Photography in Subculture

by Heather on May 21, 2009

At a Contact Festival screening of the classical film La Jetee tonight, MaryAnn Camilleri and I were comparing notes on NYPH09. After agreeing that Chris Boot’s Gay Men Play was the most cohesive show, I thought it was worth another post to try and further the ideas that Boot introduced.

A discussion has gained some momentum thanks to artist Christopher Clary and curator (Boot) for speaking frankly about their expectations of the show in their recent post comments on HMAb here.  In order to further the thesis, HMAb contributor Ronit Novak writes:

The thing that provoked me about Gay Men Play was Boot’s assertion that gay men are on the forefront of the photographic medium, where photography functions in ways that are beyond its use in other sector’s of society.

I’ll toss up some comparative reasoning:

Which other subcultures are employing photography now in a way that is…
- as personal
- as public – ie on the internet
- as conflicted
- as defiant – ie against gay marriage bills in every state, and viewers that are bored with gay imagery
…as the gay male community that Boot proposes?

How about Japanese teenagers? Pregnant housewives? Muslim fundamentalists? Are these or any other sectors of society using photography right now in an avant garde way that adds to the social and/or personal role of photography? Maybe yes, maybe no? Anyone care to dish about a group that’s co-opting the technology/art to their own ends? I would love to hear it because I’m interested in the evolution of the photographic medium, both technologically, socially, personally, politically, etc.

I would love for more curators to pipe up the way Boot has and stake a claim for new and innovative ways that photography is being used in different social spheres, that widens the definition of what photography’s function really is. This to me, is what’s interesting about Gay Men Play. It argues that a particular group is on the forefront of photography, in a festival that is geared towards the “future of contemporary photography.” Unlike Jody Quon’s show, I think Boot’s show adhered to this basic mandate of the festival by making a provocative gesture towards what’s new in photography and where it could be headed if we all started opening up to new vantage points on photography instead of simply looking to reconfirm what we already think good photography should be.

A fantastic question and challenge: please send in your thoughts on any subcultures that are using photography in unique ways (which, in Boot’s example, then influences the behaviour of that group).

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sean May 22, 2009 at 5:31 pm

“Are these or any other sectors of society using photography right now in an avant garde way that adds to the social and/or personal role of photography?”

While I think that such use is constant, the social / personal question complicates things: how much ‘avant garde’ photography is taking place – and remaining – in a private sphere?

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