Josh Quigley’s photographs from ‘A Shameless Longing’ take us behind the facade of everyday life and invite us in to see the personal moments of a family, of friends, of himself and strangers. All linked by their shared sexuality, intimacy, longing. Their human physical life, that visceral part that is too often covered up, packaged, exploited and sold.
However, what you have here is not a documentary rather it is a commingling of truth and fiction. Strangers found on social networking sites enact situations that reflect the real ones undertaken by Quigleys family. We are never sure what we’re looking at. The camera lies. Tells its own truth. Captures a moment that is real on one level yet constructed on another. It leads to a provocative situation in which we are given a peek into the personal lives of others, let into places we shouldn’t be, the bathroom, the bedroom, allowed to examine, explore encounters that we know and are familiar with yet are utterly foreign. The rhythm of the narrative a fiction to us. No matter how real it all appears. But then it isn’t. Each photograph is carefully constructed and lit. It’s a meta narrative that plays on many levels; on the documentary, the fictional and the conceptual, all the images attempting to tell the story of what it is to be human, to be a sexual being in contemporary society.
Quigley has been working on this project for over seven years as he says himself:
building a world that is both cinematic and fable-like with an emphasis on portraying the human condition within our heavily domesticated world.
And while his family plays a key role in these pictures he hires others, models and actors, to reinforce his ideas and our prejudices, stereotypes and presumptions of what goes on behind closed doors. It leads to a dichotomy. On one hand you have a poignant picture of a loving family, personal and intimate, their moments together beautiful, touching and invigorating while on the other the strangers inhabit a more overtly sexual world. Their story is self contained, their actions questioning our understanding, our moral values. They are more political. A cultural trope designed to provoke. It’s a fine line that Quigley walks and is the reason this series is so enthralling. The more you look, the more threads you begin to weave into a tapestry that is both rich and beautiful. Here’s what he has to say about the work:
It was important for me to incorporate as many facets of sexuality as possible. Not just sex itself, but how sexuality shapes us today and how we incorporate what it means to be feminine and masculine. I wanted to play with sexuality throughout the project so that the viewer has a chance to address their own ideas of sexuality.
Today, we are bombarded by violence in the media, on the TV, in movies, video games. Sex, if shown, is always over-sensationalized to be titillating or bearing guilt. Hence the title “A Shameless Longing” which means to bear no guilt, to have no shame, like an animal, to be natural. It’s also a play on words in that today “shameless” has also come to mean a person who has no shame, i.e. someone who is willing to do anything for fame and money.