Sometimes is not about the space in the image but what is left between the subjects and the tension between their gaze, a latent intention that disappears with the turn of the eyes.
This text examines and dissects the photographic Vos Collection in three different approaches taken during my research at IHLIA Heritage. As a visual artist, interested in queer experiences throughout the history of photography, I’ve been using similar methodologies and tools that might mirror the ones used by archives with the addition of speculation as a survival methodology to understand and fill the gaps within the lack of stories and histories of queer individuals in vernacular photography. The purpose of this text detours from scientific, humanistic and academic expectations, in order to embrace artistic research as a motto to speculate, create, and generate queer approaches to the archival and photographic materials within the Vos Collection.
Divided in three acts, the first approach reflects on the visual materials consulted and the selection of determined images that link to the ideas of body contact and vulnerability. Notes and ruminations that sparked from these consultations are added in the form of footnotes on each box of the collection.
The second approach gravitates around new keywords – in a form of an index – that were generated as a response to the lack of information regarding the individuals in the images. This gap was filled with speculation and queer experience reflecting upon the content and connections found in the photographs.
For the third, and final approach, a set of new descriptions are created around a group of images selected based on the criteria of tenderness, vulnerability, and closeness between these masculine subjects, with the aim to contribute with a counter-narrative to the one existing. These images were shown during the exhibition in partnership with Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen as part of the project Breaths Between originally started with IHLIA in the beginning of this overall collaboration. Departing from the original vernacular prints, the images taken part of the exhibition were exposed in the space using different dimensions from the originals as well as printed in negative. Adjacent to them, 3d prints in concrete powder highlighted the physical connections captured between the masculine bodies within the photographs
I. Ideas of gesture
II. Isolating moments
IV. Leisure moments
V. Naked bodies colliding
VI. Gaze to the other
IX. Bunk beds
X. Sharing activities
XI. A haircut
XII. Traumatic masculinity
XV. Certain tension
XVI. Hidden cruelty
XVII. Dust a uniform
XVIII. Return to nature
XXV. Images by contact
XXXI. Reflecting on time past
XXXIV. Pieces of them
XXXVIII. Bodies come closer
XL. The Act of photographing
XLI. Lau Smith
XLIII. Military men
XLV. Studio portraits
XLVI. Nature as a backdrop
L. Eyes closed
LII. Solo portraits
LIV. Not looking at the camera
LVI. Only group portraits
LVIII. Single ones.
LIX. War as an opportunity to hide
LX. Stimulating moist
Only group portraits, military, and single images.
Box 53 & 64
These are images of bunkers
Lens flare on both sides of the frame, perhaps technical difficulties in the process and/or
Sunny day, possible warm weather. Outdoor scene.
Wooden walls in the background. Shade. Coating scratched by the season’s inclemency.
Wooden floors covered by the two main figures.
Shirtless youngster on dark pants. Crossed arms around the chest, hands under the elbows. Smooth-skinned chest, visible nipples.
Recent haircut. Blond. Clean shaved face. Twink appearance. White.
Admiration glance to his fellow partner. Intense. Complicit. Looking for reciprocity.
Looking for eye contact.
Full body white attire mature man. Dark leather boots. Relaxed crossed arms over the lap. Visible hands. Calm.
Possibly recent haircut too. Blond. Wet. Daddy appearance. White.
Feeling observed by his fellow partner. Complicit. Nodding. Crossing gazes. Bodies touching. Shoulder on shoulder. Skin to garment. Sweat.
Closeness. Consent. Elbow to elbow. Intimacy.
Clean frame. Slightly tilted margins. Almost rectangular. Sunny day. Probably summer. Outdoor scene in nature. High view of a mountainous scenery. Dam in the background. Solo tree standing. Shallow depth of field.
Shirtless middle age man with dark pants. Right arm around right shoulder of the other man. Left hand pressing upper left elbow of the other man. Tightness. White. Hairless chest with one visible nipple.
Possibly blond. Well-groomed. Wet effect. Sweat.
Camaraderie and closeness. Body contact. Protection. Half smile. Security and admiration.
Middle age man with pale shirt wide open in the chest area. Zipped belt dark pants. White.
Head leaning on the other man crossing right arm over the shoulder. Comfortable position.
Relaxed body position. Subjected.
Slightly longer blond hair. Well-groomed too.
Body contact and closeness with his partner in the photograph. Friendship. Partnership. Trust.
Both men looked away. Outside the frame, to the left. They look to the light.
Their bodies are blended in the light. Joint desire. Possible future. Hidden.
Well exposed image.
Outdoor scene. Warm season. Possibly cloudy or late afternoon.
Public area. Crowd in the back. Swimming pool or lake.
Subjects almost centered. Isolated from the movement and action in the back. Men and women in the back. Some men wear military uniform. No one looked at the camera and/or subjects photographed.
Both men in swimsuits sitting on a white double towel. Grass area. Middle age man with dark trunk swimsuit. Bare chest and visible nipples. Fit complexion. White.
Legs are bent towards the other man. Left hand holds on the left ankle. Wears a watch. Candid pose. Gentle.
Mature age man with dark full body swimsuit with suspenders. Slightly hairy chest visible through the upper part of the swimsuit. White.
Dark circular sunglasses.
Same pose with bent legs towards the center of the photograph. Both men knees touch. Right fist closed near right ankle.
Bodies touched upon shoulders and knees. Arms interlaced in the back, touching around the elbow area.
They both look relax, and smile, timidly. Complicit appearance. Challenging pose and attitude to the camera.
Bodies blended. Pose to impress. Joy. Legacy. Possible future. Not visible but not hidden.
Correctly exposed with clear frame. Horizon line tilted to the right. Blur in the front affecting part of the photograph.
Outdoor scene. Possibly summer. Very sunny and windy day by the sea. Harsh light. Maritime scene in the Beach.
Piece of land in the far horizon. Seaweed and rocks populating the seashore.
Subjects off center in the right part of the photograph.
Both men in swimsuit sitting on – possibly – a beach towel or perhaps in the sand. Alone. Isolated.
Young man in dark trunk swimsuit. Smooth chest. Visible right nipple. White.
Blond. Hair combed by the wind.
Closer pose. Holding. Left arm around bent knee. Frame cuts the rest of the body.
Right part of the body – shoulder and pectoral – touch the other man.
Middle age man in dark full body swimsuit with suspenders. Visible part of smooth chest. White.
Blond. Hair combed by the sea.
Relaxed pose laying on left side of the body. Left arm holds the weight. Legs extended to the right side. Body touching and leaning towards the other man. Right arm reposed on the hip. Hand disappeared behind the back. Frame cuts the rest of the body.
Complicit pose. Bodies touching in different sections. Possibly sweat. Skin to skin.
Arms partially intertwined. Closeness. Proudness.
Direct gaze towards the camera.
Possible partnership. Tenderness. Not hidden, not socially visible.
- Some images are from the USA.
- I wish you were queer, but you are only homophile.
- Only power represented. All the images should return to a latent state. A return to the photographic negative.
- Black men portraited with white soldiers.
- I’ve been looking for sexual traces by looking at their bulge. The lack of sexuality is obvious. That is space is filled with fiction and experience.
- There is a space to fill in all of these images.
- Something interesting about the beach images.
Why am I attracted to certain images?
Why I can’t decontextualize the content?
- What is my role of speculating?
- How in a contemporary experience a gay man can find connections in history?
- In the military group portraits, there is nothing to pull out from the group, they are all stiff and performing in the group.
- The obsession with a moment in time when you could be isolated and just surrounded by men.