I missed this exhibit in London but below are selected pics (& quotes) of Jamie McLeod’s mainly black and white portraits of Turkish wrestlers “Ottoman Fight Club”. (via Dalston Superstore and Jamie McLeod)
This exhibit was Time Out London “critics’ choice” for gay-themed events last week.
“I was interested in portraits and capturing the character and not documenting the actual sport.” comments McLeod.
“These images are not mere homoerotic fantasy pictures in the vein of Bruce Weber but an in-depth study of Turkish ethnicity and male sexuality through the body. “I’m interested in the sensuality of the male physique and the mystery of the face, and the hidden surprise behind the eyes” McLeod says. “I’m also fascinated by civilization and heritage. In Turkey you will find the classic Arabic-type face, Ottoman, Asiatic, Kurdish, Gypsy, Greek, Roman, Jewish and Georgian-type faces – all of which encompass the country’s rich and diverse cultural and heritage. Turkey is the stepping-stone between Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East so there is a strong mix of all these people.”
[Unzipped: Gay Armenia - I wonder if the artist is actually able to discern between all these “face types” and if he has any perception of “Armenian-type face” :)]
“It is not possible to discern what era these photographs were taken, as there is no reference to the modern day world, the photographs look and feel as if they could have been taken anytime over the last 100 years. McLeod is also enchanted by how brutal and beautiful they are –with their cast of non-classical semi-nudes captured like the warriors and heroes that McLeod believes them to be.
[...] The way Turkish men and boys interact with each other, massaging and caressing and laying together resting after the games and before fights. Male tenderness between each other is common in the Middle East and, quite often, it is only an expression of brotherly love – but it is something men in the west are scared to express without being labelled homosexual, McLeod believes.
“When Westerners see my photos they normally ask me if this is a gay festival and I laugh and say, sadly, no. It’s amazing to think just because men can express open affection towards each other through the way we would normally express it in heterosexuality, we conclude they are homosexual of which most of them are not. However the issue of sexuality in Turkey and the Middle East remains complicated.”