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My Man Mitch
From 2015-17, I mostly made pictures of men. Masculine images pervade my life. Served with the words and actions of the US President and the former Indiana-governor-turned-VP, the need for the Me Too movement, and the ongoing erasure of, and violent acts toward, feminine and non-binary presences, masculine energies continue to be positioned as vital. To be masculine feels dire and high stakes. Men-only spaces are protected and upheld first. When I make my work I tend to start with questions. What is at stake? Is there a method? These energies do not escape queer circles. The varied, complicated realities of queer people are easily compressed into monikers like “community”, a wording that has the capacity to further highlight and reify their difference, dismiss the nuance of their contribution. Binary thinking uncomplicates what has the potential to be reimagined.
Before making pictures, I consulted the persistent stream of images encoded with this dire need. They form an archive. Poses and gestures emerge, re-emerge. There is no hierarchy. The pictures come from Tumblr, newspapers, escort business cards, my parents’ high school yearbooks, institutional photography archives, The New York Public Library image collection, Instagram, Playgirl phone sex ads. In the case of a portrait, I would ask my models to mimic them, position their chins or eyebrows in a certain way, adopt their gait, imagine their bodies as vessels for that energy at the moment the picture was taken. I wanted to synchronize these two moments, the shutter of the original photographer and my own, to complicate our relationship to the archive, to the bodies of the initial sitters. I arrive at these images not with judgment, but with compassion and genuine inquiry. The figures in my own photographs continue a lineage, as do images I more directly appropriate from this persistent stream, in particular those native to my home state of Indiana. The gesture that proved most appropriate in this case was to reproduce them as facsimiles.
Ian Lewandowski is a photographer from Northwest Indiana. He presently lives and works in Brooklyn with his husband Anthony and dog Seneca. His work is about histories of pictures, bodies, and communities.
Artist’s website: http://ianlewandowski.com