This book presents a selection of forty photographs from the seminal project New Natives created in Hawaii by American and Italian artist, Joseph Maida. The volume’s succession of images loosely follows the chronology of when the pictures were made from 2010-2014. In the instances where Maida asked the same model to pose before his camera on mulitiple occasions, the resulting portraits are grouped in subseries.
Maida, who is based in New York City, finds aspiring male models on the island of Oahu through the Internet and social media. Once the models agree to participate, he asks them to choose what to wear and to select a spot in their local terrain, where they want to be photographed. Maida then takes their portraits in the landscape from a notable distance, suggesting that the models are discovered in or emerging from the wilderness. Water and vegetation play important roles in the “exotic” backgrounds, which are up for close consideration alongside the models’ own “nature.” At the end of the photo sessions, Maida asks the models to ennumerate their personal ethnicities in as much or as little detail as they desire. These descriptions, along with their provided names, serve as the portraits’ titles.
Thematic intersections of masculinity, ethnic origin, and sexuality are central to representation in this project. Primordial, indigenous body markings give way to contemporary tattoos, and clothing ranges from traditional costume to nothing at all. These young men’s appearances deviate from Euro-american standards of “male model,” but that is precisely the point. Projection of an identity – much like the interpretation of one – is the articulation of the wish of how one wants to be seen — or how one wishes to see. The photographer’s work is, thus, the product of a fantasy cum image.
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