The image of (un)masculinity
How far can photography go? Do intimate moments need to be kept away from the public? Or is it possible to stage intimacy? - The artist Harun Güler is pushing the boundaries.
A young man is lying on a white bed sheet. The left hand is on his breast, the right hand upturned. the eyes are closed. Next to him we see the toes of an unknown person who will accompany him for the day. It is the German moving image artist of Turkish origin, Harun Güler. He is showing Theodore in sensual moments - how he is woken up by the sunbeams while lying in bed or when he puts on a white cape and walks along the vivid streets of London.
Harun Güler, who was born in Duisburg, Germany, likes to play with reality and fiction. Yet, the thirty-year-old eludes any kind of classification of origin or profession: “For my whole life I have been confronted with people feeling the need to categorise me. Am I Turkish or German, straight or gay, filmmaker or photographer? - But I do not want to give any answers.” He continues that he would not be able to control the impression that people have neither from him nor his works.
“Theodore” is a photo-documentary experiment. It tries to break the boundaries between still and moving image and raises questions about the image of masculinity in the Middle East by depicting the 18-year-old Theodore in rather androgynous pose. Güler’s work does not only consist of photographs. He puts the images into motion, a video piece accompanied by the voice of the Turkish folk singer Erkan Ogur, who sings about masculinity, strength and soldiership in “Hey onbesli onbesli” - a song Harun also listen to in his private life.
The music accentuates the contrast of small hidden details such as a small prayer chain lying on Theodore’s belly. Also it suggests the assumption that the white cape is actually a traditional circumcision costume. - All these details might as well have been simple decorative elements without the music. These traditionally charged symbols are taken out of their conventional context and being re-staged.
Güler is being inspired by the works of artists such as Shirin Neshat, Nan Goldin or Taner Ceylan. His intention is to show personal, autobiographic moments and present an image of masculinity which is not reduced on strength but delicate and intimate at the same time.
“Gender identity is not something that is fixed but through our behaviour in everyday life these strict gender roles are being maintained.” In the end his intention succeeds: It is uncertain whether these images are fully staged or authentic. However, its strong aesthetics and validity is clearly present.
Text: Natalie Mayroth for Dailybread Magazine