Tonight, the poweHouse Arena hosts a book release party for I <3 Boy, a collection of photographs by Jessica Yatrofsky, who maintains the blog (seemingly SFW right now) of the same name; both book and blog feature her photographs of young, pretty, waifish, tattooed, frequently nude men from downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. We emailed with Yatrofsky, who lives and shoots in Carroll Gardens, about her work.
How do you find the boys you photograph?
Many of my subjects are friends. I often just approach people on the street or on the train if they have an interesting look. I also get referrals, haha, emails from beautiful boys who were referred by friends of mine. It’s like I have people out there scouting for me, which is cool. I’ve used ModelMayhem a few times and actually found one of my longtime muses that way, but I’m scared of MM now, and Craigslist—yikes!
Do you have much experience with female subjects? How do they compare?
Sure. I’ve done a lot of self portraiture, and as have shot many female subjects, and I think exploring both genders is important, in understanding form and human nature. I have a preference for men because aesthetically they are more interesting subjects to me. Plus, dicks are more easy on the eyes, right?!
Should we read an political point into your use of the term “boys”? Into your preference for photographing young, often somewhat waifish or androgynous men?
Haha, no, I use the term “boys” playfully. However many of the “boys” in the book are either young or look very young, so the term boy becomes appropriate in many cases. I have a particular affinity for androgyny because there is something inherently beautiful about not being able to label someone with a gender, as male or female and immediately assume their orientation.
You’ve said, in interviews—and implied, in some performance pieces—that you want your photography to objectify men in the way the entire Western media apparatus objectifies women. Do you think, though, that it’s possible to achieve equality on the basis of something other than mutual objectification? Can gender equilibrium be based on something other than power-sharing?
I’ve said that the camera objectifies by its very nature. And it’s mostly photographs of women that we are saturated with. I think the only option now, to create balance, is to saturate the image of the male form, because pictures of women aren’t gong to stop being made! But objectification seems like a dirty word, doesn’t it? I would rather refer to it as something like reverence or adoration. The male anatomy is not celebrated as much as the female. Period. I am passionate about the male body and I want it represented, maybe because I’m a heterosexual female! But we live in a society that actively avoids the sexuality of men and one that celebrates the female form. Our society is always eager to depict the sexuality of women and to portray females as sexual objects, but actively avoid and censor the sexuality of men. As an artist I am actively challenging these inequalities in my work.
Do you make a distinction between your own gaze and a queer male gaze?
Well… maybe they are the same thing in my case. I feel like I share the same appreciation for the male form as gay guys, so maybe there is no “distinction” to be made other than I’m not a male, but I am definitely gazing!