Gregory Hazel, 28, is a full-time artist (he’s currently working on a opera) who only recently began turning the camera on himself. Laundry rooms and basements turn into eerie stages where the everyday is uncertain. These twisted and vulnerable self-portraits pull the viewer into a world where much is shown, but more is hidden.
When did you start taking self portraits and manipulating them with glitter?
The reason I do that is because I don’t like showing faces too much. I sort of like to hide stuff. I started the glitter stuff two months ago. I guess the self-portraits started like a few years ago, in Berlin.
Do you have an idea of what you're going to do before you run into the frame?
No, I do not. Sometimes I do. Maybe like one out of every 10. But because they're mostly film, I don’t like check up on it.
Do you find that you are inspired by the location and you put yourself in there as an afterthought? How do you start thinking about where you're gonna take a photograph?
It started when my husband and I would travel, go into Airbnbs, and go into different peoples' homes. I would take advantage of random strangers’ appliances and their beds and their washing machines. That specific house with the washing machine: that was during Christmas and we found out that guy actually died a couple weeks before we were in that house. So, I don’t know why I was walking around his house naked.
That was your way of honoring him.
If I was taking a self portrait, I would feel uncomfortable giving away too much—which is why I’ll constantly be climbing into something or hiding something or covering something up. I don’t think an ass is too personal, but I think the arch of my eyebrow is personal; the upper lip is really personal, but I don’t really think my gooch is that personal.
Talk a little more about that. Where are the dividing lines? Why nudity?
In real life and in public I'm not actually that confident. So if I'm by myself I can express that in a way. My first experience with sexuality was when I was younger: I would be able to get into a gay club I was too young to get into and I was seeing all these people openly express their sexualities very freely and openly, and that sort of shocked me. It closed me up a little bit. So I have an issue being confident in that way in real life. I also have an issue taking pictures of other people, which is why often my subject is myself.
It's interesting the personal aspect of nudity versus your face that you find, like it would be more personal to show your face than to show your butt…
It's not really meant to be a statement. There are artists out there who take nude photographs purposefully to expand the collective viewer’s mind on what is okay to be viewed. And that's not really what’s going through my mind.
So, are you going by impulse?
Yeah. Also, if I'm wearing clothing, I didn't make the clothing, so it's not really mine. If I'm wearing an article of clothing that says "Calvin Klein" on it, yeah it's my photograph but part of the photograph is Calvin Klein's underwear. I have a very strong reaction—I can’t explain it—regarding wearing a t-shirt with a graphic on it that I didn’t design. It’s a visceral reaction. It’s someone else's design, and I don’t know who they are, or what they did, or where they came from, or what was going through their mind when they designed the clothing, or how much money they made off the design. Then I’m putting it into a photograph and putting it out there, and that's where it makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I don’t like wearing clothes.
It sounds like portraiture has the potential to be a pure form of expression for you, and why clutter it with somebody else's contribution?
Yeah. If I'm taking a photo on the bed that I lost my virginity in, I'm not going to wear a shirt that I bought three months ago from Banana Republic. To me that just doesn’t. . . I'm not sure why I would do that. . . and what's wrong with a nipple?
Does anybody come to mind as an influence? Photographers who really get something across?
Francesca Woodman. Actually I saw a film about her in Berlin in 2013—that's when I stopped feeling narcissistic about taking pictures—and literally the night after watching that film I remember I was taking photos in the apartment and I went to go to the bathroom and my camera—the camera that my dad bought in the ‘80s, this old Minolta—fell of a tripod and I heard it crash and I went into the room to go see what happened. It broke in the middle of a roll, and I like had a fucking breakdown, because it was right after I saw that film and it was right after I sort of had that affirmation that I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures of other people. And that meant that I could just settle for myself and that's fine—and then my camera broke two hours after, of course.
Lately, what have you been interested in?
I've sort of stopped taking self portraits at the moment, because I am trying to focus on something else. And when I'm doing that, it's time consuming and it takes the focus away from other things. Right now I'm sort of trying to pay attention to other things. So when I have my camera in my hands, I'm taking photos of other things. So right now I'm not so much taking self-portraits.
What are you taking photos of?
I should probably be taking more photos. It's hard because it's not a career of mine. I can't devote every single day to thinking about it. Then I'll just end up in a puddle on the floor. Right now when I'm travelling I'll take my sneaky little Yashica T4 and I'll snap photos of people on the street. I like to black strangers' faces out and cover their eyes, because I feel uncomfortable if I share their pictures; they didn't really ask for it. Or when I see a drag show, I'll take pictures of drag performers.
Is there anything you’d like to add? Anything you’d like to communicate to your fans?
I don’t have fans.