4. ARRESTING IMAGES/FUGITIVE TESTIMONY: THE RESISTANT PHOTOGRAPHY OF EVERGON

Pages73-107
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1016/S1059-4337(04)34004-4
Publication Date30 Dec 2004
AuthorDerek Dalton
4. ARRESTING IMAGES/FUGITIVE
TESTIMONY: THE RESISTANT
PHOTOGRAPHY OF EVERGON
Derek Dalton
I photograph the landscape like it is a man and I am a sexual outlaw1(Evergon, 1997, p. 52).
History is made and preserved by and for particular classes of people. A camera in some hands
can preserve an alternative history (Wojnarowicz, 1991, p. 144).
The American photographer Diane Arbus once remarked that “[a] photograph is a
secretaboutasecret”(citedinSontag,1977,p.111).Evergon’sphotographic works
speak to Arbus’s observation. Secret desires, secret locations, secret assignations
and secret identities are attested to in Evergon’s photographic oeuvre, particularly
thebody of work that has come to be known as Manscapes, TruckStops and Lover’s
Lanes.2These photographs of cruising grounds and beats3(spaces where men seek
other men for sexual contact) are laden with traces of desire. I wish to elucidate
how these photographs, in their address to the viewer, can be read as testimonials
to the enactment of forbidden desires. The Manscapes contain evidence that gay
men resist the regulation of their desire in public. As West argues:
[t]he walls and landscapes of beats function as psychic canvas for our policed homo-desires
(1999, p. 15).
By canvassing these landscapes with the photographic lens, Evergon captures the
essence of gay resistance.
Barthes, writing in “Camera Lucida” argues that the photograph can be defined as “a certain but
fugitive testimony” (1981, p. 93).
An Aesthetics of Law and Culture: Texts,Images, Screens
Studies in Law, Politics, and Society,Volume 34, 73–107
Copyright © 2004 by Elsevier Ltd.
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 1059-4337/doi:10.1016/S1059-4337(04)34004-4
73
74 DEREK DALTON
Young argues that the event of crime is:
always already textual as are the outlaws symbolically expelled from the community (1996,
p. 16).
Following Young’s example, I intend to read Evergon’s photographic texts to
elucidate the ways that gay men defy their outlaw status by occupying public
spaces and leaving traces of their occupation behind that mark the space as queer
territory. My contention is that the photographs I will subsequently examine
speak to criminology and law’s obsession with notions of gay visibility and
invisibility.
Tagg argues that we should not privilege one particular site as the proper place
of cultural action. The gallery and the streets, he insists, are equally important sites
of struggle and resistance (1988, p. 31). It is fitting, then, that this chapter takes
in both the space of the city and the space of the gallery in mapping the grounds
where cultural struggle is enacted.
My discussion draws upon various Manscapes that Evergon took in Sydneyand
its locales when he visited Australia as part of a short residency organised by the
Australian Centre for Photography (ACP). These images were made during the
summer of 1998 in the beats and cruising grounds of Sydney and formed part
of the exhibition “Evergon: An Aesthetic of the Perverse”4that the ACP staged
in conjunction with the 1999 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.5However, a
few Manscapes taken in other cities will also be examined, for to examine these
Sydney Manscapes in isolation would be to deny that the power of the images is
inherently metynomic.
THE EVERYDAY AND TESTIMONY
Evergon’sManscapes, accompanied by titles that do not provide exact locations of
the places he photographs, accord respect to these spaces and in doing so preserve
theirstatusascommonplaceimages.Indocumentingthose locales where gay desire
is enacted on a daily basis, the Manscapes speak to the theme of “the everyday.
These everyday photographs provide testimony, not, obviously, in the formal and
legal sense of the term, but rather in fidelity to the archaic meaning of the word
as indicating: “a solemn protest or declaration.”6To gaze at these images is to
be drawn into spaces of gay resistance, to vicariously inhabit beat and cruising
ground space, to behold signs of resistance. For the Manscapes are profoundly
allegorical.Upon viewingthese images for the first time theyappearunremarkable,
almost mundane in their depiction of common scenes (parks, foreshores, secluded
hinterlands and other public spaces). As the clues in the photographs are identified,
Arresting Images/Fugitive Testimony 75
the viewer imbues the photographs with an aura of desire.7In their totality, the
Manscapes testify to the existence of those everyday places that are subject to
processions of desiring male bodies.
I wish to expand on the notion of testimony by emphasising that photography,
due to its uncanny affinity with realism, is valorised for its quality of being able to
summonthe essence of people and places. In exploring the power of the photograph
to summon, Kozloffdraws attention to the critical distinction between the art forms
of painting and photography. A painting, he observes:
alludes to its content, whereas the photograph summons it, from wherever and whenever,to us
(1987, p. 236).
This notion of summoning accounts for much of the intrinsic power that
photographs possess to connect with viewers in deeply emotive ways. It should
be stressed that the testimonial power of the photograph does not preclude that
the subject of a photograph has altered or changed or ceased to exist. As Barthes
argues:
[t]he photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only for certain what has been
(original emphasis, 1981, p. 85).
This distinction is important in relation to the photographs that will subsequently
bediscussed. Evergon’sManscapes donot necessarily document spaces and places
that no longer exist. Indeed many of the places he documents are still “there,” still
offering the sanctuary of a space where desire can be pursued.
Testimony is also important to this chapter because the desires of gay men take
place in spaces that exist at the border or threshold of visibility. That is, despite
the relative openness of cruising grounds and beats, these spaces have rarely been
represented through visual media. In photographing cruising grounds Evergon is
depicting spaces/places which have largely been quarantined from the cultural
imagination.8These spaces have always existed, yet proscriptions of silence have
long prevailed, rendering these places to that which is largely whispered about
among “knowing” groups. They are spaces of twilight,9marked by obscurity
and danger.10 Indeed, the existence of twilight spaces ruptures those comforting
assumptions that the “public” can neatly be delineated from the “private.” Young
engages with the relationship between the public and the private, noting that a
paradox exists:
The fabled boundary between the public and the private sphere exists in late modernity as a
paradox: each sphere is comprehensible only by means of reference to the other; each is not
the other, nor is each the separate realm it pretends (1996, p. 13).

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