invisibility.
posted by LMGM at 3:46 PM on January 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


the "look! privileged gay white men stay in expensive hotels and look pensive!" sort of grates on me

Photographers travel a lot and Renaldi isn't the first to do a series of hotel room images. I actually think Noah Kalina's view series is a lot better and a lot more interesting than these, but he's still a privileged white dude so I don't know if that will ruin it for you or not.
posted by bradbane at 3:46 PM on January 28, 2009


Some of those photos were really beautiful in their sweetness and love.
posted by cavalier at 3:49 PM on January 28, 2009


And I think their sweetness is actually increased when the surrounding shots are, for lack of a better word, so stone faced serious.
posted by cavalier at 3:50 PM on January 28, 2009


...and those that can only live in its shadow and manage that distance with a mixture of aspiration and frustration.

Trust me, spend a weekend while one guy runs his shirt eight times through the laundry to give it the perfect worn look for a party where it will stay on for all of five minutes, while the other guy goes on incessantly about why it's not a good idea to invite Vanessa and Derek to the same brunch, and you might get some idea of why these guys aren't smiling.
posted by troybob at 3:54 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So what is interesting here? Chelsea gays in hotel rooms.
YAWN. and I am an out fag who is so tired of this endlessly processed commodified reflexive white muscle gay male bull shit.
And as a photographer it's pretty average. 30 years of viewing photographs and I don't see much beyond basic commercial work here.
how about something interesting and gay? Joey Arias, gay folks doing some community service, gay men doing something other than the same old, same old, steroids and circuit fluff?
posted by hooptycritter at 4:06 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't particularly like the studied pensive posing in some of the shots, either, but I'm not sure what the alternative to their looking pensive would be -- other than something even more stereotypical, I suppose.
posted by blucevalo at 4:10 PM on January 28, 2009


It's Siena. Sienna is a crayon and a minivan.
posted by Zambrano at 4:25 PM on January 28, 2009


They are Greenwich Village gays.
posted by joeclark at 4:29 PM on January 28, 2009


"privileged gay white men" is the new, "it's just jungle music".
posted by rodgerd at 4:39 PM on January 28, 2009


The studied poses and looks make them look like advertisements and therefore vaguely... dishonest, or perhaps corny.
posted by xmutex at 4:40 PM on January 28, 2009


...endlessly processed commodified ...

Yeah, that's why
these are the
best
gay dudes
ever.
posted by troybob at 5:09 PM on January 28, 2009


The Great Plains series elsewhere on the site has some nice stuff in it. Bookmarking for later exploration.
posted by gimonca at 5:38 PM on January 28, 2009


I look at this shot and I imagine they just got tired of explaining to the clueless front desk manager why two guys would want one big bed instead of twin beds.
posted by micketymoc at 5:43 PM on January 28, 2009


Sorry, I'm a bad person, but I can't get worked up about two hot guys traveling around the world doing seemingly nothing but have sex and take photographs of thier beautful hotel rooms while I'm hunked down on my 3rd day of no human contact trying to finish The Fucking Book before my publisher shits out his lower intestine.
posted by The Whelk at 5:52 PM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's hard not to come to the conclusion that they're both narcissists when they look so much like each other.

"OMG, UR HOT"

"OMG, IM HOT"
posted by unSane at 6:01 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have a lot of photos of me pointing at things like a dumb tourist all over the world. I should start a blog.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 6:04 PM on January 28, 2009


In short, the pictures make me kinda of hate them.
posted by The Whelk at 6:07 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


*rattles knife around in empty jar*

sigh

you know, a sandwich just isnt a sandwich without miracle whip.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:13 PM on January 28, 2009


I think its more about how this couple is being defined by their temporary environment, the one place on their travels abroad where they are perhaps afforded the luxury of being themselves. I would imagine that most gay couples that travel the country keep their sexuality on the down low when in public.
posted by cazoo at 6:23 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't really see the point here - I found it kind of dull. Meaning I started looking at the surroundings rather than any portrait aspect of these shots.

There was no interaction with anything else (ditto the pseudo-serious aspect noted above). It would have been interesting had these two people been staring at something other than the camera or each other.

The other links to this photographers' work were fantastic, though and far more intriguing as subjects.

This post makes me want to take pics of myself getting up from bed every morning and standing at the window of my living room to see if it means anything to anyone else.

Takers?
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:26 PM on January 28, 2009


Takers?

/* raises hand */
posted by unSane at 7:00 PM on January 28, 2009


I'm not sure, but I think one of them was wearing jean shorts in a photo. Not cut-offs, but my perceptions of all jean shorts are officially ruined, because all I can think is "never-nude."
posted by mmmleaf at 7:00 PM on January 28, 2009


What I learned from this is that hotels in Namibia are much nicer than I would have expected.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:26 PM on January 28, 2009


They look in love. I like pictures of that.
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:12 PM on January 28, 2009


I don’t buy the overprivileged-gay-lifestyle business. Underprivileged gays can express themselves online for free in many ways, as by starting a blog at the library. These two lads are not doing anything out of the ordinary by publishing photos of themselves. And complaining they’re (“Chelsea”) white guys is essentially blaming them for being themselves. I assume the photo series would be more valid if it came from two MTF lesbians in wheelchairs. Really, the argument is that stupid.

Having dealt with the following problem quite a bit over the last 20-odd years, I suspect this is a recurrence of straight-guy critics finding something, anything, to complain about when confronted with gay guys who aren’t just gay on paper but really bodily gay for each other. Bruce LaBruce would say that is an understandable biological reaction to homosexualism. OK, fine, but get over it.

I just see two attactive, serious lads who love each other and, over the years, developed a sequence of photographs that show them together – sometimes in separate beds, sometimes touching, sometimes nude. (There’s another BigMuscle profile that I can’t find now one of whose photos is captioned “Homage to Richard Renaldi – but where is my Seth?” Indeed where?)

I have a fondness for quixotic, highly repetitive photo projects. I completed two and am working on a third myself (as seen on my Flickr). I also have a weakness for seemingly dull photography – I own all three Boring Postcards books and insist that, if you read them cover to cover, they actually tell a story. (I’m not much of a fan of Martin Parr otherwise, though, so I guess that makes me the opposite of many commenters here, who don’t like the hotel series but love some of Renaldi’s other work.)

I put a lot of thought into this posting and it isn’t here because it’s two hot guys or anything so lame-o. I can see it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it doesn’t have to be, and if you feel that way, are you really sure you know why?
posted by joeclark at 9:57 PM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've often wondered at why, when I hear prejudiced people talk about gay men, there's a palpable undercurrent of fear in their voices. Not just the expected visceral 'ick' factor, but actual fear. I've tried to find explanations of it in that we violate their social norms, or their religion, but it doesn't explain the severity or depth of that fear.

Looking at these pictures, though, I begin to understand it.

The traditional male/female couple is cast, in the primitive mind of prejudiced people, as a male supporting and defending the female and the progeny. The male has taken on responsibilities that keep him focused on the defensive, and which keep him from agressively enforcing his will upon the world.

Looking at these photos, I see two strong men, in an incredibly strong alliance built on love, and therefore trust; an alliance that's deeper than most straight men would ever be able to cultivate with one another. Just lying there, looking stoic (or vaguely annoyed, it's hard to tell) these men give the impression that they're competent, confident, and powerful... and that their bond magnifies that power.

I can see where someone weak enough to buy into prejudice would consider that frightening.

(Me, I just think they're hot, if a little too self-involved and overly gym-buffed.)
posted by MrVisible at 10:09 PM on January 28, 2009


What amazed me was that they actually stayed at a hotel in Ironwood, Michigan. This goes strongly against any notion of their only staying in premium hotels. That ain't Ironwood's best, I can assure you. It isn't even second best.

As for the guys themselves, not hot. Just totally boring clones.
posted by Goofyy at 12:26 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suspect this is a recurrence of straight-guy critics...

I can appreciate that you put time and feeling into this post (especially as someone who doesn't do FPPs because I suck at it). But don't put it on the straight-guy thing for why people are criticizing it. The main link here is a photo essay; it is designed to elicit some kind of reaction from the viewer (or, ostensibly, it would not be presented). Some people are going to comment on it from an artistic viewpoint (a language I don't speak), and some will take a more gut-based approach to it. But you can't put it out there and then dismiss interpretation and criticism, which are personal, as invalid.

As a gay man in love with my husband of 16 years, and as someone who is not a fan of the gym-going, chest-shaving, status-conscious gay culture that is often presented as some kind of gay ideal, I found the photos emotionally cold. Maybe that was an intention; there are commonalities between the photos that make it seem so. Maybe it's as simple as the fact that they don't seem to actually look at each other; their faces are blank stares; their bodies often seem self-consciously posed. To me, it reads that they exist to be looked upon, like underwear models. Maybe the photos don't say anything about their relationship; maybe they don't intend to. And it's not necessarily a gay thing; if these were pictures of male-female couples with the same expressions and poses, I imagine my reaction would be the same: photos of people I probably wouldn't want to know, who likely wouldn't want to know me, and who might not even know each other. It's not a reflection on who they are as people or what their actual feelings are; just that the photos, as presented, don't really make me care about them; in fact, I'm kinda frustrated that I don't.

But again, I don't know crap about photography. I think amateur porn (and Bruce LaBruce, by the way, whom I've loved for many years) is a whole lot better than pro stuff. I think Herb Ritts photos should be burned in the town square as anti-erotic; when I see them I feel the urge to have an anti-climax.
posted by troybob at 1:11 AM on January 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don’t buy the overprivileged-gay-lifestyle business. Underprivileged gays can express themselves online for free in many ways, as by starting a blog at the library. These two lads are not doing anything out of the ordinary by publishing photos of themselves. And complaining they’re (“Chelsea”) white guys is essentially blaming them for being themselves. I assume the photo series would be more valid if it came from two MTF lesbians in wheelchairs. Really, the argument is that stupid.

I call strawman on that argument; I was never arguing that having a blog is an index of privilege (although, in a global context, there is still a lot to be said for the technological divide).

Having dealt with the following problem quite a bit over the last 20-odd years, I suspect this is a recurrence of straight-guy critics finding something, anything, to complain about when confronted with gay guys who aren’t just gay on paper but really bodily gay for each other. Bruce LaBruce would say that is an understandable biological reaction to homosexualism. OK, fine, but get over it.[...]I can see it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it doesn’t have to be, and if you feel that way, are you really sure you know why?

Well, seeing as I have teh gay, I don't see myself as a straight-guy critic, but maybe you're making an implicit "internalized homophobia" argument. Either way, considering that you think discussions of privilege are tired or inconvenient clichés in this context, arguing that "if you don't share my tastes, you're a homophobe / there's something wrong with you," seems like the wrong way to make your case. That kind of cliché could easily be turned around on you, e.g., "your aversion to considering privilege says something about you (hint hint)." Neither argument is constructive.

Ironically, I'm actually very fond of artwork that focuses on small affect, everyday intimacies, and the repetition of framing devices through numerous iterations. But I don't find this project particularly compelling in that regard, and I find that the fantasy of "the good (gay) life" overwhelms it.

Also, troybob actually makes a good point upthread. Living within normalcy or conventionality isn't necessarily effortless, which I think is why a lot of people bristle when they find themselves (or something like themselves) discussed in proximity to privilege. Some of my favourite artwork plays on the fact that normativity is really hard to maintain. But I think that's part of what makes the privilege of conventionality a poignant thing to talk about: conventionality makes promises about ease, spontaneity and naturalness that it rarely keeps.
posted by LMGM at 1:24 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joeclark,
wow dude, can't wait to read your dissertation on white bread. Your post was a great start.

As stated, I am gay, gay, gay and these pics are hella boring as is the photog's profile on muscle guys. What year is it? oh yea, a year when "it's raining men" is still blasting at the disco at the Pines and ecstasy and the Meat Rack are de riguer.
Maybe if you are a suppressed gay in Omaha this looks kewl but no amount of theory is going to overcome the clones-in-hotels shtick of this deep as a piece of paper work.
again, YAWN.

Chelsea is a 'tude and a state of body - steroid driven and shaved. ick. gimme a vegetarian runner any day.
posted by hooptycritter at 3:58 AM on January 29, 2009


To me, it reads that they exist to be looked upon, like underwear models.
Amen, sister!

Jeez, what is the problem with that?
posted by joeclark at 6:31 AM on January 29, 2009


Here's what I find interesting about this collection - and this is sort of what's intriguing about some photography in general: some of these images seem to be an invitation for us, the viewers, strangers really, into their relationship. Especially the ones with one or both of them directly gazing into the camera - ultimately into our viewer eyes. That connection between the subject and the viewer(s) is ambiguous. And that ambiguity is what make art so frustrating or fascinating or whatever.

What that invitation includes is completely subjective: do I think they're boring, lovely, sad, privileged... All of us could be right or wrong. The photographer could have meant to suggest some of these issues brought up in this thread or not. But this discussion is what's great. For me these images and this discussion made me consider my response to them in a way that's just a little enlightening.

Personally I like them a lot. I like the intimacy, I like the coldness of some of them. I like their imperfections. Some of the other images from the links above seem more boring to me - people on the street standing in front of a storefront - how impersonal is that? How is that different from me just starring at strangers on my commute? I don't know anything about those people (but then I guess this argument could extend to them in that those images are allowing me to stare at people on the street that I might feel it's rude to stare at in real life).

But these too men - they're engaged with each other in an intimate way that sometimes emotionally ambiguous in a private room and I'm there through these images. But that's all subjective - not unimportant - but I understand other viewers may not have that same response at all and that's completely logical and interesting in it's own right.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:31 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just wanted to chime in with, I'm a not gay, gay, gay woman and these photographs are boring to me as well. Probably not the target audience. I was fascinated by the ox-yoke beds in Death Valley National Park. It seems like they would lead to very weird dreams.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:36 AM on January 29, 2009


Yeah - Secret Life of Gravy that one struck me too - but for different reasons. The look almost corpse-like. And then my own prejudice against that sort of campy decor and separate beds, led me onto this thought-tangent that the decor and the twin beds are literally killing them. Turning them into corpses. They're not looking at me, the viewer in this one, they're dying in there. I'm sort of joking.... but sort of not!
posted by dog food sugar at 8:56 AM on January 29, 2009


yeah this was distinctly 'meh' for me... I don't know how you can have couples photography with such expressionless and seemingly emotionless subjects... So unless maybe that's the kind of intimacy (or lack thereof) these guys have, I don't think this photo essay captured very much. It almost seemed like either of them could have been replaced with another buff guy and it wouldn't have mattered to the aesthetic (except for the ones where they were sleeping, like on the train).
posted by modernnomad at 9:31 AM on January 29, 2009


I thought these were great. I liked the intimacy and simplicity of the series. It reminds me of my own hotel travels with my partner. We're not buff Chelsea boys, but we're gay too and being dislocated in so many far-flung places feels very familiar to me. It's OK if they're boring to you.

I like his Fresno series, too.
posted by Nelson at 10:28 AM on January 29, 2009


I'm going to argue that these are interesting because they seem boring and unemotional at first, but are really something more than that - something less easy to define, something about a relationship over time with multiple experiences.

They do sometimes express traditionally accepted images of togetherness and intimacy. Who does not want to be involved in a warm embrace like this one? The train is another example. But both of those images they are not looking at the camera. They are involved with each other. I think that is key to what some are responding to about the whole portfolio.

Then some do look at the camera and still seem intimate to me. Sometimes that intimacy is not romantic or traditionally beautiful but rather the suggestion of a relationship with a lot of time and experience behind it. Examples are his hand on his partner's back in this one. The casual approach to his partner in the bed in this one. Eating or surfing online together in bed. This grouping of the images where one is looking at us, the viewer, say to me, go ahead - look at us. See us together. Some are banal like waiting to leave as they travel to the next place. That's what people do in a relationship. They eat, sleep, wait together. It's not continuously sexually engaged, but it's intimate nonetheless. It's boring to others but maybe not to them.

But then there's another grouping within the portfolio that's intriguing. Where they are looking at the camera in an almost accusatory tone - as if to ask - why am I looking at them? What are I doing there? But I AM there because they are looking at me. It's not a moment captured in time, it's a direct connection between them and the viewers of the image.

And then we're judging them. We're considering their gay-ness, their bodies, their relationship. Who are we to make those assumptions simply by looking at a picture?! Yeah I'm probably reading too much into all this - the images, the discussion, but it makes me think - makes me consider my responses, makes me listen to others responses and maybe learn something about life and this boring intimacy some of us seek.

Just to be clear - I'm not saying I think anyone here is a bigot gay hater or art hater or that I know how to read images better then you or anything like that. Pretty much every response in this thread has been interesting and thoughtful and I just want to respectfully disagree that these are about the surface. Or simply boring. The more I look, the more I read into them and I like that.

Sometimes I look at some art or photography and it's beautiful and familiar and everyone agrees with that - but that all. I personally like the stuff where the answers aren't so clear yet. We don't agree what the image is about. To me that's what is interesting about art.
posted by dog food sugar at 10:31 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, dear friends, I was thinking about this a bit more. I don’t have any objections to commenters’ dislike of the artistic quality of the hotel series. Your mileage may vary, etc. It’s fine if you think it’s well executed or not very well executed or in between, or none of the above.

But.

I just don’t have any time for the argument that Renaldi is merely reinforcing privileged Chelsea white gym clone culture. He’s documenting himself and his lover. That’s what they look like. They get to travel because, presumably, they worked for the chance to do so. Some of the trips were on paid photo shoots, some they paid for themselves, some others might have been gifts – or so I assume; I have no factual knowledge of who paid for what. But it seems obvious they worked for what they got.

The same goes for whatever shape they’re in. It’s tiresome to complain about gay guys who work out. Of course it requires “capital” of various sorts to produce a nice muscular body. Some people have capital and some don’t; some use it and some don’t. I thought the goal was to elevate people without capital to the point of having capital, not to tear down those who do have capital. And whatever Chelsea gym clones might represent is in no way the only or even the dominant image of gay men today. How else did Pinups magazine come into existence?

Most egregious is complaining about how white these guys are. I’m not clear on what they could do about that. Relive the famous memoir Black Like Me? This seems to be a thinly-veiled way of saying that photos with the same qualities taken in the same locations would be just wonderful if only they depicted a more approved couple, like two black guys, or, more value-addingly, two disabled lesbians “of colour.” People have a right to depict themselves, and it’s easier than ever to do so. White guys with good bodies do not have less of a right to do that, and the results are not lesser because they’re white guys with good bodies.

To paraphrase Wilde, there is only good art and bad art. There isn’t art that would be better if only the artist weren’t gay, white, and male.
posted by joeclark at 11:12 AM on January 29, 2009


Nobody has said they don't have a right to depict themselves; but they don't necessarily have a right to do so publicly without commentary. People have as much right to their comments, based on their own knowledge and experience.

But also, the commentary is based on what is being presented; every element of these photographs is within the control of the photographer and subjects. They are deciding their expressions and poses; they are deciding whether or not they are clothed. They are deciding to show us these things. As they are not simply informal snapshots, my assumption is that any element in the photograph has significance. So we're free to judge these things. Even the captions play a part in this; maybe there is a reason they are giving us the location and the date; to me, it's kind of like name-dropping, the way some guys manage to fit into every conversation how they're off to Iceland while the kitchen is being remodeled. And the focus on the body here has certain implications, whether they intended them or not; the photographer can't assume that we'll adopt only the good ones (dedication, hard work, beauty) and not the bad ones (narcissism, snobbishness, superficiality).

If my interpretation that this reflects some superficial aspect of gay culture, or that it contains some message about privilege, who are you to say that this is invalid? This could very well be what the photographer intended. This might be a kind of parody or commentary on the kinds of images we see in gay magazines or CK ads, or on gay stereotypes. Or, if the photos are not being read as the photographer intended, then perhaps he has not been successful in shaping or controlling his intent.
posted by troybob at 12:52 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I think about it more--and I can't really get it across in whatever visual language knowledgable people use--there is something sad about the pictures in that the guys don't seem to be relating to each other; they are looking at the camera, interacting with the viewer, but the extent of that interaction, on their part, is that they are being seen; that they are seeking some kind of appreciation; or even that they need it, because they're pretty miserable otherwise. Like, if I were in the room, they wouldn't see me; they would see only themselves reflected in my eyes. Kinda the visual equivalent of, "enough about me--what do you think of me?" I get a sense that the value of their relationship depends on my appreciation of what it appears to be.
posted by troybob at 1:22 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


joeclark misses the point again -

it isn't that they are white, "Chelsea" etc. it's that they seem to aspire to be white, Chelsea, muscle gays and then want to show us their "sensitive" but emotionally distant photos of themselves - it is the hall of mirrors narcissism with such meager artistic quality that is so BORING.
It's been done so much that it is vapid.

Maybe you should read some Walter Benjamin and Susan Sontag on photography and give it some more thought. They are putting forth specific personas and we can judge them wanting if we choose.
What is here that hasn't been done better before and why should we care? After so many words Joeclark you still haven't addressed these basic points.
Throwing out a Wilde quote was precious and specious. bonus points.
posted by hooptycritter at 4:29 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone who tries to school somebody else with appeals to Benjamin needs urgent Pagliaization. I’ve read many books of photography criticism, just so you’ll know. I’m a published photographer myself. I would not call myself an expert on photo criticism or a professional photographer, but I am not ignorant.
posted by joeclark at 6:09 PM on January 29, 2009


hooptycritter that's pretty uncalled for.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:26 PM on January 29, 2009


Somebody explain to me how these pictures would be better if they were taken in exactly the same settings but used wymmynz, black wymmynz, black men, FTMs, disabled black FTMs, or some configuration other than that of who these guys really are.

Somebody explain to me why their art is worse because they are white males in good shape. Explain also how the same art would be better with someone nonwhite and nonmale and nonfit.

If any of that is true, explain how Richard and Seth would ever be able to make any other art that depicts themselves. Or how white gay males could ever make such art ever again.
posted by joeclark at 6:14 AM on February 8, 2009


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