As Belgium has announced the 2nd lock down, I could feel the anxiety inside me starting to build up. It’s certainly a huge set back. Comparing to the first lock down in March, I am tired, less motivated and optimistic. The constant flow of corona news has become a mental trigger. It’s simply not possible as so many people’s lives and livelihood depend on the evolvement the situation. Even though I am used to a quiet life style, I find it very difficult now. The patience is running out. Get it over for once and for all already! Fuck it!
The idea of not being to photograph is daunting. The autumn holiday has been prolonged in hope of reducing contacts at school to have an positive effect on reducing the spreading of the virus. After 2 stressful months, suddenly, there’s no work anymore. The planned holiday in Portugal that I had been so looking forward to was cancelled. Now I have to find other things to keep myself occupied, distracted and maybe feel uplifted. I don’t think it’s an easy task, but I have to try. The sky outside is grey. It’s cold and rainy, typical Belgian weather. I have to try harder!
Anyway, today I wanna talk about those boys whose stories are unknown. I have photographed them, chatted with them, but never really got to know their stories. Some of them promised to send me their stories after the photoshoot, but it never happened. Some tried and failed to tell a concrete personal story. Some let me know before the photoshoot that they didn’t want to share their stories with the public and for one reason or another, I still took some photos of them.
From time to time I would be ranting about not receiving stories from boys. It is certainly very negative and drains a lot of energy to chase after them for their stories. However, I do understand it’s not easy to tell something personal about yourself to the public. It’s certainly not easy to write a good text. So, in the end, I would tell them, it’s up to them to send me their stories. And I have been hesitating for a long time. Should I post their photos? Or I should simply discard them.
Actually I am not saying the experience with the boys is bad. Most of them are nice and gentle. I think something must have caught up in their mind and they might have their own priorities to deal with first. Even though this phenomenon can vary from country to country, like in Madrid, over half of the boys I shot don’t have a complete story to tell. Can I contribute this to cultural background? I don’t know. It’s simply a fact.
Every time when I want to post the photos without stories, I would remember a comment from a friend. He once said to me, to be honest, without the stories, your project wouldn’t be something. There are much more accounts with better nudes. True, I think this comment has shock the every fiber of my self confidence about my photography, so much so that I still vividly remember it after 2 years. Mixed with the persistence of keeping the tale of men format, this comment cemented my reluctance to post photos without stories.
Another profound comment I had is from another friend, after I was complaining about not receiving stories from boys, he said, don’t you think that they have done enough? They laid themselves bare in front of you, shared a vulnerable and intimate moment. This is already more than what you should expect from them. Yes, I agree, but… but what? It’s really hard to argue with that. So, in the end, I always think about this comment and accept the fact that I should let it go, with or without story. The boys don’t owe me anything.
After the never ending internal battle about whether I should post photos of boys without stories, I have made up my mind that I would do it. I feel like, by posting them, I could finally make peace with the situation and put my mind at ease once again. Furthermore, I do think there’s something extra to the photos themselves. For me, they are documentation of an encounter, a moment, a specific mood. Leading to this encounter are communications behind the camera, exchanges of words and sometimes compassions. It only feels right to me that these photos are valued as same as the others.
So I will post them under the category “Simply Boys” on the website. I hope these photos will speak to you, the viewers as they represent a tiny part of the boys. Maybe I will write something about the encounter, my perception of the boys, the stories behind the scene. In this difficult time, one needs warmth and connections to move forward. By posting these photos, I hope to achieve that.