Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Zodiacs

Perhaps, with about five or six other projects still going on and not even close to be finished, I should have not embarked in the umpteenth long-term, difficult project. But as I said once, inspiration strikes in the most unexpected moments and forms, so here we go, once again.
This time, I got the idea reading The Gay Boy’s Guide to the Zodiac, an amazing and amusing blog which explains astrology from the perspective of a gay boy, specifically about how zodiacal signs work on gay boys. I had a lot of fun while reading it, and bam!, the idea struck: I’m going to make a series of works about the zodiacal signs.
Well, I admit that’s a very common and not so original subject, but while I was reading, I kept having images about how I could do my own zodiacal signs so, perhaps, I though, I might have my say too. The idea of seeing the zodiac from a gay boy’s perspective feels quite thrilling and has a lot of visual potential, so why not? And this is how I got back to reading the blog from the beginning and started noting down the most defining traits of each sign to try and elaborate a visual image out of each of them. The idea for The Zodiacs was quickly born.

I guess everybody knows how the Zodiac works, but here’s a small recap: there are twelve Signs based on the twelve constellations that the Sun crosses during its apparent journey along the ecliptic. When the Sun crosses one sign, all the people who are born in that period of time will have traits, character and often physical, linked to that sign. This traits are mostly derived from three things: the mythological background of the constellation, the element associated with the sign and its ruling planet.
The twelve Zodiacs are grouped in four elements, three for each: Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Each sign has its own secondary element, which helps further define its character along with its ruling planet.
The Moon and the other planets, too, cross the signs during their apparent journey around the Earth, their position at the time of one’s birth affects their characters too, as well as the Ascendant or “rising sign”, but since the Sun is considered the “planet” of the self, it is its position that defines most of the traits of one person.

With this said, I will shoot one themed photo for each of the twelve Zodiacs. The aesthetics will be closely related to the description of said sign and will include its dominant element as well as a handsome young man who embodies the main traits of each sign with his looks, pose and attitude. Oh, and each boy will be naked.
This is indeed my first long-term project including nudity. As you can probably reckon, this will mean it will be a long, difficult and slow project, since finding twelve boys who not only are preferably born under the sign they’ll be representing, but are willing to pose naked too will be a very challenging process. But I guess we all know by now I love challenges, so I’ll give it a try.

The first photo from this project will be published very soon. Meanwhile, here are some questions about the project you might ask me at some point:

• Why the nudes?
• It’s symbolic. Whereas the ascendant is meant to represent one’s projection to the outer world, the sun sign represents one’s inner personality, without masks or covering. The zodiacal sign is metaphorically “one’s naked self”, no more, no less. I have always had a very complicated relationship with nude photography and it took me long before I did my first nude shootings. I did them only because I had some concepts I could not represent otherwise, some images in which nudity was strictly functional to what I wanted to express. This project is quite like that: the concept requires the use of nudity.

• What about astrology? Do you believe in that?
• This is a thing I really want to clear out. Most people who know me know I am in-between agnosticism and atheism and I am a huge astronomy lover. If I don’t believe in any given god and am so much into the scientific side of the study of the sky, fat chance I can even believe in astrology, right? Well, not quite that.
For one thing, my mother is very interested in astrology, so I grew up being quite interested in it too. I don’t say I strictly believe in daily horoscopes and such things, but that does not mean I don’t like playing with the idea of natal charts and how people reflect the traits of their signs. The thing is, astronomers are very quick to dismiss astrology as nonsense on the basis that planets have virtually no influence whatsoever on Earth, that astrology lacks any scientific foundations and so on. On the other hand, astrologers have never made any claim about astrology being scientific in any way and consider it more of an art. An interpretative art. It’s not like they believe that planets emit some kind of energy that affects mankind differently according to which starry background they stand in front of: it’s more like watching the apparent position of the planets against the zodiacal portion of the sky and interpreting it to try and divine mundane things. It won’t surely give you an answer about what’s going to happen next, but it might give you the caution or the confidence you need to undertake things on a given day. As for natal charts, it’s not like astrologers tell you who you are going to be, how you are going to behave, what you’re gonna do in life and stuff. Zodiacal signs are simply archetypes, they map out people’s possible worths and flaws, which allows them to work on themselves to become better. There’s nothing scientific in it, but it’s still very fascinating. And honestly, I know very few people who do not fit their own sign (and casually most of those either fit their ascendant until you get to know them better, or have some group of planets that heavily influence the main sign). So, honestly, astronomers can give up their fight and let astrologers alone, one does no harm the other.

• What about Ophiuchus, the thirteenth Zodiac?
• Bullshit. There are only twelve zodiacal signs, period. Basically, this is the thing: in modern astronomy, the term “constellation” does not define the “pattern” that stars make up, but rather an area of the sky that’s assigned to said constellation in order to easily catalogue deep sky objects. Of course, this includes a much larger area surrounding what “we” call the actual constellation. This new official definition of “constellation” is not older than the 1920’s, while the division of the sky was made in 1930 and was largely arbitrary. It so happened that an area of sky in which the ecliptic lies, and which is very close to the Scorpio asterism, was assigned to Ophiuchus rather than Scorpio: this is how all of sudden there were thirteen zodiacal constellations. It was arbitrary, it could have been Scorpio instead. And as you can see here, the area that lies between Scorpio (bottom right) and Sagittarius (bottom left) does not even contain the asterism of the Ophiuchus. So, given that, a) the Sun doesn’t even enter the “constellation” of Ophiuchus as traditionally defined, b) as stated above, astrology is a totally different thing than astronomy and it has been so for the last five or four centuries, c) the whole symbology linked to the number twelve is millennia old and rooted back to the Babylonians, and d) the thirteen zodiacal constellation claim derives from a mere agreement rather than any scientific observation, there’s no point in introducing a thirteenth zodiacal sign in astrology. Is it?

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