Fans of Pierre Dalpé recognize one of his favourite and most fascinating points of obsession. The Montreal gay photographer’s work often captures doubles, twins or siblings. His striking photographs have been enhanced by the onset of digital photography, which allows for the easily manipulated creation of visual illusions, ultimately prompting the question: is that a real set of twins or one model posing twice?
Dalpé has specialized in spinning his often-erotic photography into brainteasers. Now, he’s being honoured with a major exhibit, titled Personae, which opened May 26 in Mexico City.
“For many of my photos, I was finding it interesting to have one person act out two or more roles within one image,” says Dalpé. “My earlier photos were more theatrical and involved, creating multiples of one person, while also playing with, or changing, their gender. At one point I started twinning my subjects, as well as adding real twins to the series, and I started enjoying playing with a twin or double composition.”
Dalpé recalls that this process of creating two different characters out of one model often led to a revelation for the person posing for the camera, as well as for the photographer. “Since the inception of the series, I have been fascinated with the idea of being able to expose the different facades or personas of any one individual. It intrigues me how subtle changes to a person’s body — in terms of makeup, clothing, facial expression and posture — can bring about a whole new persona. And that can be a persona that my subject herself or himself was quite unaware of.”
Dalpé has created a distinct body of work that challenges our notions of identity and self-image, suggesting that how we see ourselves and present ourselves is constantly shifting. “The main themes in this show are identity, disguise and performance. Personae questions the notion of fixed identity and explores the idea that we, as individuals, potentially embody a multitude of personae — that identity is fluid, malleable and not predetermined.”
Dalpé fans will see some familiar images from the past, but this show also boasts some new über-hot pics. In particular, a shot of two very sexy dudes dressed up as superheroes. “I met Allan — or Captain America — at a residency I did two months ago outside Mexico City. He’s a dancer, and he told me that a lot of people find that he and his boyfriend look alike. So we planned to meet up one afternoon. When I can, I like to meet my subjects in advance to discuss the shoot and scout locations. But for this shoot we didn’t have time, so they brought me to this cool location, and I left it to them to bring whatever outfits they wanted to pose in. When I saw the results of the superhero look, it was immediate eye candy to me! I especially like the fact that they don’t have a typical, beefy superhero body type — and their body positions are atypical as well. But there’s a really sexy, powerful energy coming from them just the same. I’m getting a lot of positive response from this image.” No kidding.
And Dalpé confirms that his sexuality consistently informs his work. “Being that I’m an openly gay artist, I feel like my art reflects my sexual orientation. But in a more specific sense, the queerness of my art also stems from the fact that I’m attracted to gay male archetypes or icons — gay imagery such as military uniforms, acrobats and performers, gay clones, and so on. Being gay I’m naturally more attracted to male imagery, but I’m also attracted to imagery where women break out of stereotypical roles.
“I don’t see my work as being very political. I’m not trying to push any queer agenda. I guess, in a general sense, my work has to do with the cliché of freedom of expression; I’m encouraging my subjects, and in turn the viewer (regardless of their sexual orientation), to explore and think about different hidden sides of themselves.”
The Personae exhibit opened May 26, at La Galeria (Chicontepec 57, in the Hipodromo Condesa district) in Mexico City, and runs until June 26.