Guardians of the Golden Gate
For the last two years, I have been inviting people to create fictitious characters for my series “Guardians of the Golden Gate,” providing them the opportunity to express themselves led by their own imagination. By putting together specific costumes, I ask each individual to construct a unique character inspired by personal ideas around mythology, archetypal superheroes, and science fiction.
This work is about creativity and role-playing as much as it is about manifesting interpretations of identity, particularly as it relates to self-representation in photography. As each individual invents a distinctive character to be photographed, the camera becomes an instrument of escapism, offering people to opportunity to create their own fantasy self.
For the last seven years, I have been photographing my partner Darrin, juxtaposing a variety of different photographic formats, from 4x5 film field cameras, digital SLRs to cell phones. I started to photograph Darrin as an expression of love, aware that relationships such as mine continue to struggle for acceptance and visibility.
Over time, by working on these images, I have learned a lot about myself as a photographer, and most importantly, I have grown aware of the impact that personal representations such as this creates for other people. Darrin is my muse. Yet, my intention is to shift away from the stereotypical sexual predictability usually permeating representations of gay men, focusing on ordinary moments and personal experiences, as we share our lives together. As a man, what does it mean to live my life with another man? To share a bed together, to create a home together, to travel together as lovers and partners. How to demonstrate a kind of intimacy that is private, seldom public, for fear of social rejection or physical harm? How to hold another man's hand when you are also a man?
This ongoing series relates to a personal journey of discovery, self-reliance, and affirmation, especially for those of us who venture to establish a sense of encouragement and historical inclusion.
This is in response to the 2013 Russian anti-LGBT propaganda law and Moscow’s ruling for blocking permissions to organize pride parades for the next 100 years. Like many of us around the world, I am committed to speaking out against human rights abuses, bringing attention to the sociological ramifications of homophobia as the intersections between identity and self-expression continue to propel my work.Digital Photography, Performing Arts, Photography2014
This is a subjective account using photography in an experimental mode. An investigation on the transformative possibilities of photography in creating visual metaphors.
Taking inspiration from various approaches of image-making, from advertising to personal, I have created this series based on the implications of sexuality in shaping an individual and the assimilation of social references regarding homosexuality.
Many of these images are made of things I posses and which are occasionally displayed in my own house. From a letter a friend posted on Facebook, which his mother sent him two decades ago, to a daguerreotype of two men together and a family photo of my partner Darrin dressed up as a superhero when he was 5 years old, these pictures are displayed in the context of sexual orientation and the psychological complexities inherent to the construction of one’s cultural identity.Digital Art, Digital Photography, Photography2012
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote a letter to a nineteen-year-old student living in Vienna, offering him an advice: “Save yourself from these general themes and seek those which your own everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, passing thoughts and the belief in some sort of beauty –describe all these with loving, quiet, humble sincerity, and use, to express yourself, the things in your environment, the images from your dreams, and the objects of your memory.”
I first read this in my early 20s and started to use photography to record the world around me with profound consideration for the ordinary moments of my everyday and the people in my life.
I am attracted to the possibilities of photography as a form of visual representation that explores personal narratives and invites us to project fictions, as the dichotomy between what is real and what is staged becomes blurred in front of the camera.
Inspired by early portrait photography when long exposures required subjects to remain still for extended periods of time, I started this series of photographs thinking about the active role of the sitter during the photographic process and ways to intimately explore personal interactions with the camera.
Using a large-format view camera and natural lighting, I deliberately choose to prolong the exposure time of each shot, taking only one or two pictures per sitting. I ask my subjects to think about something specific about their lives, hoping to attain not only a distinctive physical expression or an intimate gaze but also a sense of connection in the photograph with something deeply personal.
My intention resides in exploring the complex interweaving of emotional presence, the psychology of the pose in relation to the photographic camera, and the involved dynamics that take place between the sitter, the photographer, and eventually the viewer of my work.
With the technological advances of Photoshop and the plethora of manipulated photographs permeating our culture, this work explores the fine line today between what we believe to be “photography” and what is not.
These images are from scanned 4x5 negatives. Instead of working with the full photographic image, I choose specific areas of the photograph through digital pixel selection based on color. Attracted to the agency of photography as an experimental practice, I am interested in the trajectory of the current uses of the photographic medium, establishing a direct visual connection between the possibilities of digital technology and the final photographic print.Digital Art, Fine Arts, Photography2012
In the summer of 2005, I heard the news of two teenaged boys who were publicly hanged in Iran on charges involving homosexual behavior. I was horrified. Out of the few published photographs of the episode, the most shocking to me was an image of the boys, blindfolded, just moments before their death on the scaffold.
Thinking about ways to discuss homophobia, I deliberately began photographing gay men with the purpose of creating representations outside of the extremities so usually affiliated with their images.
I grew up with examples of homosexuals labeled as dysfunctional beings, commonly seen with overt contempt. Culturally, I was never exposed to discerning interpretations on the way gay people were portrayed. Aside from my own instinctive curiosity about homosexuality, I did not have any identification with its popular social characterizations. It took me a long time to be able to differentiate between derogatory gay stereotypes that the media has propagated and actual representations of gay identity within a complexity of different cultural and sociological contexts.
These are portraits of friends of mine. They were made in 2006 in San Francisco with an 8x10 view camera. Two of these men are now in committed relationships with other men. One has fallen in love with a woman and they live together. One of them had his face cut by a knife in a gay-bashing attack.Digital Photography, Photography2012
Copyright © 2014 Jamil Hellu. All rights reserved.