Hey Sailor! New in Town?
I was on safari to start, behind the protection of my lens, when I witnessed tradition and trouble sail into town: My first experience was Fleet Week New York 2011, the Navy showed off its might; the sailors performed their roles both on duty and off. Women fawned over this invasion of youthful, bravado. The timeless image of the two animated enlisted men bursting with crackerjack energy from the frame, a monochromatic moment that could be 1945 or today.
For the past four years, as part of this ongoing documentary photographic project, I have traveled across America chasing sailors, from the public events of Fleet Weeks, the back rooms of dive bars, training missions on the beaches of Hawaii, to spending days at sea onboard ship. I transformed quickly from outsider and observer to insider and instigator, shenanigans and salty talk always ensue. I have been thrown out of bars more than once, there have been a few bar fights and I have even been tattooed by a sailor onboard a ship in New Orleans.
In the tradition of street photography I am on the hunt. As I reverse the male gaze I make these full-grown men and heroes nervous. I am humanizing and adding personality onto the generic uniformed military man that is perceived as a number in a fleet or army of anonymous troops sent off into battle. I am showing these dynamic sometimes-ridiculous characters that work hard and play even harder. Nostalgia, cliché, sexuality and humour guide the viewer through my adventures.
In this mutual performance, I put on my bright red lipstick and red high heels and I hit the town. On the streets I see these boys in white and with giddy excitement I approach… “Hey Sailor! New in town?”