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46                                      Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
            this type, Fritscher is trying to peel away the masks his subject wears. The
            masculine self is revealed as well as the carefully constructed masculine
            image which both reinforces and partly conceals it. This unveiled process
            of co-creation is especially evident in Fritscher’s photographs of his long-
            time collaborator, the multi-titled bodybuilder Jim Enger. Enger takes on
            many guises — he is seen laughing disarmingly, but also as the straight
            Mr. Iron Man which he was on the physique contest stage. Fritscher here,
            as in much of his work, both fictional and photographic, exerts a certain
            suspension of disbelief from the reader or viewer. There is a narrative
            present, but is it real or is it made up? Another case in point, but this time
            coming from the other, or “documentary” direction, is the superb image
            of a shirtless cowboy climbing a fence. Is this pure documentary, or posed
            erotic choreography? One’s imagination is led by the startled look on the
            face of the young man behind and to the left of the subject.
               The narrative element in the photographs is reinforced in some cases
            by the fact that many were originally shot as stills during video features
            cast and directed by Fritscher, and produced and distributed by Mark
            Hemry, for their boutique studio, Palm Drive Video, founded in 1984.
            Some scenes are obvious fantasies, but the images nevertheless remain
            portraits to the same extent as the fantasy shots of celebrities made by
            Annie Leibowitz. They look, just as Leibowitz’s portraits do, in two direc-
            tions: towards the fantasies of the subjects themselves, and towards the
            expectations (therefore also the fantasies) of the audience. Examples are
            the goggled truck mechanic in “Hand Gun,” the cowboy in “Last Cigar,”
            with hangman’s noose around his neck, and the prison bondage, and
            medical fantasies. These resemble Leibowitz’s work, but also have a kin-
            ship with the operatic extremism of Joel-Peter Witkin. In photographs
            of this type one is conscious that the line is blurred between fact and
            fiction, just as it is in Truman Capote’s “faction,” In Cold Blood, and in
            Woody Allen’s film, Zelig. On occasion, the boundary between art and
            life dissolves altogether. “Bound and Hooded,” taken in August 1979, is a
            vérité play shot of Larry Hunt, obviously made with the model’s consent
            and cooperation. Hunt later modelled formally for Robert Mapplethorpe.
            Later, in the 1980s, he was abducted from a Los Angeles leather bar. His
            fate was deduced from a single relic: a human jawbone, identifiable from
            dental records, which turned up long after his disappearance in Griffith
            Park in L.A. Fritscher’s photograph perhaps prophesies some aspects of
            fate regarding the vulnerability of the subject, but artists are hardly caus-
            ally responsible for any coincidence of murderous events which take place
            after their images were made.
               In a broader sense, the fact/fiction blur is one of the most important
            aspects of Fritscher’s work, and part of his truly original contribution

          ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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