A photographic memoir by Mark Thompson.
How could the notion of “coming home” mean anything less? Decade after decade, gay men have endured the painful results of being outcast from home: Many strengthened, many not, for the arduous road ahead. A trail of personal and political discovery with the central, always underlying urge to find what had been lost. And so, too, it has been for me. This collection of images and text is about some of the men—empathetic “fellow travelers”— who have helped me on that homeward journey. A pathway of self-acceptance, to a place where doubt and shame are at last cast in light.
An examined balance of shadow and light is what has always attracted me to photography, especially black and white. My interest began in a high school photography class I took many years ago. A fellow student was Edward Weston’s grandson. Weston, of course, is one of the consummate photographers of all time. His soulful but precise capturing of the landscape around my home of Carmel, California, made an indelible impression on me, as did the work of his peers such as Ansel Adams and Wayne Bullock. Numerous hours were spent studying their works in the legendary Friends of Photography gallery just a few blocks from my school.
A later career in journalism meant picking up a camera as well as a pen. Watching and documenting whatever I could of the burgeoning Bay Area gay liberation movement, I often carried both. But my tasks were principally as a writer and editor. So the pictorial side of things was usually left to a legion of photojournalists I considered more technically able.
Yet my passion for picture-taking never really ebbed, and on very special occasions I gave it full reign. My focus was less on the panoramic and political—more on the personal. My landscapes of choice were the faces of the fascinating individuals who acknowledged and formed my character as a young, developing gay man. And then, a little bit later, unique communities of like-minded brothers who felt as much like soulful partners as they did wise teachers too. Thus, guides and tribes.
Coming home is a powerful metaphor for gay men. It holds particular sway over a generation raised with the adventures of a certain Dorothy Gale and her ultimate realization that there is “no place” quite like it. And the wish endures in the collective conscious of the generations that followed as a positive affirmation of all they are, want, and need.
All images and words copyright © 2009 by Mark Thompson