Pony had interviewed him first and told me that I would like him. To be honest, I wasn’t in the mood to photograph anyone. And then Pony mentioned that Clark had come in with painted fingernails. I said “No, I’m not interested. Get rid of him.” I have no idea why I changed my mind.
I took some snapshots while he was dressed—I was intrigued by the fact that he’d brought a copy of the score to Brahm’s 4th Symphony with him. It’s one of my favorite pieces of music. I left, telling him to take his clothes off. When I came back it was as if a different man was in the room. Is it that he was hiding his own beauty, or is it that this is simply the everyday miracle of male youth?
He was reluctant to talk about himself, more so than nearly any man I’ve shot. Over and over, he simply ignored my questions. At one point I pushed, telling him that I needed to know about him in order to shoot him. He crossed his arms and just stared at me. And, to be honest, this made me like him even more.
He had no problem with my moving him (as I always do), holding him and adjusting his stance or hand position. But several times he abruptly tensed, as though unused to being touched by a stranger, another man. Ambiguity, I realized, was important to him. It was one of the tools he used to express the everyday courage young men require of themselves.
His sexuality? I asked him later and he said that he was straight but that he loved being physical with his male friends. I said “So you’re maybe a heterosexual queer?” and he grimaced. I’ve seen this before, usually among urban intelligent men, men who hold to the strength of the definition of heterosexuality while wanting to embrace the fluidity of male sensuality.
I told him that I disliked his painted nails and said “Why the hell did you do this?” He shrugged and said “Because it was fun.” And I thought to myself, this young man has no idea what he’s playing with. Sex and sexuality are for me matters of life and death. But I’ve always been too serious about these things. It’s my flaw, not his.
In every session I choose a time to step in, very close, to take “portrait” shots. I love mens’ faces, and I love to see how they confront the camera when it’s clearly focusing on nothing but the face. Clark rested his head gently against the wall and closed his eyes as if he were asleep. I touched his face and opened his lips with my thumb.
He said several times that “fun” was central to his life. And he seemed genuinely surprised when I told him that fun could be a dangerous thing, that it was closely related to chaos. Yet he’d gone so far as to tattoo the word on himself. Near the end of the shoot I asked him what he thought was important to me, how I differed from him. He said “You are a vampire, I think.”
This made perfect sense to me. Clark is playing in a borderland between identities; it’s the job of the “vampire” to navigate that borderland and to find the innocent things that have wandered in, exploiting them for their life blood. Their playfulness leads them to me; I take them, feeding on their strength and their beauty. – PAUL MORRIS