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Benjamin Fredrickson

Artist Benjamin Fredrickson spent 5 years documenting his personal journey of sexuality and identity through photographing other gay men in everyday surroundings. Minneapolis is both private and honest, Fredrickson’s subjects ranging from close personal friends to men he met while working as an escort. The lifestyle enabled him to be financially independent, but also to explore what he discovered through these sexual encounters. Frequently bothered by the overly glamorized and perfectionistic portrayal of gay males, Fredrickson’s eye searches for the genuine perspective. Recently seroconverting, the photographer has become even more passionate about expressing himself and the lives of others, determined to capture their lives free of prejudice and bias.

This work seems to be as much about confronting physical stereotypes and expectations that are projected onto gay men as it is about a deeply personal exploration of how your own sexuality manifests itself. How much is this work about allowing the subject to present their identity, sexually or otherwise, versus an expression of your own?
“The reality is that the pornography industry does not portray the realities of life. Everyone has sex. My more graphic work and full frontal nudes are that blurred line between amateur porn and the industry. When I photograph my subjects—who are probably the ones that actually keep the industry afloat paying $49.99 a month for their porn subscriptions—I’ve given some of them, literally, lights, camera and action. My subjects are allowed, through a collaborative process, to express themselves under carefully orchestrated situations usually left for the production of film stills.”

Benjamin Fredrickson

Describe the first time you approached a client about being photographed.
“Within the line of work that I was doing back then, discretion was really important. Some of my clients were married, or had important careers. There would be clients who would let me photograph them with their faces obscured but there was one in particular who I met with regularly, whom I eventually invited to my home and shared my personal space with. He was the first guy I took a formal portrait of showing his face. By letting my guard down, he did the same. Boundaries were crossed but it was all consensual.”

Benjamin Fredrickson

Benjamin Fredrickson

Some of the men you photographed are friends and some were clients, yet the distinction between the two seems purposefully blurred. Is there a distinction in how you approach photographing friends as opposed to men you’ve had more fleeting encounters with, and does it come through in the photographs?
“I think it does. You can be intimate with a person on a different level without being physical. I’ve been fortunate enough that all of my subjects have shared a degree of intimacy with me. I feel that my subjects know what they’re getting into when they agree to be shot by me. I’m a pretty straightforward person with respecting boundaries and also letting them know of my own boundaries. Whether or not I had sex with my subject, there was always some sort of level of sexual tension because nudity was involved. I feel that to photograph someone, no matter what shape or form, I was always attracted to something in them.”

Benjamin Fredrickson

Benjamin Fredrickson

You mention that seroconverting became a motivating force for you to create more photographs. In what ways did this affect your approach to photography and how it is reflected in these pictures?
“We all have a death sentence from the moment we’re born. When you have any sort of life changing event, like seroconverting, it is going to change your outlook on the way you approach life in general. At that specific moment of my life in Minneapolis, the uncertainty that came with seroconverting in the beginning stages was really frightening, but at the same time, if you look at it with a positive attitude, it’s an emotional and physical release because it gave me the opportunity to approach things any way that I chose because I didn’t know what was in store.

“I paid the ultimate consequence, so life at that moment was seen as a free ride. That recklessness is not present in the work that I choose to present on my website. Those who really know my work, know that I published the grittier photographs which portray that “downfall”. You can choose to be reckless or take control of the situation and continue to live. I chose to take control of my situation and move forward. We all have a beginning and an end.”

Benjamin Fredrickson

Benjamin Fredrickson

Benjamin Fredrickson

Benjamin Fredrickson

Benjamin_Fredrickson

Benjamin_Fredrickson

Benjamin Fredrickson

This post was contributed by photographer Bryson Rand.

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