Curiosity and escapism with the photography of Jeremy Pelser

Jeremy Pelser is using his passion for images and futurism to speak about queerness—creating a new language to simultaneously challenge and connect. Within these images, there are no boys and girls or men and women, there are just people.

A leg stretches out aslant. The oversized shoe seemingly disproportionate to the body from which it is emerging. Eyes partly covered with hair. Strength. Stability. The image is subtle but striking. The veld and the sky merge, blending into an unexpected twine imbued with poetic beauty.

Pelser is a Cape Town based multidisciplinary artist whose work spans across filmmaking and photography. Through the ascension of photography into the mainstream, more people are becoming comfortable with reading images, allowing artists across the world an opportunity to use the medium to interrogate and complicate various aspects of life while engaging audiences in multiple narratives and perspectives. This mode of creating has become a rich way of expressing thoughts, where play and experimentation take centre stage.

My style is very rooted in my queerness, which is also what I associate futurism with. I see photography as an empowering way to give queer visibility.

Pelser’s photography embeds and embraces futurism as a concept to express curiosity, escapism and the freedom of creating a tomorrow that does not yet exist—laser lighting, contortion of bodies in a manner reminiscent of cyborgs, a focus on sharp lines and forms—these elements result in images that are stark and sharp.

Pelser is able to illuminate parts of the image through meticulous use of foregrounding of the body. This is done by paying close attention to physicality. The body is made to look interesting through shaping and reshaping. His devotion to fashion and nature comes across in how he finds ways to integrate and centre bodies within dreamlike landscapes. What he does not communicate in words, he captures through a subtle use of geometric and organic compositions (often diagonal in placement), the energy of which diverges and converges until it collides at a resting point.

When I look at my images I want it to feel like I’m seeing a moment in a different time, or that I’m looking into the future.

 For Pelser, friendship coupled with the act of image-making have become liberating forces, he states I find myself constantly collaborating with my friends and other queer folk. I see some of my friends nearly every day and most of them are either a photographer or a model, or both. We like to push each other and our projects are often unplanned and happen when we get excited over spontaneous ideas.

 Pelser grew up in Pretoria within a traditional Afrikaans community. Exploring what this means for him is where he will be directing his future projects—in a sense, this is an instance of returning home to where his love for photography began. My love for photography began in high school. I used to take my mom’s little digital camera, walk around our house and just take photos of everything I found pretty. My friends and I often took a train around Pretoria and Joburg to explore around and take photos, and without knowing I just slowly started doing photography on a regular basis and it became very much a part of me. For him, photography becomes a therapeutic process of re-engaging space (his old childhood city; Pretoria) and re-engaging time; how the past continues to influence the present while the present disrupts the future.

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