HISTORICAL PRESSINGS

 
Albert J. Winn "Drug Related Skin Rashes" 1993

 Albert J. Winn.
"Drug Related Skin Rashes."
From the series
'My Life Until Now'.
Silver gelatin photographs.
1993

 

Californian photographer Albert J. Winn, in his series 'My Life until Now' does not seek to elicit sympathy for his incurable disease but positions his having the disease as only a small part of his overall identity and life. Other photographs in the series feature pictures of his lover, his home, old family photographs, and texts reflecting on his childhood, sexuality, and religion. As Albert J. Winn comments,

"The pictures from 'My Life Until Now' are a progression of thinking about identity. Now I am a gay man, a gay man with AIDS, a Jew, a lover, a person who has books on the shelf, etc., not just another naked gay man with another naked gay man, and I tried to load the photograph(s) with information. I feel I am determining my identity by making the choice to show all this stuff."

Personally I believe that integrating your sexuality into your overall identity is the last and possibly the most important part of 'coming out' as a gay man and this phenomenon is what Albert J. Winn, in his own way, is commenting on.

 

David Wojnarowicz

 
One of my favourite artists, now dead, who just happened to be gay and critiqued the social landscape was named David Wojnarowicz. Using an eclectic mix of black and white and colour photography (mainly 35mm), drawing, painting, collage, documenting of performances and sculpture, Wojnarowicz created a commentary on his world, the injustices, the sex, the politics, the brutality, the environments, and the people who inhabited them to name just a little of his subject matter.

 

David Wojnarowicz "Untitled" 1989

 

David Wojnarowicz.
"Untitled."
From the 'Sex Series'.
Silver gelatin photograph.
1988-89

 

The image above from the 'Sex Series' is not a collage but a photomontage, two colour slides reverse printed onto black and white paper to make the negative image. The ghostly affect of a UFO-like water tower, house and private sexual acts played out in public in a suspended "moon" or disc above the ground add to the tension and eeriness of the image. Other images from the series feature text, babies, all manner of different sexual persuasions, tornadoes, trains, ships, war images, cells. Wojnarowicz himself states that,

"By mixing variation of sexual expressions there is an attempt to dismantle the structures formed by category; all are affected by laws and policies. The spherical structures embedded in the series are about examination and or surveillance. Looking through a microscope or looking through a telescope or the monitoring that takes place in looking through the lens of a set of binoculars. Its all about oppression and suppression."

Oppression and suppression are the continuing themes in the image below, "Bad Moon Rising" from 1989. Here the wounded body of St. Sebastian, a recurring figure in gay iconography as we have seen, has been impaled not just by arrows but by a tree, the mythological 'tree of life' growing up/down, from/into the 'earth' of money, the politics of consumerism and the illness of consumption. Again, in the small vignettes we observe the home, the sex, time, cells and their surveillance.

 

 

David Wojnarowicz "Bad Moon Rising" 1989

 

David Wojnarowicz.
"Bad Moon Rising."
1989

 

 

Australian Body Architecture IV

 
Meanwhile in Australia the cult of body worship was being fuelled by the more traditional homoerotic photographs from America. This iconography was assimilated by local commercial photographers. They played with the traditions of surf, sand, sun and sea for which Australia is renowned and Dennis Maloney, in particular, concentrated his attention on the surf lifesavers that patrolled the beach during surf carnivals. He photographed the guys with their well built tanned bodies, good looks, swimming costumes pulled up between buttocks, and let the homosexual market for such images do the rest. He also photographed what I would classify as soft-core porn images such as the one above at the beach, the idyllic man in his reverie, wet bathing costume moulded to the curve of his buttocks, legs spread invitingly in a suggestive homoerotic sexual position.

 

Dennis Maloney "Untitled" 1990
 

 

Denis Maloney.
"Untitled."
Image from the series
'Sons of Beaches'.
c.1990

 

 

The Twenty-First Century

 
The trend of using images of the muscular, smooth male body for both commercial purposes and as the 'ideal' of what a man (gay or straight) should look like continues unabated into the first decade of the 21st century. Pick up any gay newspaper or magazine and they are full of adverts for chat lines or escorts that feature this body type. The news photographs from around the clubs also feature nearly naked well built men with their buffed torsos. Even mainstream newspapers constantly feature photographs of the bodies of footballers and athletes for example, paraded as the epitome of what a man can and should look like in contemporary society.

 

Anon "Untitled" 1998

Left:
Anonymous.
"Untitled."
Image from a commercial
Internet web page.
1998

 

Anon "Berlinskin" 1998

 

 

Anonymous.
"Berlinskin."
Image from an Internet homepage.
1998

 

 

In the 21st century a large proportion of the images of the male body on the Internet feature the muscular mesomporphic body type, whether they belong to commercial sites or as the images that are chosen, desired and lusted after in the galleries of private homepages. In cyberspace alternative photographs of the male body occur when they are the personal photographs of their authors whose body does not fit this ideal, when they picture themselves (see "Berlinskin" above). These alternative images of the gay male body exhibit a massive variety in the shape, size, hirsuteness and colour of gay men. They are images of gay men who don't come anywhere near the supposed 'ideal'.

How will these images impact on the future of the gay male body? Perhaps you would like to take this link to the Future Press chapter to find out.