First things first. Yes, ‘The Box’ contains full frontal male nudity. What’s interesting to me though, is the impact and response people (you) have to that statement. Does it turn you on? Intrigue you? Disgust you? Good. Eliciting a strong emotional response is at the very heart of this beautiful book.
Another thing that I really loved about ‘The Box’ is that I was able to connect with it. Ron Amato is based in New York, yet he’s created a piece of art that is able to be absorbed and appreciated by a gay guy living in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the planet(well, on the east coast of Australia to be specific) . That’s pretty awesome and pretty rare.
But before I continue, a bit of background.
What ‘The Box’ is about
Over thirty men, reflecting a diversity of ages, cultures, races and lifestyles were photographed for ‘The Box’.
Focused on themes of isolation, desire, conflict and empowerment, Ron uses a series of boxes to create visual metaphors, echoing his development from adolescence to adulthood through over 100 colour, and black and white photographs.
“Most of my artwork explores issues of sexuality. The enigma of attraction has been an ongoing question. With ‘The Box’ I was able to explore those themes more deeply, helping me develop a better understanding of myself as a gay man and the larger gay universe.”
– Ron Amato
Check out this video for more background and info on the project.
Why I love ‘The Box’
Like I mentioned before, I really connected with the themes found in ‘The Box’.
Essentially, ‘The Box’ is broken down into different, yet interconnected emotional categories – isolation, longing, adversity, conflict, desire, connection, community and empowerment. Yet what’s really cool is the out of the box (pun intended) approach Rod took here.
The visual composition of the images (the form, the lighting, the angles) is incredible. It’s so unique that it really feels like you’ve being taken into another world. The box is used as a prop throughout and it works well to tie in the narrative of the various themes, without ever feeling contrived or forced.
For me, the thing that I enjoyed most out from the book was the emotional complexity. For instance, the images in ‘Longing’ aren’t all sad and forlorn, in the same way that the images in ‘Empowerment’ have a certain vulnerability to them.
The image below is a great example of that. Even though it’s in the ‘Empowerment’ category, there’s an air of uncertainty and vulnerability.
For me, it speaks to how to get to a place of genuine empowerment, you have to go through various stages, and one of those stages is uncertainty and vulnerability. That’s not a ‘bad’ thing because they’re just stages and you move through them.
Empowerment is also a stage itself, so maybe this is a commentary about the fleetingness of all of these moments in our lives?
I really enjoy things that are more complex than what they initially may present on the surface. Life is very rarely a clear cut experience. It’s not good vs bad, wrong vs right. Complexities often lie below the surface, it’s just that we may choose to ignore them.
‘The Box’ does a great job of tackling a range of emotions and experiences that many gay men will be able to relate. I loved the book and can highly recommend checking it out.
A few more images from ‘The Box’
About Ron Amato
Ron Amato has been making photographs since his childhood in Brooklyn, New York. His early influences were fashion and portrait photographers of the Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe and Francesco Scavullo.
Most of Ron’s adult work centres around the male figure.In the 1990s and early 2000s Ron photographed for fitness and sports magazines including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness and Sports Illustrated.
Ron’s recent work centres around issues of ageing in the gay community, diverse images of male beauty, idealised body manipulation, image and social media and embracing same sex attraction.
He has exhibited extensively in the US and internationally and have been published in a number of anthologies.
Ron still lives in Brooklyn with his husband Seth and their fox terrier Oliver.