Sam Zalutsky's Meat Rack Series (themeatrackseries.com) is an infrared color film series exploring the deep sense of wonder and desire found in the Meat Rack, a small forest between two Fire Island gay communities, where men have sought connection through public sex since the mid-20th century.
The Meat Rack is shot on medium format color infrared film. (Exhibition size 30 x 30 inches and 40 x 40 inches).
Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines have long served as bucolic summer escapes and outposts of freedom for generations of gay New Yorkers. The Meat Rack is filled with scraggly trees and shrubs and intersected by narrow pathways, some which lead to the next community while others dead end in the woods. Despite various threats, including sting operations by forest marshals, the pink scares of the 1950s, the AIDS epidemic, the Meat Rack continues to be a place where sexual freedom and desire are played out in real time and in a public space, where layers of history and bits and pieces of experience can be found in condom wrappers, beer bottles, and tissues buried in the sand along the dead-end trails.
The work juxtaposes the forest’s natural beauty with a heightened sense of sexuality, connection, and possibility between men, where the person you “spy” down the path or through the trees, figures hidden in some of the images, could engender a passionate sexual encounter.
I use infrared color film, a format originally designed by the US military during World War II for aerial surveillance, to foreground the act of searching in a possibly hostile environment and to “pervert” the purpose of this film stock used by the military (until only recently a hostile environment for queer people) into a conscious, affirming act of queer sexuality. This series defamiliarizes the bucolic imagery of the forest, heightens the act of looking, and reflects on the hidden codes of gay male culture and public cruising, where subtle signs are still used to both reveal and hide one's identity, signal to like-minded individuals, and survive in potentially hostile environments.
Sam Zalutsky is a filmmaker and photographer in New York. Sam’s new feature film, Seaside, a revenge thriller starring Ariana DeBose (Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, and in Ryan Murphy’s The Prom), is currently streaming on Amazon. It won the Best Feature Award at the inaugural Yale in Hollywood Film Festival and at the Klamath Independent Film Festival. His first feature is the gay horror movie, You Belong to Me. As a photographer, Sam received honorable mention for two images from the "Meat Rack Series" in the SoHo Photo National Competition (curated by Kris Graves) this summer. Recently, he has shown work at Castleton University (Vermont), Photographic Center Northwest (Seattle), the A Smith Gallery (Texas), and at Review Santa Fe in 2019. He has created dozens of short videos on breast cancer survivors, New York educational non-profits, as well as progressive campaign videos with the Creative Resistance for Texas State House candidates, New York State and City politicians, including a Reed Award-winning ad for Queens DA Candidate Tiffany Cabán. Sam teaches screenwriting in the Spalding University Low Residency MFA in Writing in Louisville, Kentucky. MFA, film, NYU Tisch School of the Arts; BA, Yale University. Find more on Sam at Instagram and Twitter and his website sazamproductions.com