Sunday, February 8, 2015

Robert Colgan: Context

'When you do something you really love, sometimes you can't find the correct words to describe your ideas and methodologies. You just do it because it seems appropriate for your communication. As you get older, all of those photographs coalesce into one giant image and you finally catch sight of the world that has shaped your soul and then you realize that your path was worth exploring.'

Pretty things make us happy, colorful flowers in bloom, mountain tops and oceans, puppies and kittens, beautiful women and handsome men. When I am at my most stressed, in my office after a difficult session, sitting in the doctors waiting room before an appointment I drift to the beautiful. If there is a window I gaze, if no opening, I dream. Usually without an actual visual, I create one. It is usually a sprawling field in Autumn. A strong wind blowing high strands of yellow grass with the deep blues of the ocean at the end, all lit by late afternoon sun. This visual calms me, it is my go to visual when I need calmness quickly.

It is interesting how beauty so easily laces with stress and pain. The early basis for FH was isolation. I had left family and friends for a job two hours away, a small rural farm town where I knew almost no one. My life in the town revolved around work and although I returned to the city whenever I could, winter made that difficult and blogging became a creative release. I long ago deleted those first entries, they were overly self involved and as I made friends and built a life in my new home they also no longer felt relevant. But I remember them, and how I felt. And as my blog turned more towards the pretty, I have attempted to ensure that I never forget what stimulated it's existence, what lay at it's core. It was that pain that stimulated my creativity and continues to fuel it's essence and furtherance.

Whenever I have featured the work of artist Robert Colgan, whether AJ and Anthony in the old bank vault or Vaughn wading in the creek I have felt a sense of isolation. It is why I love Robert's work so much, yes, there are incredibly sexy models, naked being captured, but there is also so much more. It is not about whether the model was alone or not, it is much more about where Robert places them, how he see's them within their setting, and then translates it to the final visual. There is something that always resonates with me when I spend time with Robert's images, it stays with me has me returning to repeat that experience to feel again and again. All of my pieces featuring Robert's work have done this to varying degree's. Robert not only photographs his model, his images in many ways resurrect the locations they inhabit and the thousands of souls who have passed through. Whether in that run down jail, the old bank, the forgotten barn and farmhouse, the model in the here and now weaves with decades of history with the work.

For the remainder of the story I think it best to let Robert's own words take over the narrative. When I contacted him last fall about a return to the blog, Robert gifted me not just with these images, but the history which inspired them. Pain, both physical and emotional is visually on the surface of each of the images, even the bodies intertwined seem to be grasping and holding on for life itself. These images are personal, and more provocative than some of the previous work of Robert's I have posted. They stem from a earlier period, the time when Robert was coming out and dealing with gay culture for the first time. Although it seems coming out has gotten easier, Robert knows it is still a struggle, especially for many who don't live in the American hinterlands, not supported by city's and towns with cultural progression and resources. I wasn't initially sure how to best do them justice but then realized justice was not what they needed. Like the old bank, barn and jail all they required was Robert to resurrect them, honouring their memory through his passionate visuals.

'I knew of my gayness fairly early in my teens and that's about the time I picked up a camera and began to use it as a visual tool. I liked how it captured memories and even as a kid, I tried to set up little fantasy tableaux which the camera could document, creating what I felt was a factual situation. Because photography is "truth"! There's that sense that whatever is visible in the final image is a complete accurate visual representation. When I was in college, I really began to explore my sexuality being unencumbered by my parents or family. I created my own visual truth in the manner I perceived. I wanted men to love men for who they were and in a natural level of comfort. Of course that was before I realized how complicated relationships can be, even in the straight world. Wrong or right, I try to embrace that fantasy of love. '

'The first set of images documents my confusion and disappointment with reality. How, in the gay world, the penis and physical attributes are used as weapons or praised in God-like fashion. They became the central focus instead of emotion. I was shocked by the callous manipulation and vapid bitterness to the point of numbness. My sense of love had faded away or, at least, was clouded.'

'Many of the images from this series utilized my first ex-partner. It's not hard to see the parallels between my feelings for him and the entire gay universe. I felt betrayed by both! At the same time, the AIDS epidemic was beginning. Seeing some of my love interests suddenly become a tangible connection to death made me feel like I fighting a losing battle with my desires. Two of the models were some of the first deaths I knew from AIDS. Being gay would never yield the life that I had imagined.'

' Over the years I have learned that this paragon only occurs in a limited number of people in all orientations. It's an oasis of emotion that shimmers beautifully in the distance only to vaporize in the heat of reality. I think we all reach that point in life. But my photography is still my escape back to where I'd like to be. Maybe that's one of the reasons I incorporate the nude into scenes of desolation. I still preserve that love of man and still want to portray him in ways that present the emotional side.'

Robert Colgan on FH:

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