The top image is titled, “Joe With a Brass Earring,” and it is part of a series of 30 photographs for my You. Are. Beautiful. solo exhibition on view at The Cultural Center at Rocky Neck in Gloucester, MA from OCT 24 - NOV 11.
People often ask me how I get my subjects. Many of the people in my You. Are. Beautiful. project are strangers. I source a lot of my participants through what I called “stranger intercepts.” Sometimes I intercept people in person (in cafes, shops, on the street, etc.) or online and in social media. I tell them about my project and ask them to sit for me. Joe was a stranger to me before I photographed him. I intercepted him in Boston while he was working in a shop I visit for my contacts and eyeglasses. He was wearing a beautiful purple wrap around his head, and it reminded me of Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl With a Pearl Earring.
I didn’t find out until after I pitched him that he is also an artist and painter whose work deals with unsettling historical frames of beauty. I asked if he’d be willing to sit for a photo inspired by Vermeer’s painting. I actually brought the earring to the shoot, and it was the only time I incorporated something into the photograph which did not already belong to the person. I liked a number of photos from my session with Joe, but this one is my favorite because I think it ties in so well with his statement, his work and my project.
Joe’s statement was: ”I am beautiful because beauty is something I want to better understand. We live in a culture that aggressively defines what is desirable. Art making has given me a tool for reflection and self discovery, helping me accept my sexuality, my body, and everything else that makes me unique. In my experiences, the moments that make you feel the most torn down and disconnected become a catalyst for change and understanding.”
I loved his statement because I feel so much of beauty is about understanding.
Joe Geary is a talented artist. You can view his painting, drawing and mixed media work here.
Joe will also be a guest artist during a panel discussion with Cape Ann fine art photographers, where we will explore topics around beauty and the democratization of photography. This will take place at the gallery during my show on SUN, NOV 3 from 3-4 PM. Visit the Boston Calendar for details.