Category Archives: Random Sillyness

Drawn Into the Darkness

In younger days I was drawn into darkness and often found myself lurking in shadows that were unsavory to others and probably not always safe for myself. Being a boy from Montana we do not always perceive dangers that others may be aware of within their surroundings, making us fearless. Being a stranger we may not always be aware of what the rules are and what is normal. Everything in Montana seems safe, unless you have a run away tractor barreling toward you because the diver has passed out at the wheel. I have spent a great deal of time in large cities and have only felt a threat a couple of times in my life. I spent a year in Washington DC working as a bartender for a club in the Dupont Circle area, had a roommate who was a porn actor, we did a lot of drugs and become party animals, some times to the point where I was not even sure how I even got home. In fact waking up one morning, my ankles sore and swollen to discover I had somehow ended up with a pair of pumps at the foot of my bed, I must have traded shoes, the previous night either with a drag queen or a woman with very large feet. I had always heard Washington was a somewhat dangerous town and had known people that were bashed, some of them quite severely, which in those days was quite often. As a bartender with a porno housemate, we become a privileged sort of celebrities who were recognized and often given a certain amount of advantage, in the form of little packets of treats slipped into our pockets. We were creatures of the nights, going to bed as the sun rose, sleeping all day. But I never felt a threat when I was out, even when I got stupid silly messed up. I had a good group of friends and we all kind of watched each other’s backs.

Yet I was always drawn to the darkness. There is beauty at night that becomes extraordinary; that most people do not always see. In photography it becomes very vibrant when it rains or is wet. That’s why you often see wet streets in movies shot at night, yes, even in Los Angels when it doesn’t rain, or not very often, because it makes the details in the lights pop. That beauty seems to become more pronounced in bad neighborhoods with a lot of structurally interesting textures, like alleys and areas of old abandon warehouses at night, like the meat-packing district in NYC. I am always a person who is keenly aware of my surroundings; I think this is another Montana thing that we develop a fascination with everything around us. So at night these areas awaken a feeling that I always love to explore. It becomes about who I am in the space or even possibly channeling past lives, who knows. But in cities these are typically the areas one always tries to avoid, yet these are the areas I like to linger. I tend to think I have a strong masculine presence that most people don’t really want to mess around with. I am very confrontational when I meet others and think I have a focus that sends a clear signal that I can hold my own if you come up against me. My observation skill keep me aware of what is happening around me so I don’t become an open target and can divert things before they can happen. But it is these areas that most excite and attract me.

In looking at my catalog for the website I see this feeling of lurking in darkness present in most of my images. It’s what makes it theatrical and heightens our wonder and curiosity about the subjects. I love the shadows and seeing things emerging from those shadows.

Giovanni’s Room

The first novel I ever remember reading that had anything to do with male relationships was called Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. I am not exactly sure how I stumbled upon it or exactly when I first read it, but I remember being very young and it left a lasting visual impression in my mind. It’s the story of an American who recognizes his sexual impulse for men. Goes to Europe is about to get married to a woman, but torn by this unspoken desire that seems to hold him back. He can’t quite make the commitment and they separate in order to give him time to think about it. He is in Paris and falls in lust with a young Italian bartender named Giovanni; they have passionate sex in the grungy dark recess of Giovanni’s room for a chapter or so before doubt and self-reasoning set in. I won’t spoil the ending. It was written in 1956 and Baldwin does a fantastic job of vividly bringing you to this era in Paris. In fact I am quite surprised this has never been adapted into a movie, because the story totally lends itself to that sort of format. There are certain images that have haunted my memory for so many years about this book and perhaps it time to pull it back off the shelf for another reread.

When I was a student in theater at the University, I was quite interested in film, and though we didn’t have a media arts program in the department we did have a radio/television department mostly dealing with learning broadcast news. I took the television classes just to gain access to the equipment and editing suite. Back then it was all very large clunky equipment on very large videotapes. I began a project that was about adapting the story of Giovanni’s room into a short film. I used my apartment, which I completely lit with stage light, some of them hanging outside the windows shining in on a cold winter night. I had some actor from the department who acted and we had a blast shooting this crazy story I had adapted we called “The Cry”, partly based on the Munch painting. My concept was that a man screams out from within but no one can actually hear the scream because it only becomes deafening to the one caught in their own internal struggle of memory and choices they are haunted by. Yes, I was in my early 20’s and it seemed sensible at the time. But, I would have to go in late at night to edit this crazy project, and people would come in, doing their news projects and catch glimpses of the my project and it soon become known as the “surrealist soap opera”.

A couple of years ago the story came up again in a series of images I was shooting. The space, the light, and my model Jeremy Voisine whom I love doing all these experimental pieces with began to transform the studio into the feel, desire and isolation of Giovanni’s Room. Again we were working into the late night, using stage hot light to create the beautiful light streaming into this haunting room.

The other day I ran across these images as we were working on a gallery for the new website and I paused a marveled at how fun a concept like this can take you to an extraordinary place. The only thing missing was the second man Giovanni. I now want to go back and recreate and explore this concept with two men. So if anyone is up for it a new creative process is about to begin. I am going to have to have a party and show all my old video’s one of these nights.

Soul Seeker

This morning when I looked on Manhunt, as I do every morning to peruse the personals in quest of new subjects for my photo experiments, I saw a name that actually intrigued me: Soul seeker. Of course I had to respond: “Soul Seeker – Interesting thought, that might make you either a god or a devil, searching for lost souls in a sometimes seemingly soulless environment; like a decent into a modern Dante’s Inferno. It’s really a brilliant concept.” He is a 32 year old, Top/Versatile Male that is 6”0 with a swimmers body, light brown wavy hair and a devilish glean in his blue eyes that has been taken in a multi impression mirror, so we can see the duality of his expression. My mind began spinning amazing thoughts about the possibility of the concept of a devil/angle searching for our lost souls in a man hunting site that has become a dream like world mostly plastered with impressionistic images of cocks, ass and mostly naked bodies seeking sex and quick hookups and an occasional long term relationship. WOW! What a perfect place for such a person to dwell where they can easily claim those souls, many seemingly lost; drifting, waiting, anticipating, on the edge of a dark desire that will either fulfill or consume them. For the most part they are looking to be consumed. This is beginning to sound a lot like a Tennessee Williams play or a short movie, or a study for a new photographic series. “All hope abandon, ye who enter in!” Why does this world of cruising men seem to always have such a dark edge? It is a delicious reverie of the flesh, a mysterious glimpse of a shadow in the darkness, most of them blurred, just a little beyond focus where we get a vague impression, but not sharp enough to contain any hints of reality. Abs are hyper extended, bodies contorted into complex unnatural poses, taken sometime from even more unusual positions. I am captivated and often envious that what I work so hard to create, can become genius at the hands of a skillful cell phone. Light setting in the wrong position creating equally as interesting color casts, that add a garish tone to the overall feel of the image. A skillfully placed strobe to obscure the face, adds to the soulless nature of the headless bodies. It’s like we are all trying to hide something, perhaps our insecurities and yet reveal something someone else might see in us and desire. I sometimes gaze in awe of the brilliance of these images, reading the brief snippets they project out to us and often ponder, who is this person, really. It fascinated me to no end. And I wonder if perhaps if I am not the soul seeker, that devil also trying to steal some of these lost souls. But often the subjects I have culled from these depths and brought into my studio to illuminate redeemed that self respect and dignity they often can’t see within themselves. This is where my imagery becomes it’s most powerful and provocative, restoring all these sorted bits into a distinguishable whole that is pure, healthy and vital. I have often thought it would be interesting to show a collection of these internet images. Printed, matted, framed and hung in a gallery where we could admiringly peer into the depths of these wondrous visions. The art of self selling one’s own sex is often for more interesting then what we give it credit for on the surface.

The Long Dark Seduction Of My Desire

I recently found an old journal about the first time I actually went home with a man and spent the night. The date was March 1 1982. I would have been 20 years old and we ended up picking each other up at an old video arcade that is still in existence here in Missoula today. There are not many details in the notes, but in my head I flashed back to a very vivid cold night, when my body trembled with fear. The sheer panic and confusion I was feeling floods my mind again as if I am standing in that darkness, alone again. I was a couple of years out of high school and knew that I have always had a strong desire to be with a man, but for some reason I just couldn’t quite come to terms with possibly doing it. The video arcade was a way to have encounters with others without really having to make a commitment, always somehow felt it wasn’t quite real. It was a dark world filled with black light with neon signs that glowed vibrantly in the darkness. Anyone with a white shirt took on a haunting purplish glow. You really couldn’t see the faces of people, because skin tones disappeared into in a dark haunting haze. The place was a maze of walls with hidden openings, covered by curtains and the whir and clatter of films being projected into glass screens within the little booths. You could hear a coin drop from anywhere in the places and then the muted/muffled voices of people talking. Back in those days, people actually did talk to each other in those types of films, as inane as it may have seemed then, adds a certain humanity that is lacking today. But it all happened in darkness. A touch, a kiss, someone feeling my crotch, a quick encounter and then they would disappearance back into the darkness. Once I had discovered the place, I didn’t go there very often. Perhaps 3 or 4 times over the course of a 3-year period. I remember living in the dorms on campus and after one of my visits rushing home to immediately jump into the shower and try to scour away any traces of the encounter from my skin, often my body eventually becoming consumed by sobs of grief that I had allowed myself to go back to that place of such desperate temptation. Then eventually after another 5 to 6 months I would find myself lurking outsides it’s doors in the darkness of the street waiting and watching working up my courage enough to enter its seductive labyrinth once more.

I figured something was wrong with me for wanting this desire and I began to see a counselor, not sure if I was trying to talk myself into or out of this sort of encounters. I vividly had that in my notes as well because I had to somehow come to terms with what was actually happening to me. I remember a lot of fear and dread. I remember becoming overcome with desire to explore this within myself but completely needing to reject the possibility. It all didn’t quite feel right, but sometimes our bodies and minds work in opposition with each other with the flesh often winning over and allowing the mind to either succumb and retreat. It never seemed to get easier. Was I to become a lost soul?

So eventually this night of the beginning of March in 1982, I made that leap that would somehow change the course of the life and give a new meaning to me existence. Once I connected with another man in an actual encounter, my fears were waylaid and the doubt overridden. Once bitten, I know what I wanted and continued to seek this partner. Was it love, or lust, or just an open denial of what I had been? A few days later I enter a note into the journal, “I am really starting to enjoy being with Mark and gay sex is very interesting.”