Photographer Stuart Sandford spent nine months at legendary live-in erotica Tom of Finland Foundation – and captured it on a Polaroid camera
“I’d actually never seen so many penises in one place in my entire life.” That’s how photographer Stuart Sandford described his latest stay at legendary homoerotic art Tom of Finland Foundation. A two month trip turned into a nine month residency – where he assisted on the events there as well as working on his own projects – at the 104 year-old Craftsman style house, founded by Durk Dehner and esteemed pioneer of homeoerotic art Touko Laaksonen, dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting erotica.
“I wanted a way to document my time and so I contacted the Impossible Project who sent me a Polaroid camera and a few boxes of film and I began to record aspects of my daily life there. The people, the places, the pets, the parties,” he says. “the book consists of the 42 Polaroids I took during my stay, some of them snapshots, some of them created specifically for the camera, but all of them authentic to the spirit of Tom of Finland.”
Turned into his latest book 1421 Laveta, the photos are a mixture of portraiture and daily observations in the venue’s rooms and surroundings, Sandford explains, “People live (in it) but it also operates as a museum and cultural space collecting, cataloguing, and disseminating erotic and/or sexually charged art, so it felt only fitting to present the two aspects of the space.”
Coinciding with LGBT Heritage Month, images from the book, as well as his other recent works, are being displayed at LA-based gallery Edward Cella. The exhibition, Looking: Patrick Angus and Stuart Sandford, presents revolutionary realism painter Patrick Angus’s artwork alongside Sanford’s. Despite working 35 years apart, the artists are similar in their documentation of Los Angeles’ gay culture, with Angus’s paintings taking a unique look at the development of American society – depicting the longing and loneliness of the queer urban underclass scene in the 1980s. “I feel really honoured to be showing beside him,” Stanford explains. “The more I looked at his work, the more I saw the connection between our two practices – not to mention how talented he was.”