Long before dial-up, and the internet’s remarkable ability to form connections between people who otherwise would never meet, we queers have suspected — or, at least hoped for — the existence of an unknown community somewhere that would embrace and understand us far more completely than those with whom we share the dinner table. I experienced this dichotomy acutely one summer on vacation with my family when, after striking up a conversation with a cute boy-dyke at the Vancouver Folk Festival, I had a more familiar conversation in five minutes with a complete stranger than I’d had in three weeks with anyone who’d known me my whole life.
And so it happens, not just with queers but with those who have creative temperaments, or both. Zachary Ayotte and Ted Kerr are two visually talented queers in Edmonton who discovered a shared sensibility and aesthetic with other photographic artists, not in their local community but by surfing through albums posted on the photo-sharing site Flickr.
“I recognized something in the work of these photographers that was similar to what Ted and I are doing in Edmonton,” says the thoughtful and soft-spoken Ayotte. “It made sense that we should organize an exhibition of our work.”
At the Same Time is a sensual, intimate and striking collection of photographs by five artists: Ayotte and Kerr from Edmonton; Steven Beckly from Toronto; and Colin Quinn and Oisin Share from Manchester. The show is currently on display at the ARTery in Edmonton and will travel next to Ireland (Quinn and Share’s home community) and then to Toronto. The content for each show will remain the same, but the configuration of the pieces is up to the hosting artists.
“We weren’t interested in organizing them by photographer,” continues Ayotte, “but in a way that we saw the aesthetics complement and contrast each other. How the photos get placed in Ireland and Toronto is up to the artists there.”
The shared sensibility is clear on the walls of the ARTery. Delicate, honest and personal photos capture private moments in the daily lives of three gay couples. They reflect both the banal and the beautiful of life inside an intimate relationship, from lounging in the bathtub to looking out the window to sousing side-by-side urinals.
“What we’re interested in is the relationships between people, and between those people and the outside world,” explains the boyish Kerr. “There are things that pull us together and things that keep us apart, and often those are the same things that either pull us toward or keep us separate from the outside world.”
The title of the exhibit comes from that push-pull dynamic, of feeling intensely intimate with but at the same time often thoroughly separate from someone else, or from one’s community. It also describes the simultaneous gestation of the works.
“I was struck that we were all shooting similar kinds of things at the same time, yet entirely uninfluenced by each other,” remarks Ayotte. “It sharpened the idea that there was a community ‘out there’ that we had more in common with than what was around us at home.”
The photos also depict a lovely serenity in gay identity. The domesticity lends an ordinariness that leaves the shouting crowds of “We’re here, we’re queer!” in the streets while calmly documenting the tenderness and ease between lovers who happen to be gay.
At the Same Time is up at the ARTery in Edmonton until March 6 (9535 Jasper Ave, theartery.ca, 780.441.6966). Exhibition dates and venues in Ireland and Toronto are TBA.