Arts » Visual Arts

Review: EgoMaps at General Public Collective

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Cincinnati-based EgoMaps identifies as a “straightedge, queer person of color” — and a point and shoot photographer. (Editor's note: EgoMaps also identifies as transgender and does not use gendered pronouns. An earlier version of this review used gendered pronouns to refer to EgoMaps; we apologize for the error.) "I never use digital; I only use film; I use a Contax t2 or a Yashicha t4 or even, on occasion, a disposable camera," says EgoMaps, who works as a drug and alcohol counselor by day and prefers using a pseudonym to keep art and work worlds separate. EgoMaps does, however, take the time to pose the twenty-something subjects portrayed in this body of work, often in very provocative ways.

I found myself comparing EgoMaps' work to that of the late fashion photographer Richard Avedon, who, in his collection “In the American West,” photographed individual subjects — the working class, the down and out, and the derelict — in black and white against a stark white backdrop. There’s something standoffish and reductive about Avedon’s series. The sense that many of these subjects have been screwed over and/or have some screws loose is amplified by the blank backdrop. You can almost feel Avedon’s cold, distant gaze on them. (This was the mid-80s bleak chic work that spawned a million different Levi's ads.)

I find EgoMaps' photos, which often border on the pornographic, more honest and engaging than Avedon's. Subjects include EgoMaps' girlfriend, often depicted nude — and as often as not being penetrated by the photographer's hand in multiple orifices. Other subjects include acquaintances imbibing cheap whiskey, a nude male posing indoors with bloody roadkill, as well as some beautifully composed portraits of friends (sometimes wearing clothes, sometimes not, sometimes in the middle of sex acts).

All of them are photographed in the environment of the low-rent, urban world in which they live. There are some underexposed shots here, but EgoMaps does have some natural ability and — probably even more importantly — the trust of these subjects.

A side-note to this review: the windows of General Public Collective are papered over with printed images of Indiana state representatives, as well as the governor, painted or drawn over with lipstick, earnings and the like in reaction to their votes on RFRA late last month. Maybe it’s just crude agitprop, but I found it amusing enough.


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