“Virtue” and “virility” have the same root word—the Latin “vir” meaning “man”.
Local photographer Lee Chang Ming's zine Virtue and Virility presents a series of images and quotes taken from various gay networking mobile apps. The quotes are taken from the “about me” sections where individuals can introduce themselves. The projects seeks to highlight the intriguing ways gay men choose to present themselves in virtual space through photography and text, and looks at questions of masculinity, sexuality and self-portrayal.
The self-portraits underscore perceived societal ideals of masculinity and sexual desirability; yet their anonymity also depicts an underlying concern of privacy and stigma for promiscuously found even within the domain of queer spaces.
"I like working with found photography and recontextualizing them, which lends new meaning to the pictures. In this case, the images were phone screen grabs from gay dating/hookup apps. The subject matter of the images are quite sensual, but when viewed on the screen it feels quite distant to me. Printing these images lends a tactile quality to the bodies, and I also wanted to print it full bleed, so when people browse it, they have to touch the bodies (wether they want to or not). Additionally, I used Risograph printing, which actually smudges if you touch it. You'd have to get your hands a little dirty viewing the zine."
"I've been thinking of the concept of haptic visuality by Laura Marks, so I wanted play around with ideas of looking and touching, but in a queer context. Also, the zine is printed in A6 size, which is quite close to the size of my smart phone, so the size of the images are pretty much how it would look like on the phone. The cover is printed on a paper colour called "Candy Pink"."
Lee Chang Ming is a Singaporean photographer interested in themes of intimacy, gender identity, youth and the everyday. Personal encounters and an unguarded approach inform his photography, which ranges from portraits to still-lifes and landscapes. His practice also contemplates the subjective act of looking and the photographic medium as a process. His ongoing series looks at what it means to be young and queer in Singapore.
His work has been published in VICE, DUMMY Magazine, Brownbook Magazine, Ellipsis Journal, among others, and has been exhibited at sound:frame Festival 2014, Austria, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, Singapore, and Obscura Festival, Malaysia, to mention a few. He is also the founding editor of Nope Fun, a platform that features photographers and artists from all over the world.
You can get a copy of Chang Ming's zine here.