Nicole Akstein
Number 41, 2005Olympia, 2006Berries, 2006Ashtray, 2006Birthday Light, 2007Toilet Decor, 2005Mike's Shirt, 2007Television, 2006Mike, 2006Garry and I, 2006Garry's Bed, 2007Beer, 2006Crabcake Sandwich, 2006Plaid, 2006Hosed, 2007Garry, 2005Mike and Mother, 2005Sandwich, 2006Strip, 2007Couch, 2005Topless, 2006Three, 2007Garry's Tuxedo, 2006Two, 2007Garry's Moon, 2007Mike & Garry, 2007Mike & Garry, 2007
Sylvania; No. 37
Mike and Garry are roommates; two old friends who live together in Sylvania, a mobile home community in Neptune, New Jersey. Their living situation, however, may be considered unusual - two males in their early fifties, sharing a mobile home - by a society that often becomes uncomfortable at the suggestion of homosexuality and of poverty. Thus I was intrigued by the opportunity to explore a somewhat uncompromising subject and, for two years, Mike and Garry were the willing focus of my photographs as I integrated myself into their lives.

Initially, as our relationship slowly developed, I documented their home life and how they related to one another in their community. The comfort level was facilitated as we established our "roles" within the relationship. In time, the project underwent a metamorphosis of sorts, as they began to act more as parents, and I, as their child. However, parallel roles also emerged, adding further complexities. To them, I was more than a daughter; I was a young woman spending intimate time with them.

As the project grew conceptually, I became conscious of and driven to express the ambiguity that surrounded my function in their home. Allowing myself to be a part of the images no longer pointed a finger at Mike and Garry, but unveiled specific masculine and feminine societal personas. I depict the daughter/lover dichotomy by staging certain experiences that I obtain from pop culture or from personal memories. In some instances, I assume childlike characteristics living amongst two grown men; others, a girl they can intimately share. The work echoes Nabakov's Lolita, or Laurel Nakadate's video series, I Wanna Be Your Mid-Life Crisis, both of which are influential and notable, exploring relationships and sexuality in a similar vein. Because of the intimacy that I artificially constructed through staged scenes, the photographs can be most readily understood as documenting my two fathers, roommates or lovers.

Sylvania; No. 37 allows the viewer to question his or her own presumptions about relationships and gender roles given their own potentially inadvertent judgements. I hope to challenge individual perceptions and ideas surrounding the sometimes unspoken discomfort of the subject matter. I am intrigued by an American vernacular that innocently depicts a young girl, two elder men, and a trailer. The familiar events of a birthday or a family portrait attempt to construct a narrative while questioning darker undertones.

This collaborative project is an attempt to reflect my inherited understanding of the dichotomy of all relationships. The work is well aware of the ideals and judgements that are implemented in our society, one from which I was raised. The making of these images has enabled me to create an imaginative duality of the daughter and lover role that is realistically impossible to combine. In essence, I attempt to dissect my formed identity as a woman while challenging the stereotypes that consume our impressionable culture.
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