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Culture
Way Out West

“I know somewhere out there, there are two black boys who live and dress like this.”

Brooklyn-based photographer Mark Aghatise has a few updates for the gay cowboy trope, and we hope Hollywood is paying attention. Check out our interview for more on the shoot and his inspiration.

When did you start shooting?
Seriously, about a year and a half ago. But for fun, let’s say six years ago.

What do you enjoy doing?
Ah, so much! Obviously photography and videography! I take dance classes at Ailey, workout a lot lately, trying to learn to cook better, and going to different museums and exhibitions in the city. Currently trying to find a screenprinting class so I can make some t-shirts!

What other photographers inspire you?
Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Tyrone Lebon off the top of my head.

What are you trying to say with this series?
I just really had the idea of these images in my head after seeing an indie black queer film centered on two gay black cowboy lovers. I was fascinated by the idea of the narrative, both because that is a real story/life men have lived and are currently living, but also because it visually caught my eye. I want the photos to seem as they are. Meaning that they don’t seem fantastical or contrived…I know somewhere out there, there are two black boys who live and dress like this.

What attracts you to a subject?
Realness.

Why did you choose these guys?
Like many photographers, I am inspired by those directly around me. Looking at the late Ren Hang’s work, he often used his friends for much of his work. Using friends and individuals I already have a working relationship with allows both photographer and subject to be themselves in the images and during the shoot. I love to laugh and crack jokes the entire time I’m shooting, and without a good vibe on set, I have a hard time authentically being myself and making images I am proud of!