Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Revisited: SEBASTIANITE CHRIST

DECEMBER 2010

Recently I rewrote my Personal Statement, and that brought me back to the roots of my artistic education. We were presented with tired and staid old examples of "Good statements" which to me lacked any kind of integrity or writing ability. Of course, once I'd written everything I wanted in my own statement at a degree of literate quality that I was happy with, I was hopelessly over the word limit, and so it had to be butchered ruthlessly. I've never been good at being sussinct or brief.

Another thing which I have discovered about myself as a photographer that (in my opinion) makes me different from others on my course is that I have no fascination for the workings of a camera. To me, in most ways a camera is just a tool to create an image, like a brush. I think, in my heart, I am just a failed painter. The most powerful piece of art that I have ever encountered was a religious painting by Giovanni Bellini, and when I construct an image, I think not in Exposures and F Stops, but just as how it looks, how it appears on screen, on paper, which is why I find digital so rewarding.

I know people look down at me because I have the audacity to choose digital over manual cameras, but I find the instantaneous effects of digital vital to my work. You could not expect a painter to create something profound and lifelike without letting him look at his canvas, and I feel the same way when I capture images. For me, the work is not in the developing of the film, but in the construction of the physical image, the way the light falls on the model, the draping of the clothes and all that jazz.

A while ago, an old favourite model of mine got in touch with me again about getting some portfolio shots done and I jumped at the chance to work with him again. A year ago, this boy was the ideal, the Holy of Holies. At the beginning of my final year, a friend had gotten off with him at a club and declared him "Fit as Fuck", and I spied him lounging in the common room at college and vowed to myself that 'By the end of the year, I would have gotten Charlie Dagwell in the studio.'

This actually proved a lot easier than I had imagined. I started talking to him and his friends in October and had shot pictures of him by January, my long since favourite shoot, Caesar. I thought his face was absolutely amazing, dramatic cheekbones and an almost perfectly square head, but others were not so convinced as I. I knew I had to use him again, and the perfect shoot came up, a piece inspired by Frankenstein and Joel Peter Witkin, and once again, Dagwell wore it out.

I had no idea he even considered finding representation, but I knew that I wanted to do all that I could to help him put a portfolio together. We shot some more 'traditional' fashion pictures, ie plain background, simple lighting showing off face, body and clothes. I was unsure how this would turn out, but still throwing myself in. I knew Dagwell had a strong face, but I didn't know if it was commercial model strong. He surprised me though, and was quite unlike the petrified, untalkative kids I'd done portfolios for before. He was engaging and accomodating and I actually really enjoyed shooting him so simply, and I feel that we got some strong basic shots for any agency interview.


With Dagwell I see old world art and lighting. He has the broad shoulders and marble skin of a Caravaggio and the face of Valentino and the Silent Screen. This mixture of ancient and modern excites me like nothing else. I think it is fair to say that different periods of my work have been inspired by different people. First there was Skimps, with whom I broke through the tedium of A level work and started finding my own perspective, my own voice. Then there was Jacky, my first male nude, a gym sculpted airhead with angelic hair. I would still be shooting him now if I knew where he was. Then came Dagwell, and with him the rugby team. I worked with a lot of different guys from the team, but it always came back to Dagwell. The old favourites are always the best.

I wanted to work with the mixture of new and old that Dagwell ignited within me, and I reached all the way back to my roots and plucked out an image of Christ. Strong, powerful, serene, a new reworking. This would not be the Christ of the downtrodden or the sick, this is the Christ of the Sebastianites, the sodomites, the erotic. There is a moment, which I have often felt and I'm sure you have too, when you first start going out with someone and they seem absolutely perfect. Nothing they do is wrong and everything is wonderful. This serenity is so highly sought after that there are those who go out every night looking for someone to experience this intimacy with. They never give up faith. They search for their own Sebastian in dark and sticky night clubs the way Catholic prostitutes look for Jesus in abandoned car parks. I have found Sebastian and Jesus, and they have become one. I present to you, The Sebastianite Christ, broad, muscular, demonic, marble beauty and perfect. Father forgive me for I have sinned, lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil.

Our love is swollen with the quietest shade of loud.









I am exceedingly pleased with how these pictures came out. I once made a forray into the realms of creating my own religious iconography back in the summer of 2008, with embarrassing consequences. I feel that these images represent the height of the creative workings between myself and Dagwell. If I were Richard Avedon, and Dagwell was my muse, this would be Dovima with Elephants. I would say he's my new favourite, but I think that would be lying. Dagwell has never not been my favourite, and I wish him well. If he drops onto the world of modelling in a big way, rest assured, I will be waving a fistful of my tatty pictures at the press claiming I discovered him, which in a way, I think I did.


A toast, to the Old Favourites. Here's to the future.

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