In her recent project, Jeanette May concentrates on bachelors: unmarried men that do not live with their parents, spouses, or lovers. Inspired by 1960s movies and magazine spreads highlighting the phenomenon of the “bachelor pad,” she gives us a peek into the contemporary bachelor and his metropolitan dwelling. The original bachelor pads were conspicuously heterosexual and masculine in design—filled with the latest gadgets and signifiers of hedonistic pleasure. May’s photographs examine whether the contemporary adaptation evolved or the reel-to-reel sound system merely swapped for iPod stations and large screen TVs. The pad’s purpose may be to display one’s economic or cultural standing, provide refuge, or seduce potential lovers. May’s images raise these questions while offering a voyeuristic peek into the private living space of single men.
Bachelor Pads furthers May’s investigation into the representation of desirable men and the development of the “female gaze” in contemporary visual cultural. Her bachelors identify as straight or gay, live alone or with roommates, and cover a range of ages and socio-economic groups. She produces photographs located somewhere between portraiture and documentary, that allow women (and men) to stare unabashedly at attractive bachelors, and then, visually rifle through their belongings. May presents her archival pigment prints in a scale that allows us to read the spines of books on their shelves and wonder at the significance of each possession on view. What do we learn about these specific bachelors, how do men present themselves to the camera, and does the female viewer take pleasure in the sight?