A few years ago James decided he wanted
to join a fraternity. As his older brother, I advised him that this
wasn't such a good idea. "If you join this thing, James," I told
him, "your life is going to be driven by your testosterone." He
assured me this wasn't going to happen, but he told me he was going
to join no matter whatall his dorm friends were doing it.
I didn't really know much about fraternities when James and
I had our conversationjust what I'd learned through hearsay
and news reports and going to their weekend parties. Secretly,
however, fraternities deeply intrigued me. Many people object
to them, yet they remain clandestine and ritualized societies
of brotherhood, whose members traditionally ascend to positions
of high power in the business and political spheres of our society.
I was a photographer who wanted to know what the future of the
American upper class did inside those houses. So every time I
went to visit my little brother I took my camera with me.
It took a long time, but eventually I gained the trust of James's
new brothers. They permitted me to photograph as they went about
their daily lives, their weekend parties, and their induction
rituals. At the same time, in my rhetoric classes, I was and have
been learning about the structures of patriarchy that form the
cultural basis of our society. And I have found myself in a unique
position as a photographerI can observe and record just
how much this cult of modern masculinity actually forms the basis
for the patriarchal structures I have since been studying here
at Berkeley. It is to this end that I want to direct my work.
I am a truly devout student of the history of documentary photography.
I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Walker Evans, and for this
project I have studied and been inspired by the work of W. Eugene
Smith and the early Life photographers who faithfully tailored
the form of their pictures to meet the spirits of their subjects.
However, there is something that I feel makes my work differentI
am photographing my own peers. Other photographers might try to
do this project as adults, looking down and back at kids they
vaguely remember being. As I photograph now, I am going through
the same stage of life my subjects are, with similar dreams and
similar problems. Mine is a project that no photographer has attempted
beforeand no one is in a better position to faithfully record
the spirit of my subjects' lives than I am now.