By Albert Smith
Originally published on Advocate.com June 05 2010 3:00 AM ET
Brief Bio/Artist Statement
Art. Fashion. Sexuality. Justin Violini holds a mirror up to each and curates atmospheres that explore our personal boundaries and limits through creative expressions.
Why are you a photographer?
I've always loved Polaroids and instant photography because of the joy of not waiting days for film to develop, I like that it makes everything look a little dated, and working as a buyer in designer clothing, I’m always seeing model casting boards full of Polaroids ... so they're sort of a turn-on.
To launch "The Fearless Project" and kick it off with the "Instant" installation, I realized I couldn't rely on formal training, and using a Polaroid was a very deliberate choice. Instant film is a quick open-snap-shoot-develop process, and in trying to accumulate a catalog of facial expressions at orgasm, it seemed the necessary format. The "baseball card collectibility" feel of Polaroids adds to what can be viewed as an ongoing documentation of boys and men persuaded to open the doors and jump in the sheets for many what is the very private moment of having an orgasm — but with a camera in their face.
I've also been recently developing a series, "Conversations With Diana," which involves photos taken with a Diana F+ reproduction camera. Totally the opposite of a Polaroid, as everything is manual; it's on medium-format film and requires a lot of attention to shoot. So the camera has been the bastard love child of my creative process. What started out as side pictures during editorial shoots have turned into full-fledged sessions involving the camera. If it didn't take two-three days for the film to develop it would be perfect.
What catches your eye?
Usually it is someone that feels secure with him/herself. You can see it in the way they walk, laugh, smile and their body language. It catches my eye, but that's not what interests me. I want to find their weakness — both the process of determining what that is and the ways they can overcome it are the driving force. It's the people that we admire and think of as brave, as fearless, that I want to test and see if that really is the case. Would they welcome the approach of a random stranger? Would they find a rush in something that causes them to push themselves? Would they be willing to have someone in the room with a camera while they are having an orgasm?
Outside of people, the things that usually grab my attention are paradoxes and humor. I was on Hudson Street a few weeks ago and stopped dead in my tracks to sit and stare at a knocked-over trash can that held copious amounts of gold and blue glitter makeup. It was club-kid nightlife mixed in with the day-to-day Manhattan monotony. The most interesting juxtapositions are the simplest of objects.
How do you choose your subjects?
Friends, social networks, recommendations, or guys I’ve hooked up with and anything in between. I approach them both as the people that I want to shoot for "Instant" and the photographers/artists abroad that I wanted involved in the project.
Broken down at the roots, "The Fearless Project" exists as a platform of expression — for myself as a curator-art director-photographer; for artists looking to venture into new media, formats, themes; for individuals who are looking for a creative outlet and expression. The goal is to encourage and support anyone to break free from any social, moral, political, religious, personal obligations or boundaries that they have seen as a roadblock.
For the "Instant" exhibition I approached about 400-500 people and asked them if they wanted to be shot for an art show that would be a Polaroid of their face during orgasm. I was not only forcing them to test their own personal limits, but I had to deal with my own fears of rejection and denial. The goal was to create something with this subject matter on a scale and scope that had not been done before.
Frank Yamrus shows his "Rapture" series as formal portraits of facial expressions during orgasm, and Stuart Sandford (who is a contributing artist to "Instant") shot "Cum Faces" as a very raw you-are-there-in-the-bedroom-with-them series. At the time of the first exhibition of "Instant," there are over 80 Polaroids of individual guys' faces during orgasm, with 10 artist submissions depicting their orgasm in their own artistic style. I also wanted to open it up and make it global and have created a "fan army" of guys abroad who have sent in and e-mailed their submissions for "Instant"/"Fearless" as a way to associate with the project and put forward their ideas of sexual and/or artistic expression.
For contributing and collaborative artists, it was the fanboy in me that approached people I admired. I wanted to figure out in which ways we would be interested in seeing what they would come up with as a new task, most of which involved turning themselves into the model. David Buisán illustrates sexy and quirky comic book images and yet had never really done a self-portrait (from being shy and modest), but for the project he has submitted a comic book strip of him coming. Paul Gunn shoots most of the time in Australia, swimwear and idealized chiseled males, but submits a self-exploitative work of his sexuality. Drasko Bogdanovic in his book shot dozens of nude males; however, he never exposed himself in front of the camera. Stéphane Gizard in Paris, Adriano Batista in Barcelona, Lars Stephan in Berlin, and an extensive list of others have led to a global collective of artists connected by "The Fearless Project" working in new subject areas.
How do you describe your work?
When I shoot things myself or look to curate and art direct I look for something that is:
Authoritative — there is a voice that is loud and clear that you will hear, regardless if it is something you want to hear;
Raw — there is a dynamic style and feel;
Lustful — something about the model makes you want them or want to be them;
Explorative — it should be something new from a place to a person to a style;
Engaging — you have to think, it's not decorative wall art;
Sentimental — it captures a person and a place to serve as a memento.
What makes a good photograph, to you?
It should have all or some parts of the points above. I want it to speak to me in layers over time — a great photograph will cause me to stand there entranced viewing it. I see the central focus of the photo, then I see the surroundings, then the tone/feel come into play, and finally I pick up on the smaller details from the expression of the face or a smattering of random freckles or the depth or shallowness of the eyes. That's when I want to see the photo every day and discover a new meaning and relationship with it time after time.
Who are your favorite artists? And why?
Patti Smith: Music, style, writing, art ... she's done it all and proves you can do it all and don't have to worry about the reception you receive when breaking into a new industry. Agnes Martin: You can view her paintings and relax with the simplicity and minimalism, and at the same time you can lose yourself in the conceptual landscapes. Anthony Goicolea: He puts himself out there as the model in his work, and through his disguises as the model, there is always the feeling that he's playing a trick on the viewer. Mark Beard: The same way Patti is free from one medium, Mark is free from having to paint in a single style through his artist pseudonyms (Bruce Sargeant, Edith Thayer Cromwell, Peter Coulter) that create styles from 1920s Ivy League athletes to 1980s downtown New York street art.
The inaugural exhibition from "The Fearless Project" is titled "Instant" and like its name, it is here and gone in an instant: a one-night-only event. The event will take place Thursday, June 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Robert Goff Gallery in New York City (www.robertgoffgallery.com). This includes viewing of the installation and a variety of programming curated exclusively for the evening. The installation features a film component and a Polaroid display featuring over 75 individual male facial expressions at orgasm. The curator not only explores the relationship between you and the subject but also the authenticity of the moment.