Monday, November 4, 2013

MStyles: Where You Sleep:

'My apartment is my stage, and my bedroom is my stage - they're just not stages you're allowed to see.'
Lady Gaga

When we think of relationships we usually think of connections of the human variety. As humans however, we have relationships with everything that surrounds us. Other people of course, ourselves, our pets and nature as well as things of a non-variety. The food we eat, the places we visit, days of the week, holidays everything really. Some of the most intimate relationships however are of the things and places we interact with every day, our belongings and maybe the most interesting, the rooms within our homes.

Back in 2011 when I profiled photographer John Fallon, I examined the relationship we all have with our bathrooms. (Executing A Vision) In that piece I examined the dichotomy of the room we both use to rid our bodies of dirt and waste as well as the place we use to become out most clean and pure. We are our most vulnerable behind that bathroom door, the one room in our lives we do not, nor cannot... hide anything from.

If the bathroom is the holder of secrets, the bedroom is the keeper of our most raw and honest of emotions. As infants it is the room we sooth ourselves in, as well as the room we learn that if we cry enough, yell loud enough or make a enough noise, eventually... we will get attention. Our parents response to this attention seeking behavior often dictates how loudly we will scream for attention when we're older.

As young children, the bedroom is again displaces confusing dichotomous tendencies. It is a playroom full our toys and most treasured possessions. A place to read our books, set up our fish tanks and hide under the bed the things our parents should (but always do) not see. It is though, also our jail. The room we are sent to 'think about what we did.' A time-out room, a room we must remain in until the adults deem it clean enough to exit. It is often the room where punishments are fulfilled, spankings are given and the place frustration over our homework comes to a boil. Childhood bedrooms also love to play with the minds of children, preying on fear and terror using the spaces within it's closets and under the bed as temporary homes for monsters that have the power to grip us with fear, either frozen unable to more, or cause us to run screaming from the room to find safety in another room within the house.

When we are teenagers, especially when going through puberty, the importance of our privacy, especially within our bedrooms is never more crucial. Issues of sexuality are thought of, dismissed, then both explored and ignored. Our awkward, yet awesome initial beginnings with masturbation, and the hundred of repeat performance. The four walls of our bedrooms have the ability to both comfort us through the pain of adolescence or remain distant and cold making us feel even more in pain and alone.

As we get older our relationship with our bedroom only gets more complex. Every emotion we experienced within the room when younger remains alive and on alert to return whenever our defences are down. It waits, to see who we will enter with and what degree of strength our mind and body is currently at. It takes part in the joy and erotic explosions which occur when we are in relationship with another, and witnesses the pain and devastation when those relationships go wrong and eventually end.

As adults, our bedrooms tend to mirror our own emotions. When we are happy, the bedroom is a welcoming wonderful room to end our day in. When we are in pain, it is the room we most avoid going into at night. When despair is at it's most intense, there is nothing more frightening than entering our bedroom and slipping into a bed that you know will do nothing but bring your nightmares to life.

As we get older, much older we find ourselves in our bedroom more and more, almost as much time as we spent there as an infant. We go to bed earlier, we nap in the afternoons, we are always tired and often need to lie down. It is a room that although we may wish to get out of, in the end, when death is is the room we long for, the room we are desperate to return to. Every emotion that those four walls hold within are the ones that eventually comfort us in the end.

It is common on FH for me to talk about moments. Many photographers talk about their goal being to capture moments, especially natural moments and indeed every photo is just that. The quality of those moments however, is what separates an average picture from an exceptional image. In reality there really is not such a thing as a natural moment when the subject is aware of the camera. The goal then becomes to make the most unnatural of moments look, well natural.

I think some artists make the mistake of thinking this comes through what we see. Although photography is a visual medium, natural moments, at least ones that can truly resonate, come not so much from just what we see. It goes further, connecting what we are looking with how it's ability to tap into our own emotional experiences. Michael Styles work does this for me. While spending time with his images, especially his bedroom images, every emotion, every moment I experienced during my childhood, adolescence and beyond can be felt within his body of work.

There are a tone of great photographers taking hot images of the male form. But so much of what we are looking at is not really relatable. Incredible fantastic shots, great for fantasy and stimulation, but not especially personal. Michael is able to create such personal and intimate moments in time, so relatable and so real. Shooting within a subjects own living environment is part of the process, but more importantly is Michael's skill at capturing that exact second that everyone who see's the image can instantly relate to. Even if you cannot instantly put your finger on the exact time or moment, you just know at one time you experienced the exact same thing.


Bobby F. said...

While my mom was in the hospital, the only thing she wanted to do was to get back home and back into her own bedroom. It meant so much for her -- and me -- for her to get to spend her final 13 days in her bedroom. Thanks, Tye, for posting this. Sometimes, your words are more important than the pics. This is one of those times.

Tye said...

Thanks Bobby, glad you liked the words, but as usual it is the images that inspire the words and Michael's photos always make them flow easily.