Close Encounters (2001-2006)
24 May 2017

Close Encounters is primarily a project about the physical and metaphorical looking at and reading of the landscape. In many ways it shares an approach to the visual strategies explored in Innocent Landscapes. The places involved in this project are referred to as ‘cruising zones’. They are complicated, multi-layered and profoundly psychological spaces. They have their own specific geography; they are landscapes within landscapes, maps within maps, scenes of fantasy and imagination that are very real.


Middle-Aged Men On a Monday Mornin

It was Molly that first brought me to these places. What became regular walks in this big park with its many wild landscapes introduced me to the predatory aspect of male sexuality. In those days when we walked together it was the little signs I searched for with my camera; strange tracks that cul-de-sac’d into dense bushes which over time slowly developed small, slightly rounded entrances; discarded tissues; the odd item of clothing, socks, T-shirts, underwear; empty lube sachets and condoms tied to bushes like some votive offering or simply discarded. I followed paths that lead into bushes or spaces under trees that were hidden from view, particularly in the heavy growth of summer. The seasonal variation in the location of this activity fell in rhythm with the cycles of nature particularly as winter approached and the trees denuded themselves of their secreting layer.


The desire to have sexual contact in the landscape with strangers of one’s own sex is fascinating, multi-layered, complex and provides insight into male sexuality as opposed to a specifically gay sexuality.  These places are in many ways fantasy landscapes, or perhaps more accurately landscapes of fantasy, where sex in some form between men both ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ occur. These encounters occur not just in the dim twilight but also in the full light of a sunny Monday morning where I often encountered scenes such as two middle-aged men, one topless on his knees rapidly blowing another whose trousers and underwear unlike his penis are at half-mast. They hear our approach and rapidly separate, standing still, like invisible statues, on either side of a thick tree trunk. We pass by on the other side of light bushes and I don’t know whether my coitus interruptus has disturbed the mood or added to the frisson. They are not alone – other men, some in baseball caps and some with sunglasses, like hit-men trying to remain obviously anonymous, – while some others without apparent care walk casually towards other hidden centres as if out for a leisurely stroll.


What is the psychology of this activity. On a basic level, is it perhaps a return to the bushes of youthful exploration?  or is it somehow deeper, more primal, connected to the male Adam in the Garden and his first sexual experience? Many have said to me that ‘they love nature’ so it’s an ideal combination but at it’s heart are elements of loneliness, darkness and danger, perhaps primordial elements in male sexuality.