Ray Cook, Artist and Bon Vivant
My name is Ray Cook, I'm an Australian photographic artist and teacher. I lived and worked in Brisbane for many years but I've recently moved to Melbourne. These are some of the photographs I've taken between the late 1980s and the present day. When I began, the world was a different place. Phones were tethered to the wall, vinyl reigned and all photographs were all analogue. I made pictures to think about the changing world, to share in jokes with my friends and to piss off conservative people.
The 80s and 90s were stained by AIDS and this tended to be something I used pictures to think about the most. In the pool rooms of gay hotels I encountered the notion of 'queer' so I used pictures to think about that. What, indeed, was a poof or a dyke? Where they in fact the Devil's spawn as some at the time would have had us believe. As AIDS subsided I thought about how gays had become all cuddly and acceptable and how you needed one for your best friend. I wondered why had we become so legitimate after decades of being social outlaws. People thought it was because civilization was progressing towards enlightenment but that I suspected it was because we were useful for selling things.
Then I realised I was getting on and I started to think about a distance that had grown between young and older gay men. How different our experience of the world was/had been. I thought about why I felt sort distanced from my own subculture. I tried to think, was it because of aging or social change? (a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B)? What might the future bring and how would I be oriented within it?
I don't have much to complain about in the sexuality area anymore. These days straights and gays are subject to the same controlling social and cultural forces of late capitalism. Forces that don't make anyone happy really--unless you've got lots of money maybe. Seems like the system is designed to make us unsatisfied with what we've got, no matter how much that might be. We go about our lives oblivious to the sinister predatory cloud that floats above us providing the 'oxygen' that greed and narcissism need to flourish