Friday, November 21, 2008
Binghamton High School is an old red-brick building on the corner of Main Street and Oak Street. There are police men posted at this intersection at all times, and teenagers stand in clusters on both streets. Young men on bikes hang out near the corner throughout the day in small gangs and come and go suddenly and urgently.
Whenever I made the right turn off Main Street onto Oak Street and passed the side entrance of the high school, I felt some nervousness about looking for young men. I wondered if the police men noticed how many times my car passed the high school and what assumptions they might make. I figured at worst, they'd suspect that I was looking to buy or to sell drugs, and I prepared myself to explain my photo project were I questioned.
I imagined various scenarios ... if I were a straight man photographing younger men or women, or a gay man photographing younger men or women, or a straight woman photographing younger men or women ... and the ways any of this might be understood as creepy or subversive or innocuous simply based on these different formulas of gender and sexual preference.
When I saw Paul walking alone half a block down from the high school, I was almost relieved, and even more relieved when he told me he was eighteen. Paul was extroverted, confident, friendly. He said he knew a lot about photography and video from classes he had taken.
I thought he looked like he just stepped off the set of That 70's Show, except for the Abercrombie sweatshirt. Paul told me he was trying to get work from the Abercrombie store in Binghamton, and I wasn't sure if he meant as a clerk or as a model. I said I'd send him a photo if one came out okay, and he gave me his email address, which begins, "labeledwithoutmeaning@" ...