Not so long ago, gay dating ads were frequently peppered with phrases such as “straight-acting” and “masculine.”
Los Angeles photographer Blake Little began exploring the concepts of gay masculinity in 2006 while working on his book, “The Company of Men.”
This Friday, an exhibit of his portraits, “Archetype,” opening at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives’ Wilton Manors Gallery will celebrate Little’s discoveries during the preparation for that book and the subsequent volume, “Manifest,” published in 2013.
“I was trying to show an alternative of what I think a lot of gay men look like and challenge the stereotypes,” he explained. “I wanted to strip away the pretentions of what I think a lot of gay men think they’re supposed to look like.”
Little’s portraits are largely unadorned, focusing on the individual strength and character of each subject. Unlike his commercial photos, these portraits are intimate and raw, quietly subversive and powerful, shattering mainstream stereotypes of homosexuality.
“When I work with celebrities, I have a crew and hair, make-up and assistants,” he said. “I also tend to have a stronger concept (to start) because there’s less time and it’s for a magazine or advertisement, so there’s more structure.”
Little continued, “With these guys, it’s just me and the subject. It’s more spontaneous.”
Since “The Company of Men” was published in 2011, he has frequently heard from other gay men, many who recently came out, praising his work for giving them a vision of real gay men to whom they could relate.
Little’s work came to the attention of Stonewall’s then-executive director David Jobin more than 18 months ago and the exhibit was scheduled for the Wilton Manors gallery, which focuses on LGBT-themed art and cultural displays.
Little will attend the opening reception on Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m. and participate in a discussion about his work moderated by Miami Herald LGBT reporter Steve Rothaus. The reception is free and open to the public.
While in South Florida, Little also plans to photograph five subjects for his new book, planned for release in December.
“Archetype – Portraits by Blake Little” will be on display at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives Wilton Manors Gallery, 2157 Wilton Drive, through July 3. Admission is free. For more information, go to Stonewall-Museum.org.