Brian: A Nine-Year Photographic Diary
AbeBooks Seller Since July 15, 1999Quantity Available: 1
AbeBooks Seller Since July 15, 1999Quantity Available: 1
About this Item
Title: Brian: A Nine-Year Photographic Diary
Publisher: FotoFactory Press, Santa Monica, California
Publication Date: 2001
Book Condition:Near Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: No Dust Jacket
Edition: First Edition.
About this title
In a unique photographic diary that spans nine years and several cities, photographer Reed Massengill has chronicled the coming of age of his model and friend Brian Hess, a very handsome and charismatic young man. Massengill began photographing Brian in 1992 in Knoxville, Tennessee, shortly after Brian's high school graduation. During the intervening years, as the photographer and model became friends, Massengill's portraits of Brian documented his radical physical transformation. His hair was bleached, shaved and re-grown several times. Tattoos, piercings and scarifications further adorned his body and dramatically altered his appearance from year to year. Massengill's portraits have ranged from pensive and introspective to playful and wildly erotic.From the Publisher:
The portraits by Reed Massengill of Brian Hess are marvelous and intense. This intimately erotic book is a seductive object of rarefied art.
Massengill explains it best in his Introduction:
In the fall of 1992, when I was living in Knoxville and working on my first non-fiction book about a 1960s civil rights murder, Portrait of a Racist, a young guy named Brent called and made an appointment to come see me about shooting some photographs for his modeling portfolio.
When he came by my apartment a few days later, he was waifish and effeminate and not really model material, I thought. I looked through the few pictures he had brought with him, and told him that I thought he was too thin; that I never charged for portfolio work and usually did it only in exchange for nudes; and finally, that I wasn't convinced he was even 18 years old. He pulled out his wallet to show me the birth date on his driver's license, and as he flipped through the pictures of his high school friends from the small town of Kingston, Tennessee, one caught my eye. It was senior picture of a mildly smirking boy named Brian, and I was enthralled. I paused and looked at it for a minute. "I'd be happy to shoot your portfolio," I told him. "Just bring me this guy, and I'll shoot whatever you want."
So Brent dragged Brian along with him on the autumn day we had set aside for his portfolio shoot, and the three of us drove around to different locations all day while Brent took frequent cigarette breaks and pondered which outfits to wear. Late in the day, at a quiet spot off Cherokee Boulevard in suburban West Knoxville, Brent wanted to stand in a pile of leaves smoking a cigarette. He rested one elbow daintily in his cupped hand, leaned his head back and let a gush of smoke escape his lips. I'm sure he thought it looked dramatic and sexy, but it was all too Tallulah Bankhead. I pulled the camera down from my face and said, "Do you think you could try to butch it up just a little?" From behind me, where he was watching us shoot, I heard Brian laugh for the first time.
I haven't seen Brent since that day in 1992, when I handed him his rolls of film and sent him on his way. Brian and I have been friends ever since.
Although we don't stay in constant touch, there has never been a time when Brian and I have not gotten along, and we've never not had fun taking photographs. Our lives are now interconnected in innumerable strange ways. Over the years, Brian has introduced me to (and I've photographed) some of his close friends. For awhile, we had a favorite Chinese restaurant buffet, Ping's, where we would spend the better part of whole afternoons, eating and talking about nothing in particular. His former girlfriend gave me my first pair of Doc Martens, which someone had left in the back seat of her car.
I've flown Brian back and forth to New York to visit me on several occasions, and he's the only friend or model I've ever had who came home from wandering around the city with a bag full of those poorly-dubbed kung-fu movies, which we sat up and watched till 3 a.m., laughing hysterically. He's the only model I've ever had come home from an all-day scarification session (the claw marks on his chest, which he had done while visiting me in New York in 1997) to tell me what an intense, spiritual experience it was.
He's let me tie him up with plastic cable television cord, and I've let him smoke in my apartment -- a rarity on both counts. I've also experienced the serene and beautiful sight of Brian while he's asleep; he is a beautiful little boy when his face is pressed against a pillow, mouth half open, his body totally at rest. At different times, I've helped buzz or bleach his hair, and somewhere, I've got a handful of it that I scraped off my bathroom floor. It's stored away in a Ziploc bag, just waiting the day when advances in science make it possible for me to clone a gay version of Brian, using his hair as sample DNA.
Brian also was among the first models I asked to participate in a lark of mine that has since become a full-fledged project. Now, at the end of each session, I shoot a roll of self-portraits with almost everyone I photograph, whether it's someone beautiful I've approached on the street or Quentin Crisp or Joe Dallesandro -- and I could not have chosen anyone better than Brian to experiment with. Not only have I chronicled his own personal transformation through his tattoos and piercings, but I have also been able to chart the subtle changes in our relationship as photographer and model, and as friends.
Those of you who buy this book will do so for a variety of reasons, I suspect. Brian's pictures were included in my first little photo book, Massengill, and a more substantial number of shots were in Massengill Men, which followed a year or so later. He has always been mentioned among the favorites when people write to me. It's easy enough to say he's just a beautiful guy, and that he appeals to all kinds of people on a purely physical level. But truthfully, I think it's more than that. I think these photographs of Brian are more telling, and offer clues about his life and personality that people identify with or find intriguing.
In either case, this book is really a tribute not just to Brian's physical beauty, but also to his evolution as a person and the evolution of our relationship. I'm proud of these photographs, not because I think they're art, but because they represent the fact that that two very different people, with dramatically diverse lives, have made room for each other. Brian's life and my own are forever linked by these pictures, and I’m mostly proud of this book because it demonstrates what I've always believed about photography: that it can serve as a unifying element, transcending barriers of language or time. Now, evidence of Brian's beauty and our friendship will always exist outside of the drawers of my filing cabinets.
Why has he posed for me so many times, over so many years? I've wondered that myself, but Brian and I have never discussed it. It certainly isn't because of the money. For the first several years we knew each other, I never paid Brian for posing for me. Instead, I gave him rolls of film I'd shot for him, or archival prints. Once, I gave him prints of his girlfriend. The pictures shot in and around his car mark the first real payment he ever received from me, I think. We took an all-day road trip to Chattanooga in 1997 and I bought him a set of wide-whitewall tires for his Plymouth Fury III. After that, I flew him to New York to visit me or began paying him for our sessions in Tennessee, despite the fact that he never asked for payment of any kind. My point, I guess, is that it's clearly never been about the money for Brian.
Reed Massengill New York City, 2000
© 2000, FotoFactory Press
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