|I FEEL LUCKY
I Feel LuckyOriginally inspired by the onset of my first (and hopefully last) midlife crisis, I created the I Feel Lucky collection of self-portraits between my 47th and 53rd birthdays. Initially titled Less Than or Equal to 50, this series began with a looming deadline of my 50th birthday, as if on this milestone my midlife crisis would magically resolve itself. At the time, typical midlife crisis issues relationships, faith, career, health and mortality were producing classic midlife crisis symptoms moodiness, exhaustion, the desire to make change and some deafening private politics of self-identity. With my camera, my constant companion during this time, I contemplated a lifetime of choices and created present-day images to evaluate my past with the hope of glimpsing my future. I was looking to understand my story, and as most of my stories do, this one began in Provincetown.
Provincetown has always been a source of inspiration, my place for processing and healing, and a home that fosters courage to participate in the outside world. It's only fitting that this series kicks off on a Provincetown beach. The first photograph of this collection, untitled (Sunset), was shot on the East End Beach in the summer of 2006. I'm not quite sure if I was consciously grappling with my midlife crisis at the time, but as I now read the image six years later, I was certainly focused on mortality, body image and my relationship to photography. I am wrapped in gorgeous cape light, surrounded by my elements as I gaze at the camera like a long-lost love. I was inspired by this image and on the ferry ride back to Boston at the end of the trip, I told my friend Andy that I was working on a new series of self-portraits, even though I had shot only one picture three days earlier. It had been a couple of years since I picked up a camera and, finally, I was ready to make work....
Frank's entire essay can be read in the book I Feel Lucky.
The Borrowed Mirror...Let’s look at Yamrus, the lover, not the fighter and his first self-portraits for the “Lucky” series. He remarks that "to look in the mirror in self-examination is one thing, but it's quite another to put your body on film and blow it up for mass consumption" – as if he'd self-detonate. These may have begun literally with Yamrus studying his reflection with a magnifying glass, but it ends with a broader view. As untitled (Art) demonstrates, Yamrus ultimately sees himself as we do: a handsome survivor. Whatever might have stopped him has not. Like Rocky, he is an ongoing work in progress. Here, we witness that he has more than held his own and in the end, appears unscathed and even stronger, less battered and bruised than Rocky.
What clearly distinguishes this new body of work is its calm. It is quiet, not insistent. It is so absolutely still. Yamrus does not seem to be a man in anguish or in an emotional mid-life crisis. He is thoughtful, curious, bemused, somewhat weary, but centered and at ease. As the protagonist in his own stagings, Yamrus is wry, relaxed, and seems to be more happy than sad. He is present in these images, with a self-consciousness artfully managing the dreaded unnaturalness of being photographed. He may not have known where he was going, but he thought to bring along his camera and to be his own best conspirator....
Bill's entire essay can be read in the book I Feel Lucky.
Frank Yamrus: EverymanIn “I Feel Lucky,” Frank Yamrus has created a series of photographs that works in a number of ways. Beginning with an implied dread towards approaching middle age – fifty in his case – he ends on a more optimistic note as a “lucky” survivor with a future ahead of him. The history of photography and art is full of examples of the self-portrait, especially when the artists approach a crisis in their lives. Often these crises have to do with the body, either an illness or approaching old age, both heralding impending death. This is a creative strategy very much in keeping with the Western artistic tradition of depicting mortality, either of the self or the other.
At first glance, the series might appear to be the normal apprehension someone might feel with the onset of middle-age, but given the particular history of gay men living in America through the AIDS epidemic, it takes on a whole new meaning. In “I Feel Lucky,” Yamrus acknowledges the role that chance has played in his survival. Nonetheless, the larger issue of whether Yamrus can transcend this particular experience into the “universal” must still be resolved. Can Yamrus the gay artist/photographer with his close brush with AIDS stake claim to “everyman?” I don’t see why not. As Susan Bright notes, the postmodern void of the everyman has not stopped contemporary artists from dealing with very subjective, performative renditions of their own self-image. Yamrus stops short of traditional documentary practice by denying the ubiquitous caption of place and time, yet leaving a word or a phrase to work in tandem with the image. Both word and image then allow the viewer to make highly subjective readings that can be variable....
Sunil's entire essay can be read in the book I Feel Lucky.