Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Evergon looks to porn for inspiration

Montreal photographer titillates with his latest exhibit

PASSION PLAYS. To see more of Evergon's photography, check out the gallery at the bottom of this story.

Montreal photographer Evergon has long had a fascination with gender. Since gaining notoriety in the ’70s, when his entirely brazen depictions of sexual subjects raised controversy, Evergon has become a darling of the international art gallery set.

By his own admittance, the man has never been tepid. A great bit of Evergon lore dates back to 1972, when he was interviewed for a possible teaching job at the University of Ottawa. “I actually really felt like I didn’t want the job,” he recalls now. “So my mother gave me some advice: just wear drag to the interview. They’ll never hire you then.”

Alas, mom’s advice didn’t work. The hiring committee apparently wasn’t fazed and Evergon was hired. “I was shocked at the time,” Evergon, now 62, says. He continued to teach there part time for 22 years.

Evergon’s photography often involves nude (or scantily-clad) subjects, including himself. His latest show, titled “Passion Plays,” now on display in Laval, Quebec, includes a series of shots of him posing with models. The inspiration, he says, came from various internet porn sites, where he found a number of suggestive shots looked a great deal like poses found in classic art. One of Evergon’s images has the artist holding a young man over his lap, apparently in the act of spanking him. Another, titled “Pieta,” has the artist holding a young man in his arms.

“I spent many hours logged on to the sex sites, and then I’d print out the images that really grabbed me,” recalls Everon. “Then I’d show my models. We would figure things out from there. The “Pieta” inspiration came from a site called drunkenboys. I could be carrying a drunken boy in that image or a saint. I’m drawing connections between contemporary sex images and art history.”

Evergon concedes he has “a long tradition of re-enactment” running through his work. He loves the performance element to creating his shots. And he says this series allows for people to work their gaydar: “Some of my models are gay, but it may surprise some that a few are straight. I’m not sure you can tell the difference. I’m not telling.”

And Evergon seems comfortable taking off his own clothes for the camera, appearing nude in several shots. “I’m 62, and my body is not the ideal attractive body. I tried to get other men my age to model, but many of them said they’d have to spend some time in the gym before they’d feel comfortable doing it. And there’s another reason that I model for my own shoots: I’m the cheapest model in town!”

But Evergon acknowledges posing nude requires a great deal of courage. For this, he turned to his mother for advice, as he so often does. She would know: ten years ago, she posed for a series of shots for one of her son’s shows, in her birthday suit. This led to a flurry of press attention, as older women are so rarely seen in nude photography, and prompted the Globe and Mail to dub Evergon’s mom “Mother Courage.”

“She really was extremely courageous to do that,” Evergon says. “There are still family members who won’t speak to her because of what she did, which is outrageous. I am looking for lumps of coal I can give them for Christmas. Now more than ever, we don’t see images of older women. If you look at the women’s magazines, probably the oldest one you see is Michelle Obama, and that’s because she’s First Lady.

“When we did that show with my mother, some schoolgirls had to come to see it and write about it. The teacher shared their notes with us. One girl wrote the word ‘Yuck’ over and over and over again. That was her entire reflection on the show. There is this really strong fear of the older body in our culture.”

Evergon’s latest show also includes a video installation, featuring his long takes of various scenes of nature in and around Montreal. “While the shots are of nature, the soundtrack is decidedly urban,” Evergon notes. “You realize how noisy the city is, you always hear cars or dump trucks in the background.”

Evergon’s latest exhibit, “Passion Plays,” is at the Galerie Verticale in Laval, Quebec, until Dec 12. Open Wed to Sat, 11am – 5pm. For more info, call 450-975-0770 or visit galerieverticale.com.