Aaron McElroy – Flesh, Sexuality and the Voyeur

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Intimate and erotic images lay before me; my eyes lay focus upon small flesh curvatures, awkward contortions and pink nude bodies. Aaron McElroy, Brooklyn based photographer has amassed a body of work that explores female sexuality through the narrative gaze of the auteur himself. The power of suggestion is heightened purely by the disjointedness of the dream like images; a chronicle of pleasure, addiction and beauty.

Image 1 - Aaron McElroy Image 2 - Aaron McElroy

 

Power does not behold the anonymous, half clothed or naked. We are the dominant; our gaze captures parts of flesh that we can control as the viewer. A faceless body that openly allows us to imagine the missing pieces, manipulating the whole image with small glances. Lost identities become whole through visual domestic banality. Folds of skin, loose hair are incarcerated by one square image, but as you look deeper the habitat of this space is wholly private. Sheets strewn in the background, blank walls and random household items create an intrusion into the private sphere of the host. This no longer is an image of celebration towards the female form but instead an exploration of a male gaze towards the body. An unfolding of pleasure and fiction.

 

Image 3 - Aaron McElroy Image 4 - Aaron McElroy

 

How did you get into photography?

 

It was really random… I’d never thought of photography as being this kind of art form – I was never interested in art. I started taking pictures because I wanted to fill up my apartment. After that I started taking classes. You didn’t need a degree to get in – it was along the lines of: ‘You like photography? Well, we’d like your money’. So I basically just got involved really quickly and it opened itself up in ways that I didn’t think were possible. It introduced me to the art world, and art and photography being the same thing – which I didn’t agree with at first. I was initially anti-photo-making and I had only really thought of taking pictures as a way of capturing memories.

 

Why did you choose women as your subject matter?

 

It’s about the experience. It’s about looking at the images and not knowing where they come from or how they are created. Just that they exist – from a voyeuristic perspective. Often people think the work can objectify women, because of the juxtaposition of women and objects but that’s just not the point. It’s what I’m seeing and that’s what I’m trying to translate to paper. It’s just about trying to look at it from an outside perspective – you’re looking into something. Rather than looking into my world, you’re looking into your own world.

 

Image 5 - Aaron McElroy

 

Your images are often abstract and ambiguous and the women are very anonymous. Can you talk through this process?

 

If I showed faces it becomes about a person. Regardless of what I might be photographing, if I’m showing something very specific then it becomes a very straightforward narrative. Taking faces out of pictures leaves a lot to question but I do have my own stories with the people in my photos. When I’m making photos it’s really just about being in that moment and collecting those images, storing them and subsequently putting them together as other work. I don’t really want to seek out models. If I’m working with a model, they want to work with the camera – they have expectations, and they want to be perceived in a certain way. I find it better when nobody has any expectations.

 

The Devil May Care published by S_U_N is your largest book to date and somewhat an even closer look into the private sphere of domesticity, but this time with further explorations into abuse and addiction. Was this something you wanted to include to create new intimate relationships between the viewer and the image?

 

The Devil May Care takes the tantalizing ideas of voyeurism and desire a step or two further than we normally encounter. The first photograph shows us a female nude leaning towards her leg straightened in the air, shot against a blue background – we are exposed to her breasts and shaved sex but the strong harsh light of the flash flattens out the texture of the skin and the body begins to resemble a sculpture. Are we looking at something we shouldn’t be looking at? Who are these faceless women?  The approach pushes us into a voyeuristic position, and we eagerly start to invent our own stories, identities, and histories. Sex, life, and death seem to come full circle.

 

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The careful pairing and ordering of images seems essential to his vision, they constantly create momentum and visual flow, away from the bright lights of obvious sex encounters. These aren’t an homage to the female body instead a relationship between the contradictory forms of obscurity and the voyeurism.

 

Find Aaron’s work at S_U_N Editions this weekend at Off Print Tate Modern – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/special-event/offprint-london

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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