My Colorful Life
For ten or fifteen years, Pierre Keller kept a photographic journal of his life in the form of some four thousand Polaroids. They were shot in pulsating 1970s New York, where he stayed till 1983, on trips to South America, and on the northwest shores of Lake Geneva in his native region of Lavaux. His artistic companions in those days included the likes of Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Michel Basquiat and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Memories of shared experiences, as well as the deaths of a number of those portrayed, steep Keller’s Polaroids in every color of the rainbow, every tint of gay life in those days: brown skin, milky-white asses, red dicks, white dildos, sassy statements, the neon-green secrecy of the bath houses and true-blue moments of contemplative poetry.
Unlike Mapplethorpe, Pierre Keller never worked with professional models. He photographed men wherever he’d followed them or they’d followed him to. Keller, who always kept his SX-70 in a pocket of his old US Army surplus pants, describes photographing as a sexual act — and sometimes they literally went hand in hand.
Self-censorship was always out of the question, and pleasure always came first — in the form of good-looking men amid a veritable banquet of earthly delights. In the words of Jean Tinguely, an artist Keller admires to this day, his snapshots might be described as culinary “anti-porn”: images for the inner cinema. And yet this tumescent horn of visual plenty did not go over big at the time: photography wasn’t considered gallery art yet. Pierre Keller’s Polaroids have now come to some measure of belated but deserved fame in My Colorful Life.