Behold was made unexpectedly, and without design. I was travelling in a city that I sometimes return to, and I got to know a group of gay men. There, where they live, these men (and many others like them) are mostly left to be. But only on the condition that they lead one part of their lives in secret. Rarely, that is, do their bodies ever meet in open honesty outside, in public. Only here, in this bathhouse, where their desire to be seen and embraced by others – just to be and to be held – is played out the partial openness of these four closed walls.
The bathhouse no longer exists. But while it still did, these men invited me to document it and a little glimpse of their lives in it. We arrived, but I was not allowed to enter. So we rented the place, and for a few hours I took pictures while these men played themselves performing their lives for my peering camera, in order that their desire to be seen might be realised, in part at least, here in the world of the images – in the act of beholding, where the bare thereness of life is transformed from mere appearing or appearance, into something more meaningful… into recognition.
Hoda Afshar was born in Tehran, Iran (1983), and is now based in Melbourne, Australia. She completed a Bachelor degree in Fine Art– Photography in Tehran, and is completing a PhD in Creative Arts at Curtin University now. Hoda began her career as a documentary photographer in Iran in 2005, and since 2007 she has been living in Australia where she practices as a visual artist and also lectures in photography. Hoda’ s photography has been widely exhibited both locally and internationally and published online and in print. Her work is also part of numerous private and public collections including the National Gallery of Victoria and Monash Gallery of Art. Hoda has been shortlisted for many prestigious art awards throughout her career and in 2015 she won Australia’ s National Photographic Portrait Prize. Hoda is also a member of ‘ Eleven’, a new collective of contemporary Muslim Australian artists, curators and writers whose aim is to disrupt the current politics of representation and hegemonic discourses. Through her art practice, Hoda reflects on issues related to the politics of representation, gender and displacement. Her work aims to open lines of communication in a world both homogenised by global economy and unsettled by mass migration.