The Way You Look at Me started as a photographic journey documenting my relationship with my partner. Aware of my queerness at a young age, I struggled with either accepting my true identity or conforming to masculine/feminine expectations that came with growing up Southern Baptist. I would sneak into my mother’s bedroom to wear a dress, performing as a confident individual who could not be restrained. I also wore straight-legged jeans with plaid button-ups, an attempt to construct a straightness for safety from public life. As I grew older, I became more comfortable in expressing who I wanted to be. Meeting Rich and developing our relationship, I realized we shared a common aspiration to fully embrace ourselves internally and externally.
Through the willingness of my partner to help visually communicate my memories and experiences, a natural chemistry is created and felt through the makers and viewers alike.
In my work I reflect upon notions of personal identity, gender expression, and performativity through the lens of contemporary and historical queer vernacular. Utilizing my partner as a conduit for vulnerability and desire, I construct portraits, self-portraits, and still lifes that allude to personal narratives from my upbringing. These experiences conditioned me to conceal my queerness in fear of being rejected by my family. Through this, my work investigates traditional representations of queer men and how those perceptions influence the way one looks at another or the way we look at ourselves. Juxtaposing images of my partner and myself, I question the nature of personal identity within intimate relationships and how representation can change with cultural or personal expectations. Implementing shifting gaze and point-of-view, I call the audience to embody my relationship thus my own narrative, resulting overall in an empathetic experience that is uniquely.
All images and text © Kenneth Guthrie
By Kenneth Guthrie