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A Closer Look -- Lonely Boy Mag (No. A-2 Boys and their Cars)

from Lonely Boy Mag (No. A-2 Boys and their Cars)
Issue two of Alec Soth's Lonely Boy Mag (No. A-2 Boys and their Cars) was a challenge for me to digest. I originally wrote about this title in photo-eye's New Arrivals newsletter, and had to spend a fair amount of time contemplating the bizarre scenarios inside the book. When writing the original draft for the newsletter, Melanie McWhorter and I had a spirited discussion on my inability not to pass judgement on the work, as I thought the photographs  (which are fantastic) were dismal, taking me to places I wasn't completely comfortable being. And it was hard for me to leave these thoughts out of it, indicating to me that Soth has compiled another successfully intriguing publication and that I had more to say in the personal format of a blog post.

The new issue starts off with Todd Hido's Suburban Souls, a dark series of dreary exteriors and erotic interiors. Through these photographs, one can imagine sneaking through seedy streets and low-income neighborhoods, seeking cheap sex and unfulfilled fantasies. Hido's voyeuristic approach grabs the viewer in an arresting manner, creating an uneasy tension while also probing a fundamentally inherent male delusion. I have long been a fan of Hido's work and his ability as an editor, and considering the confines of this short magazine format, the photographer is still able to portray an ominous story that is also very direct.

from Lonely Boy Mag (No. A-2 Boys and their Cars)
from Lonely Boy Mag (No. A-2 Boys and their Cars)
Breaking up the dark ambiance established by Hido are five dioramas by Peter Davidson. The dioramas – created inside cutout novels – are a narrative of each novel title. Titles such as The Girl from Montana and Does God Exist form the overall structure of each individual piece. The odd humor displayed in Davidson's dioramas continues the theme of LBM's eclectic taste, sometimes steeped in the dingy underbelly of sexual fantasy and sometimes celebratory of pop culture's embrace of sexuality.

from Lonely Boy Mag (No. A-2 Boys and their Cars)
from Lonely Boy Mag (No. A-2 Boys and their Cars)
Diving back into illicit behavior is Chad States' series Give or Take. A series of photographs taken of public male hook-up spots, including parking lots, underpasses and heavily wooded forests, the viewer is drawn into a world many would consider to be sexually deviant. Public sex spots, barely hidden from the view of a family enjoying a picnic in a local park, immediately registers in my mind. As when looking through the previous issue of Lonely Boy Mag, long forgotten childhood memories have come back to life. I remember that the park I was dropped off at everyday as a kid was a local male hook-up spot and one day a friend and I walked in on two men in the bathroom thoroughly enjoying their short lunch break. We bolted through the bathroom doors at first horrified at witnessing a public sex act and then laughing about the new story we could pile onto our childhood tales. What interests me about this work is how commonplace it is to see men seeking sex in public spaces, most everyone has stumbled upon one of these locations, but it still belongs as a fringe element of society. Included with this work is a short narrative of a young teenage boy meeting and ultimately losing his virginity to an older man at a spot similar to those depicted in these photographs.

from Lonely Boy Mag (No. A-2 Boys and their Cars)
Lastly is Alec Soth's The Most Beautiful Woman in Georgia, a series previously published in the Magnum publication Georgian Spring. This work continues LBM's voyeuristic approach, with Soth seemingly stalking attractive women on side streets often from his car. Some photographs are taken through the car window, while in others it appears Soth has tracked them down for a more formal portrait. Including short text and descriptions of the story, this is a light-hearted but intriguing series, portrayed here in a context completely different to that in which it was originally published.

Thoughtfully designed by Jenny Tondera, the new issue continues along the lines of its predecessor by balancing between quirky humor and very real impressions of explicit behavior. And while some of the content may be hard to digest, it is also very much worth the challenge of engagement. -- Antone Dolezal

Purchase a copy of this title here.

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