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October 14, 2013

Stacy Kranitz: From the Study on Post-Pubescent Manhood

This is the second in a series of posts by Stacy Kranitz for BagNews Originals. You can see the rest of the series here.

I started making a film two years ago using the same DSLR camera I use for my still photographic work. After making images at Skatopia for three years, I was beginning to question the value of what I had accumulated. In 2011, I met two 20-year-old redheaded boys who were sitting on top of a hill screaming vulgar obscenities to people walking by. I ran and grabbed my microphone and recorder from my car and did not leave their side for the next three days. I had specified them as the ‘subject’ and myself as creator. It was this specificity that I wanted to develop further, as I invited myself to stay with them in their parent’s homes in Tennessee.

Most of our time was spent smoking pot out of a homemade water bong, drinking 20-ounce cans of beer and telling stories of the awkward sexual encounters from our pasts.These exchanges were sincere yet simultaneously enacted, as a sound recorder was constantly present to document our interactions.

I fell in love with the interplay between Jerimy and Andy’s child-like immaturity and adult sexuality. I made videos of them as they swam at the lake, laid in bed, showered, climbed trees, went to work. I wanted to celebrate the intimacy of our relationship, the sexual tension, the petty frustrations and growing emotional bonds; the closeness and the distance.

More than just immersing myself in the daily experience of their lives, I wanted to make something that represented the peculiar power relationship between subject and documenter, by looking at the ways that I provoked, empowered and exploited my ‘subjects’. I dislocated the sound from the imagery, creating a distinct break in the sense of ‘reality’ that documentary films and reality television often allege. I was looking to make work that referenced, updated and commented on this tradition while imagining a new methodology that would challenge the viewer’s ideas of documentary truth.

At the beginning of this year, I sat down to examine all of the footage I had accumulated. I started by putting together what I had of Jerimy. I had taken on the duplicitous role of the observer, documentarian, friend, dysfunctional therapist, houseguest, instigator, untrained social scientist, ill-fit motherly protector and fetishist. Jerimy became the performer, object of desire, storyteller, muse, derelict, star and informant.

It’s this complicated messiness that I’m attracted to; the times in which it’s difficult to see where the performance ends and truth emerges; the glimpses of raw vulnerability where fetishization turns to humanization.

So now I have produced a rough cut of a film that reveals myself as a photographer that knowingly exploits her subjects, glorifying and objectifying their sexuality and youthful vitality, as well as a documentary that publicly teeters on the line between pleasure and suffering, lust and adoration, friendship and fascism.

Some of Jerimy’s friends saw the rough-cut. They made fun of him for being so open in front of the camera. Jerimy was angry with me for posting it on the Internet. I did not get his permission. I was excited and naïve. Jerimy had no problem with the film I made. He even forgave me for not getting his permission. His problem was with his less-mature friends using the film to scrutinize him.

We decided to both agree on any future public presentations of the film. The very idea that I had uploaded the film without asking was me assuming an expected photographer role. But at this point we had grown too close. The subject is often vulnerable to the camera and then has no say about the final images. Even when the documentarian is filled with nobility and good, there is always a paternalism that comes into play in the end.  So for us, for better or for worse, we’re in it together.

The video:

PHOTOGRAPHS by Stacy Kranitz

About the Photographer

Stacy Kranitz

Stacy Kranitz’s work explores history, representation, biography, personal narrative, and otherness within the documentary tradition. She uses the photograph to consider important social issues while commenting on this tradition and challenging its boundaries. Much of her work focuses on the ways we express aggression and violence in our daily rituals, habits and pastimes. She received a BA in photography and film from New York University and is currently finishing her MFA at the University of California, Irvine. Her work has been exhibited in Louisiana, California, Florida and New York. It has also been featured in publications including, Elle, ESPN, Entertainment Weekly, Granta, Mother Jones, The New York Times magazine, Rolling Stone, Vice, The Wall Street Journal and Wired. You can see all of Stacy's BagNews Originals posts here.

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