Inspired by 1960s movies and magazine spreads highlighting the phenomenon of the “bachelor pad,” Jeanette May stages the contemporary bachelor in his metropolitan dwelling. The original bachelor pads were conspicuously heterosexual and masculine in design—filled with the latest gadgets and signifiers of hedonistic pleasure. May’s photographs examine whether the current version evolved or if the reel-to-reel sound systems were merely swapped for iPod stations and large screen TVs. The pad may define one’s economic or cultural standing, provide refuge, or seduce potential lovers. May’s images raise these issues while offering a voyeuristic peek into the private living space of single men.
Bachelor Pads furthers May’s investigation into the representation of desirable men and the development of the “female gaze” in contemporary visual cultural. In this recent project, she concentrates on bachelors: unmarried men who do not live with their parents, spouses, or lovers. Her bachelors identify as straight or gay, live alone or with roommates, and cover a range of ages and socio-economic groups. May poses the men in a formal manner; their gaze is never toward the camera, but they seem self-consciously aware of an audience. She produces photographs located somewhere between portraiture and documentary, that allow women (and men) to stare unabashedly at attractive bachelors and then visually rifle through their belongings. May presents her archival pigment prints in a scale that enables us to read the spines of books on the shelves or covet a particularly desirable apartment. What do we learn about these specific bachelors, how do men present themselves to the camera, and does the female viewer take pleasure in the sight?
Bachelor Pads, 2011 © Jeanette May
The photographs in this series are captured digitally and presented as archival pigment prints in editions of 10. Print sizes include 24 x 36” and 16 x 24".
The Bachelor Pads catalog is available from Blurb Books.