Matthew Morrocco is an artist who has been photographing gay men in their homes and in his studio. He uses the connection between the photographer and his subject to study how identities are formed in the negotiations between family, religion, and sexual orientation. Morrocco is questioning how identity informs relationships, and, in turn, how relationships develop into community. For him, identity is a performance that can be put on or taken off depending on which community an individual is engaging. He is motivated by his experience as a young, gay male who denied his preferences and sexuality, and now his work seeks to visualize how the need to perform affects the men he photographs. He meets his subjects online through social media and dating sites, and intentionally selects men who are older and looking for younger companions. Morrocco, who is sometimes naked, half dressed, or in his underwear, poses himself intimately with his sitter, where it appears as if some kind of sexual act has just or is about to take place. He opens up the privacy of this implied sexual encounter through use of the photograph which he intends for public, visual consumption, and by using the public domain of the internet to find his subjects. Morrocco’s pictures are about the relationship between him and his subjects, each one building on the next to be representative of the communities that he belongs. These are conflicted relationships and the awkwardness of the compositions reflect this confusion. There is a awkward sense of freedom and loneliness that comes from being a constant performer that Morrocco wants to show in his photographs. Morrocco also photographs his family in these private moments that he sets up. His mother is a recurring character, and the two of them, mother and son, are arranged in traditional and non-traditional versions of The Pietà. In one such arrangement, Morrocco is supporting the body of his mother as they both gaze into the camera. He is heavily influenced by his Catholic upbringing, and this powerful visual trope, of Mary holding the deceased body of Jesus after the Cruxifiction is reworked in his portraits with men as well. In this way, Morrocco is metaphorically sacrificing his own body to show, not only how being gay affects his subjects in terms of the formation of performative identities, but also, and most importantly, the desire and necessity to be in relation with others. The work is an expression of the artist’s and subject’s loneliness within communities as well as creates a platform on which to build relationships, and thereby community, through proximity, affiliation and identification. He generously gives his body to explore how performance is related to group dynamics, and combats isolation by communing through the photograph.
Click here to see the un-edited footage of Matthew.
Images from the series Men
Images from the series Growing Up and Getting Old