Artist portfolios of 23 archival pigment prints: 8 x 10in edition of 6 & 1 AP (blue-bound), 8.5 x 11in 1 AP (red-bound)
Cyprus is called the Island of Aphrodite. Eros in Greek mythology is Aphrodite’s son. Bellew first came to Cyprus to capture the remnants of Cyprus’ mythological past. He photographed the excavated votive statues and idols unearthed at various archeological cites around the island as. This type of work requires a particular stylistic approach to photography. With such documentary photography the composition should not distract from the object, calling for straight-on images with the subject centered unobstructed in the middle of the picture plane. This style conveys an objective, almost sterile distance between thephotographer and subject. The photographer is meant to disappear. Such documentary style employed by archeologists is deigned to allow researchers to return to an image of an object time and time and again. Over time Bellew internalized this mode of photography as a type of meditative, mediated form of deep looking. As Bellew retuned to Cyprus over the subsequent years to photograph the gay men living there, he noticed the stylistic similarities between the portraits of these men, the new idols, and his records of the old ones.
Bellew’s photographs are about intimacy and distance. Photography is a way to capture and expand intimacy indefinably. For Bellew this work “became a way for me to photograph people, to study and frame them, but also to just take joy in the act of looking for a long time and allow my thoughts to wander elsewhere, usually someplace erotic.” Photography and desire have an uneasy relationship. The camera has long been used as a tool to capture the objects of desire, leading to troublesome issues of exploitations and objectification. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a white, middle class photographer to come from a place such as the U.S. to a place like Cyprus in order to photograph an already marginalized portion of that population without raising some uncomfortable questions. In this way these photographs are imperfect, they make no claim to virtue and imagine no reconciliation, no pretense of equality, no redemption. There is no happy ending. It does not “get better.” They are, instead, an embodiment of those queer desires that do not work towards goodness, those that cannot be domesticated; the harmful impulses from witch we derive pleasure and manifest passion. They are the remnants of Eros.
Christian Waguespack, Curator of 20th Century Art, New Mexico Museum of Art, 2016