QUEER ACCOMPLICES: THIS IS NOT ANOTHER PHOTO OF A GAY CISGENDER WHITE MAN by Be Oakley
120 x 170mm, 28 pages, risograph printed throughout - burgundy and black inks, cover risograph and digital printing, saddle stitched, second edition, 2021
This is not another photo is an essay about the depiction of the gay male form in contemporary art. This manifesto is a call for an expanded queer aesthetics that puts as much emphasis on intersectionality as it does on the sexualized gay male form. Oakley states in the essay "Sex sells. Contemporary queer photography is flooded with ableist images of white gay bodies. I am in no way trying to be anti sex-positive. My argument here is for a more critical and thoughtful depiction of queer bodies. Queer art is flooded with one-dimensional representations of queerness that flatten the complexity of what a queer body is and can be. Artists and photographers have celebrated the gay male form and given it a visibility akin to its straight counterparts’ photographs of idealized white women. These images have overpopulated queer art production--but what do these images communicate to society at large? And what do they tell the queer community? When bodies do not fit into this conception of what a queer body looks like are they unworthy of representation? While the non-gay world (dominant culture) continues to digest this normalized white gay male body, how do trans, fat femme, non-binary, differently abled bodies fit into these fixed narratives of the queer body?" Later in the essay they go to say " On social media platforms like Instagram, queer photography is dominated by images of fit, cis, white gay men. These photographs populate Instagram feeds like my own 7 yet they contrast starkly with the radically queer content, often on the same feed, focused on the actual lived reality of most of the queer population. E.g., what does the perpetuation of images of gay white men communicate in a political climate where trans women of color are being murdered on the street?8 When I see images and stories on social media of trans murder intermixed with images of fit white straight passing gay men it just highlights the infuriating divide in the queer community. In this context, it might seem unfair or out of line to relate queer art about the cisgender gay male body to the realities of the continued death of black trans and non-binary people, but I feel it’s paramount for artists to grapple with the privileged contexts of their work and what it means in this larger context.