Light Alchemy: The Artwork of Nathaniel C. Roe

At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, legal oppression caused lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people to live in the closet. During this same time, it was not uncommon for heterosexual men to form intimate bonds with other men. These non-sexual friendships saw men openly showing affection for each other in public and private settings. Exploring LGBTQ history and male friendships, this body of work illustrates how modern society impacts my relationship with my husband, Larry, in the southern United States.
The narratives I create in my photographs examine how identity for marginalized groups is hidden and adjusted to suit societal pressures. Using a systematic description of my photographs, I explore the parallels of the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, which coincide with the creation of my chosen medium, the wet-plate collodion tintype, and the present day in which I create my work. Drawing context from contemporary photographers as well as from photographic history, the imagery I have created in the wet-plate collodion tintype process depicts how Larry and I feel pressured to put ourselves into the closet in public spaces. Using personal experiences in this body of work allows for an authentic voice when discussing issues of discrimination and oppression. The choice to use imagery and a nineteenth-century process, as well as drawing inspiration from mid twentieth-century films, is based on how cultural ideals of family and masculinity were changing at these times.