For Philadelphia-based photographer Chad Sates, whose work we spotted thanks to Feature Shoot, taking snapshots of guys cruising for anonymous sex in state parks wasn’t about passing judgement or navel gazing. Instead, his photos are a celebration of a part of gay culture that he says has been killed by the Internet, and “the sexual intimacy, however fleeting, that happens there.”
States spent two years traveling around the country, from the Pacific Northwest to locations back east, capturing these images and exploring the important role that setting plays in these brief encounters. “The landscapes in which these men make sexual connections in are not dark and terrible places but tranquil and beautiful,” he has said. “I am interested in creating a sense of fantasy in which the viewer can be seduced by the romanticism of the landscape yet feel a tension from the possibility of this unknown, a sublime place where one can loose themselves both physically and psychologically.”
How does States go about getting permission to capture such intimate moments on film? “You don’t really talk in these situations,” he explained to Fader last year. “It’s all kind of done through just looking and giving knowing glances and that’s what I’m doing with the camera too. I’ll kind of look at them and nod and make a gesture to my camera and they’ll either shake their head and push a hand at me to go away or they don’t. It’s usually quick. I’ll get one or two shots in. It’s not always a sustained consent.”
States’ Cruising series was published as a beautiful coffee table book by powerHouse Books this past fall. Click through below for a slideshow preview of a selection of images, and pick up your own copy of Cruising here.