Jack Pierson: See It In A Boy's Eyes

Pictured above is Jack Pierson’s Self Portrait #27.

Paradoxically, the American photographer never uses himself as the subject for his self-portraits. Instead, #27 is a half-naked teenager posing peacefully before a studio wall. His stare twinkles with pride and knowingness but also evokes a sense of vulnerability. His red jacket unfurls to reveal a youthful and porcelain body, it is innocent and clean but the newly arrived muscle definition suggests strength and danger. The religious pendant points down, leading into lines of shadow that run towards the model's nipples, both teasingly and anxiously.

The photography of Jack Pierson is brilliant at exploring the isolation and fear of adolescence, and then presenting it amidst the sexual confidence of contemporary youth, teasing our desire for instant gratification. Humiliation runs through these portraits though, as we look at these boys on the gallery wall and connect with their own visual prostitution, the sad artifice and tantalising realism of their bodies.

Pierson is the logical successor to Cindy Sherman, another artist who manipulates and scrutinises identity through hard-hitting and sometimes graphic self-portraits. Both artists employ costume and composition as a means of expression. But where Sherman dolls herself up, Pierson goes scouting for pretty boys. Not bad for a 50-year-old.

Below is Self Portrait #3. An older model this time, Pierson picks a traditionally handsome male, one who could easily appear in a television commercial or magazine adverstisement. The rugged and semi sunkissed stare is intentionally inviting, but simultaneously full of concern. Are we, the viewer, an intruder? We are made to swallow our sense of Warholian voyeurism, we wonder why the man looks unwilling. What have we asked him to do? He twists his shirt, perverting innocence once more, drawing the viewers eye onto the pristine white pants.

We must remember that we are looking at Pierson. This is a self portrait, a staged insight into a third person - a third person who is also the first person. Pierson is invisible and yet much more than visible, he endorses and fills his shots with himself.

Self Portrait #27 is on display at Glasgow’s GoMA until 1 November



Read more about Jack Pierson here. Words by Jack Cullen

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