Word and photos by Mike Plunkett

If you’d told me at the start of 2020 that just a few months from now we’d be living in a world where my vacuum cleaner had to be quarantined for three days before it could be serviced, I wouldn’t have believed you. I don’t think any of us would have believed any of what was to come. As I write this, it’s not really over yet. Everybody is talking about the new normal but we don’t know what that is just yet. Of course the pandemic affected some lives more than others and in vastly different ways too. 

For me, there have been quite a few positives. I recently moved house and had a change in my relationship status, so I appreciated the extra time to settle in the house and also the personal introspection that came along with that. I’ve been on a journey for a couple of years now since turning 40. I’ve been rediscovering a younger version of myself and working on bringing elements of young Mikey back into my adult life. I think in part because I spent a lot of my 30’s living my life in a way that was an expectation of who I thought I should be, maybe even who I wanted to be, rather than who I actually was. Elements of my life have been lived in a hetero-normative way and I’ve been trying to find my place on the queer spectrum recently. Every personal definition that once had a rigid box for you to squeeze into is being opened up now, with many people rejecting even having a box to fit into at all. Some of us just need some extra boxes to choose from than were previously available. Growing up in a world where being a gay man was more likely tolerated when you present as masculine; it’s important to challenge this idea and help people understand that these things aren’t black and white but more like a spectrum. You don’t have to be just one thing; there are layers to us all. These portraits have helped me peel back some of my own layers. I’ve always had a need for attention, occasionally dipping my toes in various types of performance over the years. Taking self-portraits has been a way to bring together my 10 years of professional photography experience with my long held desire to be seen as an artist. Although that’s how I’m reflecting on this series, it’s not how it came about.

I thought I was going to spend lockdown making music, something from my youth I’ve been enjoying again. After all, photography has been my job for several years now, so I would have thought taking a break from it was a more obvious path. But in my lockdown, a physical world where only I existed, I needed to remind myself of the things I’d done, places I’d been and all the art I’ve been proud to create so far. I plastered my bare white-washed walls with all the prints I could lay my hands on, turning my house into a personal gallery. That turned out to be a catalyst to turn the camera on myself, validating my existence with picture after picture of, well, mostly me. One picture led to an idea for another, the pictures became more elaborate as more effort went into each one throughout lockdown. 

Being in a space where I was only in relation to myself gave me the freedom to experiment and just create to please my own tastes; to make myself smile, be iconic, be camp, dress up, dress down and live naked. 

How we percieve ourselves, how others see us and our obsessions around looking a particular way may not be that new. But the medium of photography is relatively new; meaning the number of people who can see us and potentially judge us has grown and continues to grow. Along with that comes the increased pressure to look a certain way. We’re almost at boiling point. Lockdown removed some of that pressure for me. A certain amount of character I’d been holding back was now free to come out, to be seen and to let myself see it for the first time too. I had shed loads of fun in the process of making these pictures.

There has been extra kitty cuddles in recent months (a huge comfort to being homo alone). But extra strokes mean extra cat hair in the house! I’m ecstatic to report the vacuum cleaner is back, it’s working and now picking up all the cat hair again like it should.

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