photo of the day 2/10/2012 photo © Mark I Chester
Joseph - before hair cutting ritual, from the series Diary of a Thought Criminal, 2/1990
This is the first image in what I think of as a two part photograph of Joseph Bean. Joseph was going to cut his hair and beard and we talked about which image I wanted, before or after the haircut. I suggested that we document the hair cut as a kind of ritual in which Joseph was remade anew with a new look. Sort of from hairy bear to sexy leatherman. Remember this was 1990, so it is 22 years ago. Like many gay men, Joseph had a personal gay barber named Harold Gates, who cut his hair. I pray that I have remembered his name right. Harold was .... absolutely gorgeous. A shock of dark hair, smooth, muscular physique; in some ways the very metaphor for a Castro gay man. But he was also hiv positive. So he wouldn't let me photograph him cutting Joseph's hair.
It's unfortunate because no matter what Harold believed, he was still gorgeous. I was surprised when he suddenly stripped off his shirt before he cut Joseph's hair, his muscles literally rippling as he worked. There was something so erotic and sexy and yet so heartbreaking in this still beautiful man who thought that he was so damaged that he wouldn't allow himself to be photographed anymore.
Joseph - after hair cutting ritual, from the series Diary of a Thought Criminal, 2/1990
These two photographs of Joseph document the before and after, but what is missing is the ritual itself because in this very simple act,. there was an amazing interaction between these two gay men who had obviously become friends through this process. Joseph gloried in having Harold cut his hair and you could tell that in cutting Joseph's hair that Harold was in his zone. This is the story behind the story of these photographs. I have never told anyone this before but I thought it was time to share it with you now.