Paul Oberst and Patrick McNamara
Banded Boys/ Banded Men
Paul Oberst and Patrick McNamara's stunning, and at times haunting collection of banded men and boys is on display in this full color, 39 page book.
The photographs in this exhibit are part of a much larger project. Eventually each decade in the life of man will be represented by an individual often paired with one or two from another period in life. It is our desire to have the last 5 decades represented by a diverse racial and ethnic mix of individuals expanding the impact of the series. The project will also encompass a series investigating the ten-year increments in the lives of women. The photographs show males in their first decade, the teens, 20's, 30's and 40's. These images are but a sampling of the photographs being assembled in the collection.
The models are not professionals. They are friends; relatives or associates who were asked to join in this project not even knowing the other participants in most cases. They were asked to paint their bodies and to become primal male beings transcending time and place. What I found most powerful is the confidence, firmness, and gentleness and respect these individuals showed one another in a culture wherein such proximity would more often be cause for concern or fear.
The black and white banding pays homage to trickster and clown body painting and costuming the world over. Most especially I honor the clown kachinas of the Southwest Pueblo Indians who impressed upon me the mysteries of their liberating presences.
This project would remain only a concept were it not for my collaborator Patrick McNamara. My job was to bring the boys and men into the project, find the location and create the prop elements for the photo session. Once I set the situation up, Patrick guided the individuals into more precise relation to one another so that every detail worked to intensify the emotional and formal content of each image. Often the group would break into spontaneous playful bravado true to the nature of the trickster. Patrick was able to capture the discovery, intensity and subtle mood of each situation the boys and men formed.
Stepping into the banded boys and men project as a collaborator has been one of the highlights of the past few years. As a long time admirer and collector of artist Paul Oberst's work, it was with great excitement and anticipation that I became involved at the conceptual stage of this ongoing series.
The project from a photography standpoint required minimal lighting and staging. I've always drawn inspiration from the late Irving Penn, and elements of his work might be gleaned in this collaboration. Paul and I had discussed the use of a clean minimalist space in which to document these banded characters. With the exception of the individual portraits, it was decided to keep the lighting simple and straight forward thus allowing the viewer to study the relationship between the models without the distraction of mood created by dramatic lighting.
When arriving at the start of any photo shoot, the energy in the studio is palpable. When you add to this mix nonprofessional model/s from different walks of life that are strangers about to become acquainted and asked to pose for a photographer that they have never met, you have a very dynamic setting. As the sessions begin and the models immediately morph into character, a bond of trust is formed, and we all play out our roles. By the last frame of each shoot, we inevitably achieve a comfortable level of trust, respect and kinship with one another. Fortunately, this is what we envisioned from the start.