Though no one seemed particularly offended by anything at NYPH09, there were a couple of shows that, on paper, could have been controversial. Chris Boot was one of the festival’s four curators and in his show Gay Men Play he explores the contemporary photographic representation of gay sex and gay recreational sexual identities. From the guide:
In an article to be published in the forthcoming summer 2009 issue of Aperture magazine, Boot argues, “The use of photography by gay men early in the 20th century is among the most interesting aspects of the phenomenon of photography now,” and his exhibition mixes the work of established photographers and artists with that of non-professional photographers.
Ronit will tell us more:
According to Chris Boot, curator of the Gay Men Play exhibitions, gay men are on the forefront of the medium, acting out their sexual roles and identity on camera for all the world to see, if they choose to. Gay men are integrating the camera into their sexual lives in a way that no other photographers are, probably because they don’t feel they need a tool to help them come into their own, sexually. In Gay Men Play the camera is essentially being used as a sex toy, at once complimenting but also serving as a venue for gay men’s sexcapades.
Christopher Clary’s Self-portrait (my collection) is wallpaper made up of jpeg images from gay social networking sites. For the past 10 years, Clary’s been collecting the profile photos of guys he knows, would like to know, and would like to be. He was collecting these photos first as references to how he wants to be, and now he’s finally achieved it. He’s now one of those guys – aggressive, confident, provocative with his sexuality. So in a way, collecting these images has been a sort of “gay therapy” helping him come into his own as the gay man he wants to be.
I spoke with curator Chris Boot and he was surprised that no one in the gay community expressed anger with how the gay community is portrayed in the show, or at least tell Boot they were offended. I wonder why? Take a look at the photos below, are they offensive?
To see Stefan Ruiz’s NYPH09 lecture, Andrew Hetherington’s got it here.
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Maybe it’s just me but anyone who starts his talk with this opening slide is asking for some controversy:
But, more than controversial, Jacob Holdt is one of those artists who’s unapologetic passion for what he believes takes him well beyond any context in which an accusation of controversy would make sense- if for no other reason than he is a bit unknown, despite the length and breadth of his single-focus documentary work. His photographs are raw propaganda for his anti-racist cause. He’s on a mission to love the racism out of anyone and to bed a bunch of willing women while getting there.
Ok, so there’s this homeless activist guy from Holland. In the 70s he organized anti-apartheid rallies, moved to Zimbabwe, almost called his son Mugabe, road tripped to the US, and shacked up with the poorest black communities you can think of. His name is Jacob Holdt and he has rocked the world of all of the photographers here at NYPH 2009. It’s not just his foot-long braided beard, or his quirky nonchalant references to being buddies with the KGB and the Rockefellers, Holdt’s photography is intimate, beautiful, and unlike most other documentary photographers, his work actually does change the world.
Holdt’s been working with the Klu Klux Klan since 2001, he even became a card-carrying member, photographing the communities with the same heartfelt intimacy as his previous photography. He’s learned that there really is very little difference between southern Klan members and the blacks they antagonize, they are both enmeshed in a life of poverty, drug-addiction, crime and violence. They are both shunned by middle and upper class America, and act out their pain in violent and hateful ways. Here’s some photos of Grand Wizard Klan members and Holdt’s friends.