I have not had the time this summer to catch So You Think You Can Dance but the last few minutes of a show last week had me realizing I should have been. Dancer Paul Karmiryan has a smile that could melt the heart of the coldest of men, and watching him on the dance floor has me searching youtube to see what I had been missing.
The expression of grief, sadness, disappointment. Mental suffering or pain.
As men, we are often forced, or feel the pressure, to remain basic,meat and potatoes and the salt of the earth. We are described as tough, strong and dependable. As far as the expression of emotion, they too are most welcome when they remain basic. For many, these only include happy or angry. We can also be sad, but only briefly and only when we have experienced great loss.
Nuance within any given emotion has traditionally been reserved only for women. Men can feel them, but take a risk to actually express them. The tragedy is that the primary emotions men are allowed to express are not actually real. Happiness really only comes in waves, fleeting moments that don’t really add up to an actual sustained emotion. Anger too rises for a time, and then dissipates. Anger is permitted in men, yet like happiness is not really an emotion one can sustain. Anger is usually the expression of the more nuanced emotion, one we are not supported to unveil. Think of any angry person, and just below the skin, where the nerves lie, is someone sad, lonely, terrified or hurt. Sadly, it is anger that most boys are taught so skillfully how to outwardly appear.
My favorite images of the male form capture shades beyond and below the basic fields of male emotions. Beautiful emotional degree’s that we all experience at one time or another in our lives. Who at one time or another has not felt jealousy, desperation, loneliness, self loathing or desolation. Some of us have had brief moments, others days, others much much longer.
Photographer Ohm Phanphiroj not only captures, but encourages, welcomes and celebrates the sorrow that makes up a life lived. What gives his images such impact is in part how rare it is to observe such moments. Even with our own family, with friends and even our spouses and partners, intimacy can be often masked. Hidden, edited or tempered to meet the comfort levels of those who surround us.
The sorrow and intimacy Ohm captures is interactive, reserved for the safety of the artist and his camera. It is not surprising that so many of Ohm’s images are set in motels. Motel rooms often act as truth serums, settings far from others, far from home. Rooms which permit one to unload and purge, safe that long after you close the door behind you, your secrets will remain there, untold.
Although I love images that tell a story, I am fascinated that Ohm’s images stop before any answers are given. In each of these images, a story is presented, but each has me longing to know more about each of these men, and the experiences and pain that brought them to their present emotional state.
Ohm's images are like a preview for an upcoming motion picture. He tells you enough to draw your attention, peak your curiosity and take you to the edge. The rest of story is left unwritten, the ending, left to the viewer. My bringing up movies is intentional, as it was film making that first brought the Ohm to photography.
It was in 1997, while working on a graduate degree in filmmaking with the Oscar award winning producer, Gary Moss, that Ohm began his professional career as an artist and photographer. Considered an up-and-coming filmmaker after his work in short films, including I Wish You Were in Hell Ohm desired greater artistic control over the final product, something almost impossible to achieve in filmmaking. This desire for greater artistic control drew Ohm to photography, which he found suited his talents more than filmmaking.
'His first series “Strangers in the Night” explored non-verbal communication and nocturnal human behavior. A series of black-and-white images of highly charged nighttime activity, “Strangers in the Night” combined a cinematic style with an invitation to the viewer to explore more intimate aspects of the human psyche and human behavior.'
For me the observed behavior was a beautiful and sensual expression of sorrow or despair, but the specific emotion could be different depending on the experiences of the viewer. I love the above quote as it summed up exactly what drew me to Ohm's work. I didn't just stumble upon it, when first viewing his work, I felt he invited me in. Not completely inside mind you, but to the edge of the open doorway, near, but not in the room. Close enough to feel what was happening, to have a good view, but with enough distance not to interfere or get in the way.
Although 21 year old Brazilian supermodel Muriel Vilela is no longer a teenager, it was his image I found when searching for a male model with braces. I was reminded today, while sitting in the dentist chair, of all the hours I spent as a teen in that chair when I had my own braces. I used to curse my mother for forcing me to get them, cold to the fact they sacrificed to pay for them. Braces used to be the bane of my existence when I was in Jr. High but now that I am older, not hiding my smile, it was all worth it. Muriel is an incredible looking man, but his smile really completes the amazing package.