I feel your love in my heart. I see my pain in your eyes. I am always with you, Narcissus. I am you. Yet, we can never be one.
Norm Yip’s current studio, in an industrial building at a stone’s throw from Chai Wan MTR Station, is much bigger than the one I had visited years ago, somewhere in Sheung Wan. Then, I had bravely showed up for an introductory course on photography armed with a point-and-shoot camera. Norm taught me two things that day, how to put a model at ease and how to use light to your advantage, both of which are his hallmarks.
Over the years, I have followed Norm’s work, admiring his growing international fame as The Asian Male artista, from a distance. All those handsome and muscular subjects had made me uncomfortable about my own body shape. Things have changed now. I run Mr. Gay Hong Kong with James Gannaban (aka Hyperactive Gay Boy; seeCockpit). This is year five and we are spending hours of time in and out of the gym, working hard to ensure we look fighting fit. This has instilled in me a renewed appreciation of physical health and form. I finally had the courage to visit a Norm Yip exhibition last week.
A set of 12 photographs of a beautiful young man, in various stages of undress, adorned the walls around a neatly-laid table of whites, reds, OJ and cakes. Norm weaved through the guests to welcome me and I congratulated him on the opening. Then I walked around the room chatting with the guests, enjoying their views about the portraits on display. Exhibitions like this one bring together creative people from different backgrounds under one roof – authors, musicians, painters, photographers, performers, models, activists, journalists – we were proof of that.
Much later in the evening, when most of the guests had left, Norm and I did a few more rounds of the portraits. We stopped by each shot, sipping a gentle white and discussing technical details. His use of props, the sharpness of edges, the shadows, the reflections, the whole works – I was peeking into the master’s mind and learning new tricks!
When Norm asked me to pick my favourite from the set, I told him I was stuck between two of them and could not make up my mind. The eyes in the first one conveyed a lot of emotions to me, all at once. There was pain, there was longing, there was playfulness and there was confusion. Considering the age of the subject, it was a brilliant expression. In the second one, I saw him looking at his reflection in the mirror as he lay horizontally on top of it. It was easy to see why that picture would be the showstopper but I requested Norm to change the orientation so we could view it from another angle. Although it wasn’t the way he wanted to display the portrait, Norm was kind enough to humour me. I showed him how the shapes formed a heart in the middle and how you could see much more through the eyes of the reflection. This got me thinking even deeper. Narcissus’s falling in love with his own reflection was perhaps the greatest love tragedy ever. His was a love, he knew he could never realize and yet he did not turn back. People will always mock him. I will always admire his courage and his tenacity. How many have it in us to make such a sacrifice?
We continued chatting about art, love and spirituality late into the night.
多年來，我繼續留意Norm的作品，從遠處欣賞他以拍攝亞洲男性在國際間名聲漸隆。那些英俊、肌肉發達的模特兒令我本身體形不太自在。現在這已改變。我與 James Gannaban合作主辦《香港同志先生》(又名 Hyperactive Gay Boy，專欄見於Cockpit一頁)。今年已是第5年，我倆今年花了大量時間泡健身室，努力確保能以最佳狀態示人。這使我重新領略健康體態之美。我終有足夠勇氣，於上週參加Norm的展覽。
展覽以一年輕俊男在不同的脫衣階段的12張相片所組成，它們裝飾四周牆壁，包圍着一枱的紅酒白酒、橙汁及蛋糕。Norm 穿過賓客們歡迎我，而我祝賀他展覽順利揭幕。然後，我穿梭工作室賓客們聊天，享受他們對展品的的看法。這樣的展覽來自不同背景的創意人才匯集同一屋簷下 –作家、音樂家、畫家、攝影師、演員、模特兒、社會運動家、記者 – 我們就是最好的證明。
到了更晚時份，當大部分賓客已離開，我和Norm 再三細味每張肖像，在每幅作品前停下來，呷着輕和白酒討論技術細節。他使用的道具、銳利的邊角、陰影、鏡像、整個作品系列 – 我窺探到大師的心思，從中偷師一二！