Photographer Ron Amato began capturing images of nude men in Provincetown in 1999. Since then he has traveled the world capturing gay men in the parks of Berlin and Italy, on beaches in Florida and Fire Island, and their homes in Italy, London, and New York. Now a full-time professor at Fashion Institute of Technology, Amato collaborated with Out Traveler to create this retrospective of his work.
Read the full interview with Ron Amato here.
"I first went to Provincetown in the ’90s when a friend called to ask if I wanted a room in his share," Amato recalls. "I didn’t know a lot about the town but was totally game. I threw a camera, some lenses and bunch of film into my bag and off I went. I didn’t know what to expect but making photographs is integrated into everything I do. It wasn’t until my second week that I started to make photographs of men in the dunes and on the beach. It was a visceral experience and a natural progression to incorporate the body into the landscape. It started what’s become a more than 20-year pursuit of photographs of men in nature. I'll probably be doing it in some form for the rest of my life."
"As a gay artist, Provincetown embodies much of who I am," Amato muses. "I’ve traveled a great deal but never found another place like it. My body relaxes there. My creative juices flow there. There is so much to be inspired by — the art, the nature, the men, oh and the men (did I say the men?). Seriously, there is a deep sense of community among artists, LGBTQ+ folk and nature lovers. It’s like a Venn diagram and I’m right in the middle!"
"Making environmental nudes is experientially driven for me," Amato says. "It is the act of making the photographs that keeps me going back. I am rarely focused on the outcome or how they will be received. Nature is not my natural habitat. I grew up in Flatlands Brooklyn, so concrete is my natural habitat. I don’t hike or ski or boat. I make photographs of men in nature. That’s my nature fix."
"This work (the environmental nudes) has no end," Amato says. "While many of my other projects are self-contained, this pursuit of the environmental nude is open ended. It has recently evolved to include more architecture and fabricated elements outdoors, and in the most recent work (not seen yet), I started using some artificial light. However it’s the same body of work. It is a continuum and I plan to do it until I can’t anymore."
"I focus on the male figure in my work as a way try to understand my own same-sex attraction, as well as sexual attraction in the broader sense," Amato says. "Why and who we are attracted to is one of life’s mysteries. Beside orientation, there is also individual tastes and predilections. I’m in constant pursuit of understanding my own attraction to men in general and to individual men specifically. The camera allows me to react immediately to the beauty I see and the editing process allows me to dwell on that beauty in a constant quest to understand my own attraction to it."
"The act of looking at beauty, both in the figure and the landscape and combining them to create a new thing, all while the wind is in my face, the sun is on my skin and my toes are in the water," Amato muses. "It’s not an experience I can adequately describe with words. I am transported while making the photographs. It is a formula which is magical for me. I hope the photographs communicate some of that experience."
"The place I’ve been most often is Italy." Amato says. "Italy is a very special place for many reasons, the art, the food, the culture. Also the diversity of the natural landscape is very unique. Within a relatively short train ride, you go from the bluffs of the Amalfi Coast to the hills of Tuscany to the splendor of Venice. It’s quite special. I have a great affection for Italy and the Italian people. And the men, well..."
"Berlin is one of my favorite places to visit," Amato says. "If I were to live abroad, it would be my first choice. The tension between its recent past and its current culture is found everywhere in the city. Walking the streets is both a history lesson and a cautionary tale. The LGBTQ+ community there is very vibrant and alive. I really love it. In many ways it reminds me of 1970s New York."
"I approach photographing a figure indoors in a very different way than in a natural landscape," Amato says. "There is an intimacy I am trying to capture when photographing in someone’s home. In a way the images feel more sexual because they seem private. I’m playing the voyeur. I’m showing you something not necessarily meant for your eyes. I like to photograph figures through doorways, in mirrors, from behind, etc. It heightens the voyeuristic nature of the work."