Lost Boys Photographer's Journal: The Plunge

The first week of this project was like taking a leap off a cliff without knowing what was below. I had no previous experience going to or photographing gay bars. I first began shooting this project in late June of 2012, aka Toronto PRIDE. It was unhinged. People took the whole week off so that they could rip it up without real life kicking them in the ass the following morning. Everything about Pride is taken to the extreme. More people, bigger venues, bigger shows, more drugs, less clothes and extended bar hours. It's a massive international event. The boys I was following had Pride 2012 in their sights as their all-out, go-hard Pride. It was a culture shock for me. 

 The designation of a dance floor does not apply when there are this many people at the bar. Dance where you can find the space, as long as you don't have a shirt. I think that may have been the only rule - no shirts.

The designation of a dance floor does not apply when there are this many people at the bar. Dance where you can find the space, as long as you don't have a shirt. I think that may have been the only rule - no shirts.

I didn't know what I was shooting or how this story was going to come together, so I shot everything. Shooting in dark nightclubs is a pain in the ass. The captivating, flashing lights make the chance of getting a proper exposure about the same as a five year-old hitting the baseball in his first little league game. Tons of misses peppered with a couple lucky hits. Focusing had an even worse percentage of success. These are things you get a feel for, and find ways of fixing. I swear to god, I almost brought a flashlight rigged to my camera into the club to help me focus as well as entrench myself as one of the oddballs in a scene not short on oddballs. 

 This is Luna Love. She conceptualizes all her outfits, and never wears one twice. She brought a great spirit to every party she attended. A beautiful oddball.

This is Luna Love. She conceptualizes all her outfits, and never wears one twice. She brought a great spirit to every party she attended. A beautiful oddball.


I was in an environment that I was not only unfamiliar with, but also somewhere I was not unwelcome, but excluded from in a certain way. I am a 28-year-old straight male. There is the shared experience of their sexuality that I cannot take part in. To be clear, I never hit an enforced barrier of sexuality, where I was unwelcome because I was straight. However, there is only so far you can go. I cannot experience things the exact same way as of those who I photographed. Experiences can be informed by sexuality, even more so when a group shares that sexuality. The photographs are my experience, and to claim otherwise would be making assumptions on the experience of others. Ideally, the photos align with the experiences of the boys in them (so far this has proven true, although how those experiences are viewed differ widely - a subject for another post). 

 Boom! A bum! NSFW! (Insert flash joke here.) This was a hands-on performance, coupled with audience participation (and fantasization). This was my first night shooting the project.

Boom! A bum! NSFW! (Insert flash joke here.) This was a hands-on performance, coupled with audience participation (and fantasization). This was my first night shooting the project.

The analogy of the camera as a passport is really apt here. It got me in, gave me relevance with my subjects, and got me as far as I could get into the scene with the restriction of being straight. I think jumping into the deep end was good for me. It was as crazy as it got. I didn't go out to this year’s Pride as much. The group of boys have, in different ways, moved on or moved away, thus making this year's Pride less of a pillar to the story than the previous. Seems like a long time ago now.

If people were engaged enough to make it this far, and you have any questions or concerns, let me know. 

-asr

Lost Boys Photographer's Journal: Street Gallery

The Lost Boys Street Gallery is a side-project that has taken up way more time than I expected. It came into being for two reasons. First, a ‘real’ gallery has never been a financial option. Second, I was getting burnt out by the work. I had been languishing in these photos for so long, sequencing, editing, then re-sequencing, that I lost sight of the story I was trying to tell. I needed to stop running in the wheel of incessant editing. I decided to curate my own gallery in an attempt to shift the way I was framing the project, and force myself to put it out into the world for judgment. I decided to put it on Church Street where the majority of the photographs were taken. The idea was to bring the work to the audience, and not the other way around. I had the advantage of having a ton of photos to work with, so I knew I wouldn’t be short on material.

In the end, I decided on a little blurb as an intro, and then a group of five photos in a filmstrip-type template. I wanted to do a few of these and allow viewers to easily differentiate between them, so each gallery is prominently gradations of one colour. I put a small hashtag on the end of it so that anyone who really looked could search for it and find their way to these write ups. Hell, they might even contribute their own thoughts and experiences to the work. The Lost Boys Red Street Gallery (capped the words, because it should be pretentious like a gallery setting – please try to show some respect and wear your Sunday best when you go see it) went up on Friday night. It was a serious rush... like stealing a candy bar from the corner store or smashing a bottle in the back alley as a kid.

The whole street-art process has been an on-the-go lesson. Learning about wheatpasting, brushes, paperweight, and colour laser-printing prices ($7.50/square foot or just tile your work into 11x17s at 1.50 a sheet – that was cheaper by, I’m not fucking kidding, $285.)  Another lesson learned was to check the following day’s weather, because, rain. Live and learn. So far, this whole street gallery idea has served its purpose and rekindled my enthusiasm for the project. It's also been a great way to show this project specifically. I can put it up in the community that it was shot in, and have the audience be passersby. People may recognize themselves, literally and figuratively, or maybe where it was shot. Because of that, it has the potential to give a jolt to people that walk by, to give a different experience than that of a planned gallery trip. I like that it’s outside, and can make people stop and pause. It can be a surprise. I love the idea of having total control over what I put up; everything is on my own terms from computer screen to wall. This is not say I haven't had a ton of help... those folks know who they are.

Click on the photo below to have a look at process of making the Red Gallery. My twitter (@alexramadan) and instagram (@alexramadan) has all the updates as well. 

Next gallery is going up this week - keep a lookout for it. 

-asr

Lost Boys Photographer's Journal: An Introduction

Welcome to the Lost Boys journal. This will be a once a week write up about the work: just a walkthrough of where this project came from, how it changed and evolved throughout its production, and the challenges that it presented (and still presents). Feel free to hit me up on twitter (@alexramadan) , and instagram (@alexramadan) to stay up to date. Also, contribute your two cents in the comments.

I started shooting what is now the Lost Boys over a year ago. It began (misguidedly) as a project through which to examine the world of celebrity, but quickly righted itself to look at the experience of young adulthood. I'm going to be posting updates, writing my thoughts, my experiences, and deconstructing photos and the work as a whole.

The Lost Boys follows a group of young men who are active in the gay party scene in Toronto, mostly on Church Street. It is about many things, embodies many themes, and shows experiences that many people can relate to. It's about searching for identity, a search that is performed with various degrees of self-awareness and success. Although being gay is an integral part, it is main subject of the project. Being gay is what many of these guys know best about themselves, it's everything else they are trying to figure out. 

The work looks at the contradictions and struggle that young adulthood brings. It examines the role that culture plays on identity: reconciling self-discovery with pervasive group expectations. The party scene is alluring and the dance floor is a great metaphor for that. It is the brightest part of the club, but the brightness is what allows people to hide in its fringe. It's pulsing, and alive. The people in it are timid, unhinged, self-conscious, and conscious-less. The party life is about image, beauty, fantasy,  and escape.

20120624AR_GayPride0566.jpg

This photo, in my mind, is the opening shot. The light and shadows embody the idea of fantasy to me, and also represents their search for identity. Despite the amount of people in the photo, there is no interaction between any of them. Each are on their own, despite being framed as a group. Although not being a telling moment or a strong stand-alone, I think that it encompasses themes that are present throughout the project, and is therefore a strong part of the work. I've found that almost all of the photos that are in the work couldn't be used as stand alones. They fit into the larger story, but no single image so far has been able to encompass the themes project. This one might be the closest, although in a very figurative way. 

I am still shooting the Lost Boys. I only need a few more frames to really complete it. I hope people have thoughts and ideas on not only the project, but experiences that can contribute. Engage and fire away. 

 Next post: Exploring the concept of fantasy.

 -asr

Portrait

A simple aesthetic that I really enjoy. Clear, pretty eyes will never hurt. 

© Alex Ramadan 2013

 

John K. Samson at the Hockey Hall of Fame

Petitioning the Hockey Hall of Fame. © Alex Ramadan 2013

I was sent to photograph John K. Samson, lead singer of the Weakerthans, submitting a petition to have Reggie "The Riverton Rifle" Leach submitted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Samson had a good following of 20 or so people who packed underneath the beautiful arches of the Hockey Hall of Fame that face the junction of Yonge Street and Front Street. They sang Samson's song "www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle" twice before walking into the Hall of Fame and submitting a the petition. The name of the song is actually an online petition you can sign, if you want. It was quick, but here are a few of the frames from the assignment.  I've linked the petition and the song below.

Petition

Song

-AR