Mark initially trained as a specialist physician, working for several years in medical practice before studying photography at the Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland and Massey University in Wellington. His work has been exhibited in New Zealand and overseas and in 2014 he was awarded a Master of Fine Arts from Auckland University. Mark’s work sits at the intersection of documentary, portraiture and social history, and touches on questions of identity, sexuality and the lifelong quest for intimacy. His portraits are often accompanied by first-person narratives drawn from extended interviews with the people he photographs, and this element of oral history opens a unique window into the world of their individual subjective experience. This was the case in Men Alone—Men Together (published in 2010), a major project exploring the lives and relationships of some 45 gay men, couples and singles, living in New Zealand at the start of the 21st century.
A Queer Existence is a new documentary project that again uses photographic portraiture and oral history to record the life experiences of gay men born since a specific historical event, the passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986. Prior to that moment sex between men was technically illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Law Reform serves as a symbolic turning point at which the widespread social condemnation of homosexuality that prevailed in the earlier decades of the 20th century was gradually replaced by increasing degrees of acceptance, exemplified by the Civil Union Act in 2005 and Marriage Equality in 2013 granting legal status to same-sex relationships. Along with that came the ever more prolific dissemination of the social script of ‘gay identity’ as the means by which men experiencing same-sex desire constructed their sense of self. Gay men growing up since Law Reform can thus be expected to have a very different set of life experiences from those of their forebears.
A Queer Existence sets out to document, prospectively, the stories, visual appearances and subjective experiences of some of these men. In the current exhibition, the immediacy and impact of large-scale (1m square) photographic portraits is accompanied by a soundtrack drawn from excerpts from the interviews, allowing the sitters’ own voices to be heard in the gallery space and immersing the viewer in the experiences they narrate.
Mark Beehre's exhibition A Queer Existence is showing at Photospace Gallery, 1st floor, 37 Courtenay Place, Wellington, from 10th April - 4th May, 2015.
For information on Mark's publications and previous exhibitions: www.markbeehre.co.nz