QUEER VOICES

Photographer Bruce Dean Uses Ken Dolls To Create Homoerotica As A Form Of Activism

Where homoerotica, Ken dolls and activism meet.
  • Using Ken dolls to create homoerotic images may not be the first thing someone thinks of when considering activist work -- bu
    Bruce Dean
    Using Ken dolls to create homoerotic images may not be the first thing someone thinks of when considering activist work -- but for Canadian photographer Bruce Dean, that's exactly what it is.

    Dean's work is largely shaped and informed by a friend he lost to AIDS in 1998 --  a friend that exposed him to the world of queer culture and broke down the stigma and bigotry he internalized towards the gay community.

    In many ways these experiences with his friend, Sam Evans, inspired Dean to be an activist and to study the history of homoerotica.

    "After studying the use of homoerotica in art and film, I eventually came to the conclusion that gay rights not only benefit the homosexual community, they also liberate the straight male who is so often oppressed into being a strong, unfeeling, machismo machine," Dean told The Huffington Post.

    Check out more of Dean's photographs he created using Ken dolls below, as well as an interview with the photographer to learn more about his story.
  • Bruce Dean
  • <strong>The Huffington Post: What inspired you to do this&nbsp;type of creatively homoerotic work?&nbsp;<br></strong>Bruce De
    Bruce Dean
    The Huffington Post: What inspired you to do this type of creatively homoerotic work? 
    Bruce Dean: The main reason I use homoerotica in my art is the same reason I focus much of my activism efforts to support the gay culture -- the desire to honor a long lost friend who was taken by AIDS back in 1988. Sam Evans befriended and saved my Alberta-bred, red-neck, bigoted butt by opening my eyes. It’s a long and touching story that may bring a tear to your eye, but the end result is that I am forever thankful. He didn’t need to take the time and patience to reveal the error of my ways and introduce this straight homophobic jerk to the gay culture, but he did, and we partied -- and I could hate no more.

    After studying the use of homoerotica in art and film, I eventually came to the conclusion that gay rights not only benefit the homosexual community, they also liberate the straight male who is so often oppressed into being a strong unfeeling machismo machine. Society’s acceptance of the gay male, in whatever form it manifests, creates acceptance for a male that diverges from the typical narrow stereotype, whether gay or straight. In the end, I basically employ homoerotica in my art as I would any trope -- as a vehicle to deliver whatever message the image is intended impart.
  • Bruce Dean
  • <strong>What are you trying to accomplish with these photos? What do you want people to take away?<br></strong>I often use ho
    Bruce Dean
    What are you trying to accomplish with these photos? What do you want people to take away?
    I often use homoerotica to put “gay” in the face of as many people as possible, to normalize and gain acceptance, to be part of the movement that makes two men holding hands just part of the street scene and nothing more. I’d hoped to pay homage to what Sam once explained to me was one of many reasons for the bold, brash and fearless drag personas he and his fellow queens would don. I hoped that my homoerotica would be as bold, brash and fearless as Sam, the flaming baton twirler in the middle of the '80s red-neck, Alberta.
  • Bruce Dean
  • <strong>How would you describe the work that you produce?<br></strong>"Social commentary-driven Surreal Pop Art Photography."
    Bruce Dean
    How would you describe the work that you produce?
    "Social commentary-driven Surreal Pop Art Photography." I use the popular culture icons like Barbie, Ken and GI Joe, in proper perspective but place them in a context the viewer is unaccustomed to, to create social dialogue, often using humor and/or shock value to draw attention to the image, and therefore the issue.
  • <strong>Why did you decide to do this with action figures?<br></strong>In photo school the student-models we were required to
    Bruce Dean
    Why did you decide to do this with action figures?
    In photo school the student-models we were required to use for assignments often proved unreliable. After a third no-show, and with a pending deadline, out of frustration I purchased a Quasimodo doll from a thrift store and used it for the assignment. The response was very positive. As a former youth worker/counselor and student of sociology/psychology, I fell in love with the idea of using dolls, a pop-culture icon, posed in perspective and provocative ways, which could prove an effective vehicle for delivering stories, ideas, as well as activism.
 

Want to see more from Dean? Head here to visit the photographer's Flickr page. Dean is also currently engaged in a sale of his work -- head here for more information.

Also on HuffPost:

PHOTO GALLERY
24 LGBT-Friendly Products And Companies Targeted By Boycotters
  Like |    Follow |   Contact
CONVERSATIONS