"Even back then I knew it was a special place," photographer John Arsenault says of his first time in Provincetown, in 1982, when he was 11 and his mothers took him there for vacation. It was in Provincetown that he first saw men openly in love. "I was overwhelmed by men holding hands. It was a relief." It was also in Provincetown that the 18-year-old self explored his budding adulthood.
And Arsenault returned once again in 2008, following a breakup. The pictures he took over a year-and-a-half spent there, his visual diary, form the foundation for his ever-evolving show "A Ghost is Occupying My Heart," first shown at ClampArt Gallery NYC in New York. "I've changed since then, and Provincetown has allowed me to do that," he says.
Though he's now based in Los Angeles, where he's working on his t-shirt line, The Gentle Of Men, the Massachusetts native tries to get back to P-Town whenever possible. And he knows he always will. While some argue that gay spaces are no longer needed in this increasingly inclusive society, Arsenault thinks Provincetown will always be uniquely placed within the LGBT experience.
"It was a haven for gay people, and then during the AIDS crisis it became a place where people came to die," and yet it's never lost its allure for both vacationing families like his own and packs of party animals, 18-year-olds like he would become and eventually out grow. But Arsenault says his love of P-Town isn't born from its gay-friendly airs: "It will always be home — not because I'm gay and it's a gay mecca, but because it's magical."
Arsenault's images, 14 of which are featured here, capture some of that magic.
(All images courtesy of ClampArt Gallery NYC)