E. Winter Tashlin

New Photo Project Shows Gay 'Personals' in a New Light

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | September 10, 2012 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: activist art, Craigslist Project, gay hookup, gay men, photography

gloryhole.jpegThe very first post I wrote for Bilerico was about the fact that I'm polyamorous. Although I'm in a long term relationship, both my partner and I casually play and date outside of our relationship. This means that although it rarely leads to anything, I do have profiles on two of the skeevier gay men's dating/hookup sites, as well as on one of the slightly more relationship-oriented ones.

homemade GLORYHOLE taking ALL HOT JOCK COCK now - 35 (photo via Craigslistproject.com)

I can not honestly think of anyplace else in society where we see people's primal urges laid so bare as on one of the "hookup" oriented website for gay men. A few months on Manhunt or Adam4Adam and it can start to seem like these sites are calculated to make one loose faith in the fundamental decency, not to mention grammar skills, of the males of the species.

The truth of course, is that these sites exist because people want them, and they work. While I do know people who've found love on sites like Manhunt, that's not what they are there for. As much as I may find a message like

Subject: wanna
Message: fuck

irritating, and maybe even a bit degrading, it can also be seen as having a refreshing honesty about it. There's little dissembling or misdirection on sites like these, and perhaps nowhere is that more evident then on that bottom-of-barrel hookup site, Craigslist's Casual Encounters M4M Personals. It is a place where people lay out what they are looking for in no nonsense, and sometimes painfully stark language, and take what comes.

It's out of this somewhat strange and disreputable place that we find one of the most remarkable examples of artistic commentary I've seen in some time.

I sucked your cock in the parking lot then you ran away - 30 (north jersey) (photo via Craigslistproject.com)parkinglot.jpeg

The artist, a photographer who prefers to remain anonymous, responded to a series of Casual Encounters postings and asked the posters if they were open to being photographed "...in visual representations of their ads."

The Craigslist Project [NSFW] presents us with images that are at various times deeply sad, joyful, exuberant, tragic, and often hauntingly beautiful. Presented with the faces, so to speak (actual identities are masked in a variety of creative ways) of the people behind these postings, we are encouraged to transcend our native cynicism and see these people in a new light.

I can't tell you precisely what motivated the artist to create this stunning series of photos. In declining to be interviewed for this post they had this to say:

I've found that not commenting on the pieces or the process has helped maintain an air of mystery about the images.

Ordinarily, I might be tempted to dismiss that statement as a bit of a cop-out, but in truth, I feel like the Craigslist Project has something different to say to everyone, as good art should.

In addition to praising the artist, the people who've chosen to participate should be commended for their willingness to be vulnerable and at times quite literally laid bare, in a way that can make us rethink what we thought we knew about what a hookup site is, and who the people who use it are.

(All photos via Craigslist Project. Be sure to click through for more.)

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