Jeffrey Kilmer Photography

Jason Cole Mager on Jeffrey Kilmer

As an artist with a Masters in Architecture, Jeffrey Kilmer essentially has the perfect alibi for the anonymous crime of portraiture, or rather, photos of boys obstructing landscapes. Over the years Kilmer has dedicated himself to multiple fetishes. His long love affair with architecture has lead him, obviously, to the complete dismissal of such forms of structure, only to be replaced by another; nature. The human form and its random choice of environments have taken hold of Kilmer's interest as much as his sexuality.

With very few exceptions, Kilmer attempts to elevate his sexual obsessions to some form of high art standard by contrasting beautiful male images against the common backdrop of decay, perhaps sublimating these sexual confessions with the hand of art. Concrete parking lots, graffiti walls, and cities at a distance all confirm that the artist finds the form of architecture most pleasing is that of one falling to pieces. The male roles step in as a means to champion the environment, as to say, "This gave birth to me."

Initially, Kilmer began by photographing landscapes. Most often these were images which plague areas such as Detroit or conversely, small town America. Buildings, which obviously were bustling fifty years ago now only serve as a means for anyone to photograph, as to recall a memory we think we all share. That place, which was once great, now fills most with shame and begs to be torn down. Kilmer touched all of these spots searching for the human behind the graffiti which makes claim to own that particular piece of wall. Later, the artist finds new ways of substituting the shallow hints at the human as a ghost or sentry of this forgotten landmark by stepping back enough to see objects residing in proximity to these cathedrals of unimportance. Items such as police barricades or neon orange cones begin to tell a bit more of the story Kilmer is searching to find in the aged concrete.

When Kilmer finally comes to the conclusion, in this published body of work, to merge his fetishes he has taken up the habit of online surfing. Just in case the endless supply of twenty year old hipster boys does run out in New York City, the artist is secured with the abundance of these males logging on and displaying themselves as if to advertise to a modeling agency; weight, height, location, and of course accompanied with a handful of self-portraits usually half clothed. Kilmer simply introduces himself, honestly explains his intentions and has only to purchase a plane ticket. Fortunately the artist has received an inadvertent form of corporate sponsorship. He takes architectural photos for a leading luxury clothing and apparel store, which has been globally spreading in unison with Kilmer's complete support. They fly him out to often two to three cities a week and Kilmer willingly accepts as this is not only a means to earn income, but supplies endless fodder for his artistic appetite. More than just being a perfect situation, Kilmer has taken advantage of this opportunity to push his work in directions he could not have foreseen. The Internet supplies the boys, and his employer provides the plane tickets, but he is challenged with the task of making sense of the reality that although each coast bares no resemblance to one another, what they produce is strikingly similar. Through his investigations he is forced to view what the Internet not only does as a means of transferring information, but as a means for transferring identities.

If youth is our future and sex our motivation, the Internet has not only considered this, but neatly packaged for all to see a supermarket of humans willingly ready to be not only bought, but scrutinized. Fortunately for Kilmer's' work, the focus has not been placed on any information which would lead to a viewable reading of the Internet's presence in the images. Kilmer's voice is only a subtle critique as to the perversion that the Internet desires to place on the way we see ourselves. More so, Kilmer almost relaxes in the notion that he has cultivated a taste for an image surely in no hurry to leave our screens. His voice is heard with the conventional yet awkward placement of his subjects in a manner they may or may not have chosen for themselves. The endless supply of portraits on the Internet confirm that most people center themselves in the frame in an unconsciously motivated sense of desperateness to even get the image online. Kilmer reaffirms this feeling only to the extent of making the subjects aware of what they have always been doing. These people pose. They are good at their pose, after literally hundreds of online revisions, each one becoming more vacant after the next. Kilmer too has become slightly desensitized by the process of viewing the online profiles. The person he photographs has a soul only to the extent that perhaps they are aware of this through the experience of the photo shoot.

For a time, Kilmer was doing random shoots for fashion magazines. These images share little conversation with his personal work in regards to his treatment of figures. The backgrounds were still the decaying streets of Brooklyn and New York City, but the figures were usually shot in sections; hands, legs, feet, or side views of the models' faces were all the audience had to make sense of the staged event. As with many artists working commercially to makes ends meet, their art often slips through the cracks. This can certainly be seen in this period of Kilmer's work and art making. The two fuse in an almost completely unconscious effort, each attempting to explain the other.

In his current work, Kilmer has learned to edit the accidental out of the frame. This does not imply that he completely controls his subjects, but tames their motivations to a calm which allows not only a second for him to shoot the photo, but a moment where the figure is forced to consider themselves. It is this place where the images wed the environment with the figure and force them to make sense. Some of the figures have chosen to exist in their environment because they believe that this environment is most cohesive with their appearance. Others live there because they have yet to make a decision on what environment would best suit their needs. There is a middle ground between the portraits of Edward Weston, Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin that questions the subjects' desire to be photographed. Kilmer's subjects are usually taken from their immediate environment to someplace very close which still resembles the subjects life but merges with an aesthetic standard that Kilmer has personally cultivated. This is how the images flatter their predecessors, and this is how the artist identifies himself in the role he is to play in a historical context.