Fotograf Magazine

John Paul Evans

Till Death Us Do Part

The dictum “an Englishman’s home is his castle”, was initially a legal concept, but one that has evolved over time to articulate an idea of personal domain. The question of who is allowed to occupy the family dominion is reaffirmed through photographic representation in depicting couples who conform to societal ‘norms’.

Till Death Us Do Part is a series of performative photographs that depict my marriage partner Peter and me in a number of absurd scenarios in and around the domestic environment. The idea for the works originated in 2013 as a personal reflection on the current state of social change in Britain, Europe and the US around notions or definitions of marriage. This is still something unresolved in the UK, with Northern Ireland claiming it wants to be treated in exactly the same way as the rest of the union when it comes to Brexit, and then stating that it wants to make its own laws in terms of abortion and same-sex marriage without acknowledging a contradiction in these legal distinctions.

As an artist and academic, I have been critical of the way photography is used to reaffirm notions of belonging and otherness in relation to family portraiture. As a consequence, there is little photographic evidence of the 30 years that Peter and I have spent together.

As Peter has entered his eighties, and I am in my fifties, there seemed to be an urgency to address this in my own mind and explore alternatives to the couple/marriage/family portrait, if for no other reason than to leave a trace of our presence in the world.

The suited figures enacting scenes of domesticity evoke a sense of the uncanny, which Freud talks about in terms of “heimlich and unheimlich” or the “homely and un-homely”. Within a gay culture that takes flamboyance as a “norm”, these images subvert through the transgression of ordinariness.