Experiment: 360 still images

Cruising Dens

When I moved to San Francisco in 2007 to complete my MFA in Photography, I started exploring the various parks scattered throughout the city. During a walk through Buena Vista Park in the Upper Haight neighborhood, I stumbled across a space being occupied by three distinct groups: transient populations, men looking to have sex with other men, and urban explorers. 

I was fascinated by the multiple uses which were activating the secluded ridge on the south side of the park. As I observed the various activities occurring in the space  I began to wonder, Is it the specifics of the landscape which invited certain populations to inhabit it or did the various populations sculpt the landscape to accommodate their desires?

Shortly after discovering the area, the city announced that it would be closing that specific portion of the park for retrofitting and clean up. What was unsaid was the desire to alter the landscape so that it was less hospitable to transient camps and public cruising for sex.

While trying to document the space, I became increasingly frustrated with the single frame and quickly moved to triptychs. When triptychs failed to inspire a sense of presence or being thereI expanded to six and finally ten exposures per scene. As I moved between frames, I racked the focus back and forth so that the viewer experienced a sense of "scanning" the landscape. I also let go of any desire for the images to line up perfectly, opting for a stutter as the viewer made their way through the scene.

Many projects by other artists and documentarians have attempted to capture the experience of cruising for sex in public places. These projects often fail because the maker expects the still image to contain the same electricity and excitement they experienced while cruising in parks. My hope is that by creating multi-panel, immersive images, the viewer has a better sense of being there and these ephemeral spaces are more accurately documented.

I consider the following six to ten panel images the most effective at inspiring a sense of being there. I find the final two multi panel pieces particularly successful because they give the viewer entrance and exit points into what I call "the den." When exhibited, each panel is 40 inches tall.