“I’ve lived through worse times,” I told a friend last week. “But I was younger then.”
The second week of September 2001 marked the 10 year anniversary of my relationship with THE HAWORTH PRESS.
Probably I don’t need to explain how it happened that celebration of this anniversary was preempted by breaking news.
At the height of mid-80′s cold war tensions, I was working as a civilian employee on US Army bases in Germany where terrorist bombings occurred with such frequency as to almost become routine.
One of my current projects is editing a 10-year anniversary second edition of my first book, BARRACK BUDDIES. It was during the 1991 Gulf War that I left Germany — my home since 1982. My interest in interviewing (and later photographing) US servicemen grew out of my stubbornly dogmatic pacifism. Seeing all my GI friends go off to war was more than I could take.
None of my friends were killed. And within months I found a publisher for my interviews with them….
Ten years later I find myself in a military town emptied of sailors “off to war.”
STRAY CAT DRESS BLUES
Actually, as it happens almost all of my Navy friends here had already been discharged before 11 SEP 01. Most for getting into trouble. I’ve always had a soft spot for rebels, troublemakers, military bad boys (and military bad girls too, now).
Last month I turned down an invitation to write a feature story for a prestigious glossy magazine on the state of “gays in the military under George II.”
I could have used the money. Badly. But (a) my work has always been more documentarian than political; (b) since my first invitation in 1993 to appear on HARD COPY I’ve consistently said no to any media exposure I feared might inadvertently exert any negative influence on the conditions under which service personnel work and live. And (c) for the last five years or so the primary focus of my work has been chronicling homoeroticism among military men who do not necessarily identify themselves as gay.
Since “9-11″ I’ve also been ruminating on the question of trivialization.
That my studio photography of sailors these last two years has largely been limited to men (and women) on their way out of the Navy just sort of happened. It’s since become requisite. Even so, the second week of September I “blacked out” the galleries of half-naked sailors on this site in acknowledgement of the special sacrifices demanded of active duty service members.
In a statement on the direction I see my work taking, I wrote:
My photography (as my five books) is neither commercially nor politically motivated. Occasionally, I do work up something resembling a spark of lewd-vagrant voyeuristic prurience. Mostly, though (and more and more…), I’m just a not-ready-for-PBS documentarian.
KEYWORD PHRASE: “time capsule.”
From here on my writing will likely concentrate on the closing decades of the 20th century: preserving stories that would otherwise go unrecorded.
And sharing some stories of my own.
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