In addition to his mastery of historical techniques and his exquisite printing, the Haligonian photographer George Steeves is known for an iconography “shot through with grotesque sexuality, reverence for emotional pain, and chilly black humour.” The subjects who appear in his photographs are Steeves’s friends, many of whom live in the Halifax area and make their livings as writers, dancers, and performers in physical theatre. Their playful, melodramatic and often undraped performances for the camera result from voluntary collaborations with the photographer, who also occasionally steps in front of the lens.
“Many of the people I work with are very unusual,” says Steeves. “I see them as specialist personalities who bring things to the process that I could never invent. I have that tendency too. They see we’re of the same skin. They knew what I was up to and I knew a great deal about them, so they could influence the situation just as much as I could.”
The theatricalization of the self is implicit in portraiture; to strike a pose is to present oneself to the gaze of another as if one were immobilized–already a picture. Steeves’s work is grounded in trust and a shared intention between photographer and subject. The meaning of the pose derives from the photographic act itself, which takes place as part of a collective performance. The self is depicted as a scene of desire—one that overtly challenges the norms of middle-class sexuality.
Catalogue and exhibition produced with support from Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture & Heritage.