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.
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.
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.