Mark W. McKnight

I was born in Los Angeles to a New Mexican, Hispana-identified mother who struggled with our Southwestern diasporic roots. In turn, I grew up struggling to reconcile my own identity both as a mixed-race, person of color and also as a gay man – particularly one who neither exemplified nor desired the idealized, Euro-centric cultural standard of male beauty that is perpetuated even within gay culture. I was raised in an environment that privileges white, heterosexual masculinity. My work operates as a site of resistance to those values.

Using conventional analog photographic methods, or “straight photography” as it is most commonly and curiously known, I create photographs using a large format view camera of varying subjects and surfaces: queer bodies, found objects, and landscapes.

By over-exposing prints to light in the dark room, I deliberately bury descriptive details and information, those matters of fact that have historically been the prescribed and privileged territory both of “straight photography” and straight photographers. By relinquishing these details, and by producing unconventionally dark prints, I refuse to tell you everything – in this way, the pictures assert the inherent limitations of a medium while foregrounding my subjectivity. Shadows become psychological spaces in which to get lost, project, empathize, speculate, and experience.

My desire to represent my experience and nuanced decisions with regard to content, form, exposure, and print quality inadvertently begin to pose questions about a history in which white, heterosexual, male subjectivity has routinely been established as, “purely descriptive”, “objectively recorded”, and has therefore become an approximation for “truth.” By employing modernist photo strategies to describe a counter set of desires, values, experiences, and uses for photography, I render my own truth and subvert the canon of photographic history as I retroactively insert a narrative that was largely absent from it.

Through careful arrangement, installation and framing I draw poetic, formal and figurative parallels between a multitude of seemingly disparate photographic subjects. Instead, I offer an abstract narrative that transcends the direct, “objective” appearance of any individual image.

The men in my pictures are figures from my queer community. A purposeful obscuring of their identities allows them to function simultaneously as an anonymous archetype and armature for larger concepts of time, loss, desire, vulnerability and entropy. The soft-bodied, ethnically ambiguous, play-acted protagonists in the photographs are both representative of the men I desire but also their bodies resemble my own. In this way, the photographs function as proxies and speak not only to desire and sexuality but also my own identity, body, psyche, and struggle for self-acceptance.

Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s Peter Hort Quality of Life Cancer Grant brings family members and loved ones together in order to provide much needed support and consolation while a patient is undergoing treatment. This essential element enhances the patient’s emotional experience by connecting them to people they love. We believe patients benefit tremendously from the support of family and friends.

RHMF works directly with social workers to tailor each grant to the patient’s needs. Beyond what is traditionally offered through healthcare insurance, PHQOL Cancer Grants ensure that the patient is taken care of emotionally. PHQOL Cancer Grants have helped to provide funds to cover costs such as travel, phone cards, childcare, hotel accommodations, and car rentals. Since 1995, RHMF has made a difference in hundreds of patients’ lives.