Patric McCoy: Take My Picture
Many of McCoy's subjects aim that "Look" directly at the camera
and by extension, the viewer.
Here the viewer is transformed from spectator to prey,
someone to be chosen.
|Larry Wolf, Patric McCoy Take My Picture Exhibition (2023)|
|Larry Wolf, Patric McCoy Take My Picture Exhibition - "The Look" (2023)|
Over a crucial ten year period, Patric McCoy shot thousands of images—always at the subjects’ request—which form a rich document of 1980s Black gay Chicago. Take My Picture features a selection of some 50 black-and-white and color photographs from this decade, by the end of which thousands would die of HIV/AIDS, including many of McCoy’s friends, lovers, and subjects. McCoy’s subjects are neither posed nor directed; each has agency over how he is seen, elevating his humanity, inverting and subverting the viewer’s gaze. Take My Picture can be seen as a poignant marker of place, time, and memory; an altar to those lost.
“... these men wanted to be seen & documented the way they were”
On his 38th birthday in December 1984, budding photographer Patric McCoy made a commitment to himself that he would carry his 35mm camera with him wherever he went, take at least one shot a day, and stop whatever he was doing if anyone asked him to take their picture and oblige.
Fulfilling an unspoken need for Black men to see themselves, McCoy’s photographs are an intimate, playful, and poignant marker of place and time. Perhaps most significantly of all, McCoy captured his subjects just as they wanted to be seen.
Never the Same - Patric McCoy: Conversations About Art Transforming Politics & Community in Chicago & Beyond
Patric McCoy recently retired from a 28-year career as an environmental scientist in the Air and Radiation Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Office in Chicago. He has been collecting contemporary African American art for 41 years. In 2003 he co-founded Diasporal Rhythms, a not-for-profit 501(c)3 arts organization comprising informed and passionate art collectors from Chicago’s African American communities. The organization promotes the collection of art works by living artists of African descent. Patric’s striking photographic portrayals of African American men on the streets of Chicago in the 1980s have been the subject of the ongoing “Gift Project” by emerging artist Samantha Hill.
In 2003, Diasporal Rhythms was founded by Carol J. Briggs, Joan Crisler, Patric McCoy and Daniel T. Parker as a direct result of a panel discussion at the South Side Art Center’s Collectors’ Forum where a spirited discussion demonstrated the need for organized action by art collectors to expand the appreciation of contemporary visual art created by artists of the African diaspora.
Now – together with his co-author, artist and curator John Neff – McCoy is working to publish his images in an artist's book. Titled 38 Special, this highly anticipated photo book presents a carefully selected sampling of one of the largest and richest photographic archives of a Chicago demimonde that has gone largely unrepresented in existing histories of the city. In the book, large-scale portraits will anchor montage spreads including cityscapes of Chicago street life in the 1980s. Detailed oral histories and other texts will add color and detail to the book. The book will also include documentation of McCoy's The Gift Project (2008 - ongoing), in which he shares his images with other artists for use as inspiration and reference.