It's been a while since I was asked to be a running photographer for the VicBears annual Bear run. I skipped last year to take a step back and see things from a regular punters perspective, only to find i was still closer to understanding what happens than most. This year I decided I'd take up the mantle again, only to find out a month or two beforehand I'd be shooting alone, unlike previous years I've worked with another photographer to get the best of two angles.
After 8 days, countless hours or mingling, help preparing venues and nearly 1000+ photos taken it's all over for another year. The tears flowed for the winner of Mr Australisia Bear, Erin O'Neill, who was new to the gay and bear life within the last 12 months himself. Many new connections were made, both local, interstate and thank to the Where The Bears Are crew, internationally as well. It's my intention to get interviews with them for the podcast when it begins.
One of the hardest parts to wrap my head around, before, during and then realize soon after, is that its a week where everything becomes hyper sensitized. The sexual prowess of people going, be it at the sauna or other events in hopes to be having an evening rendezvous with an out of towner. Or the looking glass of how we perceive what it means to be a bear, masculinity and brotherhood. These elements are taken out of everyday context for many and in the end there is often a euphoric sense of being able to achieve anything. But when faced with real life burdens and necessities, these often well made plans seem to crumble or at least not be as fulfilled as we'd hoped.
On the other hand on of the big benefits of being a photographer or at least not a committee member who orchestrates each and every event, has let to a deep countering of the stresses my day job had burdened me with over the past 6 months. A chance to escape the expectations of those who except much, to seek enjoyment and praise for something I have less a burden and more creative enjoyment doing. If I could trade one for the other without the lack of financial reward changing, I'd seriously consider it.
If it hasn't been covered before, when someone is physically hot in a way that clearly requires effort to maintain, I often wonder what's behind the physical veil, the drive to make someone mind tick enough to maintain a routine to reap such reward?
I found myself wondering that exact think with the show pony of sorts from the Where The Bears Are visitor, Ian Parks, actor and the character 'Hot Toddie' on the show. I had seen more than enough to know what he looks like via the internet over the years without thinking i'd ever met him. So it was no surprise every time i saw him topless when he had to be for stage or camera. But it wasn't the body that intrigued me so much as his mannerisms in the crowd. Often he would hang back, be reclusive if not avoid the sea of people all together. In the briefest of dialogue we shared I often felt he did not feel like he fit in, initially it can across what I interpreted as arrogance. I was not the only person who got this feeling and over the week, i heard comments reflecting the same thoughts i had.
It wasn't until I'd spoken with a wiser if not similarly troubled bear who'd been following Ian's twitter for a while who'd given me an insight into Ian's own dialogue shared via his Twitter. It would seem to the outside person, as i had felt it was arrogance that Ian showed, was actually reservedness and shy in an aloof way. After I'd realized I'd been harsh to take the negative viewpoint to justify any level of self-superiority, i felt somewhat foolish and empathetic to him beyond that.
All in all was a wonderful week for me and new resolution to not look for the cracks before looking for the light in people. The authorized sample photos to be added soon.