Essay on which the forward for Alessandro Tomassetti’s book Instant Gratification was based.
The medium is fast.
The effect long lasting.
Painters feel time differently. They feel the weight of it. The old masters lean on them with a constant reminder of just how long art endures.
Painters are always short changed by time, giving much more time than their artworks receive. No one will ever look at a painting for even a fraction of the time it takes to paint it.
As a painter, Alessandro Tomassetti gets it, he is intimately aware of this time discrepancy.
It is his very painterly sensitivity to time, as he brings it to bear on this body of photographs, that is most electric because what he has managed to do is nothing short of a miracle. He has flipped the time imbalance on its head.
He has chosen a fast medium, instant, in fact, and managed to produce photographs that cause the viewer to pause.
To stay a little longer.
To go back a page.
To be a little haunted,
then a lot.
He could have used digital photography. It is quicker and more reliable in comparison, but the painter in him took a different route. He chose to use instant photography, which on the photography spectrum is as close to painting as you can get.
These are not the polaroids of old. The dry diskettes that issued from the camera with the self contained chemical pouch hidden behind the oversized white border at the bottom of the frame.
They were the ultimate point and shoot.
And the wait of course.
Waiting was the only participation you had with these kinds of polaroids.
The instant photography Alessandro uses is much more hands-on, much more participatory. Once the shutter is clicked there are no friendly motors to deliver your photo. You have to pull the film out of the camera yourself.
And you have to pull it in the right way because the action of pulling the film from the camera is what starts the development process.
You have to do it confidently.
You cannot dither.
Exactly like painting.
It has to be one fluid motion.
As you pull the film from the camera you are spreading the chemicals across the photo-sensitive paper because what you hold in your hands is more than a simple photograph, it is a wafer-thin dark room enclosing a photograph.
It is dark and wet and mysterious. A womb of creativity issuing forth these rich images that smolder into life fully formed. Sensual images of beauty unbounded by labels – beauty as it expresses itself in man.
What Alessandro is doing with these photographs is nudging us to broaden our bandwidth for beauty.
To see it all – the vulnerability and the power, the playful and erotic, the sorrow and the shame, the fear and the courage.
All the aspects of what it is to be a man. Not just the comfortable or familiar aspects, but the lot.
He encourages us to look at the jarring aspects that at first don’t fit, then as we look we soften, and in the softening we slowly see, then recognize, then accept – this too is man.
What it is to be a man is the central pillar of this book. All else revolves around it.
How men present themselves to the world, with all the space for toxicity there is in that presentation.
The square jaw that should never quiver.
The penetrating stare that should never be come-hither.
The hip that should never bend sensuously.
With these photographs the facades are recreated, subverted, torn down, and challenged.
Then the journey turns inward and how a man sees himself is quietly explored, tentatively shown, withdrawn, then exposed again.
The viewer is revealed in what he looks at.
The curation of images telling their own story of the curator.
The refractions of perception bounce back and forth.
We see men through another man’s eyes.
We are shown the inner landscape of a man as it is externalized in his visions of other men.
This is the sort of mind melting conflagration that is at the core of all great art. The collision of apparent opposites that should scream at each other yet exist in a beautiful harmony within the genius of the artwork.
Without knowing it we long for that moment when our mind cracks, gives up the need to label, and just receives the beauty.
Beauty it cannot understand but longs for.
Beauty that connects, and at its heart is a return home.
The powerhouse of these compelling images is the palpable bond between artist and sitter. The friendship, the trust, the love and adoration, all go to invoke beauty.
For that is what must be done, an invocation.
Real beauty can’t be manufactured.
The individual elements of a photoshoot are nothing to speak of. In and of themselves they don’t contain any beauty. They are simply the staging ground for what starts as a wispy vision in the mind of the artist.
A vision of what the finished image could be.
A tantalizing glimpse of the possibility of beauty appearing, but with no guarantee whatsoever that it will.
This amorphous vision directs the choice of elements – this model and not that, in this setting, with this apparel, arranged in this way, with this lighting, using this medium.
Whether the image is grandiose or intimate the moment eventually arrives when the elements are gathered at the appointed time and there is nothing left but to begin.
Allesandro, with no apparent support for his next step must walk forward towards his vision. With the confidence of a fool he must draw all the elements forward with him not knowing if beauty will appear.
He may get an inkling as he looks through the viewfinder but he has been led astray by those inklings before.
He will only know if beauty has appeared in time, because even though the photography is instant it takes time to get distance from the logistics of the photo shoot, to let them fade in memory so the image can reveal itself.
The image of beauty.
It is not in every photograph, only the rare few. This book is full of them.
And once seen beauty is undeniable.
These are handsome men without a doubt, their faces and body’s could adorn any international magazine cover. What elevates these photographs is Allessandro’s reluctance to shy away from beauty.
In this day and age of hair trigger sensitivity to gender issues, it is a courageous act to create images so blatantly showing that beauty has no gender. That beauty lives where it lives and reveals itself where it will.
It glows out of these photographs with such incandescence that, regardless of your orientation, the beauty is undeniable.
We receive art with our whole body so registering that beauty, whether conscious or not, is one of the miracles of these photographs.
The beauty recorded is not the beauty of these men. They are beautiful, of course, but the magic is in knowing this is beauty expressing itself through these men.
What Allesandro has done is record the moment where beauty glowed bright.
The beauty of the ages.
It is what, if we are honest with ourselves, we crave.
By the time you hold this book in your hands the men in these pages will be older. Life and time will have written new chapters on their faces.
In a hundred years these men will be gone.
But beauty will remain.
It will be expressing itself in new men
and all the other ways beauty expresses itself.
Because that is what beauty does, it glows.
It can’t help itself.
But not for long.
It moves on.
It never stays in one place forever.
It flits through time from one thing to the next.
Always moving on, the never ending change becoming the one constant.
Then along comes Alessandro and with a click of his shutter, he plucks these passing moments of beauty from time and holds them still.
He creates the passing moment that does not pass.
Through this instant medium, he highlights the transience of beauty and in so doing the preciousness of it.
He encourages us to celebrate beauty now.
Not when we have time.
Not to schedule it for two weeks time, but to grab it with both hands when we see it.
To drop everything for it.
To snap the internal shutter and register beauty.
Then pause and wait in reverence for what we have been so lucky to see, and more importantly, had the wherewithal to recognize.
Alessandro, like all artists, has helped us to see what is in front of us.
With these photographs, he has shown us how to lean into the value of beauty.
To pull it confidently from life.
To pause for it.
To peel back the layers of it.
To exalt in it.
To set it free to teach us and show us its hidden depths.
To allow us to breathe the lighter air of the sublime.