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"Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon": Paul Mpagi...


Trigger: Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Hello, My name is Paul Mpagi Sepuya.

What you’re looking at in these three darkroom mirror studies is the camera photographing itself, or I’m operating the camera photographing itself within what I call a darkroom sort of chamber setup in my studio. And you can see on the surface of the glass the marks, the traces, fingerprints, dust, etc. of that accumulates over periods of time of portrait making and self-portrait making.

And so I’m interested in this idea of the darkness of the metaphors of the darkroom, of touch, or the history of the darkroom in terms of queer history and sexuality and community formation. So the black velvet is used for its connection to the history of studio photography, of this idea of backdrops. Thinking about the dark cloth, which you enter under in the history of photography in order to see the image on the ground glass. I’m interested in velvet as the original sort of tactile, it was a tactile surface that surrounded daguerreotypes and thinking about that as it related to the private erotic albums that circulated at that time, how touch would be connected to vision.

These pieces are not about image, or photography constructing an image, but it’s about actual material and it’s about the layers of separation and of looking and of touch that are built into photography from looking through the glass to the mirrors that are within the chamber of the camera, to the lens looking outward and sort of reinforcing this idea that all looking is mediated by touch. But with the darkroom mirror studies I was interested in that very real and for me primary information can only be made available for looking against darkness. And it requires spending time in that space. I’m thinking about the types of vision and socializing and knowledge that are connected to bodies depend on darkness.

In thinking about the history of photography because now with digital capture that’s not required but thinking about the foundations of photography that it required the photographer to go into darkness and the first viewing of the image is in that space and then it’s brought into the light. And what’s the difference between how the photographer knows the work and the viewing subject. And thinking about how social relations in the history of queer culture that are formed and are first sort of realized in dark spaces: in clubs, in nightlife, in illicit cruising, or the socializing of sex clubs. And that is a type of knowledge that exists everywhere but thinking about the types of recognition that are only shared between people who have this sort of experience of darkness. So anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about in terms of the metaphors for the darkroom series.

"Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon": Paul Mpagi Sepuya
"Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon": Paul Mpagi Sepuya