David-Simon Dayan's Ballerino
Self Portrait by David-Simon Dayan ![Self Portrait by David-Simon Dayan](https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bd53d9c940c1f978d768_DmH8kz8Q.jpeg) Self Portrait by [David-Simon Dayan](https://instagram.com/sirdavidsimon) [David-Simon Dayan](https://instagram.com/sirdavidsimon), the twenty-four-year-old Los Angeles-based artist, utilizes vulnerability from the kinetic rawness of male ballet dancers as the focal point of his latest exhibition entitled ‘_Ballerino.’_ Known for his intimate black and white portraiture of the queer identity and experience, David-Simon Dayan has made it his mission to imprint his view of the male identity onto strips of silver analogue. His project first started as a response to Robert Mapplethorpe’s work on the human disposition, but instead transformed into his own narrative on the current state of the male identity.  Dayan conducts a visual study on the societal constructions of what it means to be one’s own entity, transcending the preconceived notions on gender and identity. Dayan’s ‘_Ballerino’_ opens the conversation on the ever-changing male identity in order to redefine the expectations of men and to eclipse the limitations placed on them.  With his latest collection of 35mm photographs, Dayan captures a single millisecond that has an everlasting impression on the way society gazes at men that radiates tendrils of tenderness, vulnerability, and elegance. While there are no formal terms for a male ballet dancer, Dayan uses this as an avenue to explore this hole in inclusivity and acceptance. Dayan encourages an environment with wide acceptance and freedom, which will in turn create an environment free of societal pressures and expectations. He shares, “Liberation lives not just in women growing stronger, but in men growing softer, in gender lines blurring to give way to truly individual expression.” _‘Ballerino’_ will find a home at A LOVE BIZARRE, whose mission is to not just serve as a platform that celebrates queer artists and makers, but an epicenter for the community to gather and grow with one another. The opening has been postponed due to safety precautions surrounding the pandemic, but will open once the lockdown has been lifted. Photographed by David-Simon Dayan ![Photographed by David-Simon Dayan](https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bd52d9c940c1f978d764_Flaunt%2BMagazine%2BDavid-Simone%2BDayan.jpeg) Photographed by [David-Simon Dayan](https://instagram.com/sirdavidsimon) **How did you find your passion in photography? Is film really #notdead?**  Well, being born well into the digital age, I was lucky to have been given my first phone around the age of eight, and by then, cameras were already coming stock. I distinctly remember constantly taking photos. At that point, I spent quite a bit of time alone, so it was mostly objects around the house, my family pets, that sort of thing. Shortly thereafter, the smartphone came out and suddenly these images could come to life with much more realistic resolutions. I begun shooting friends and landscapes then taught myself how to edit them. The internet is a really useful resource for people that have a hard time making friends in person, and since the sites I frequented were such visual spaces, I started to think that way, drawn to certain images then trying to recreate them. And when I couldn’t achieve what I’d hoped to, I got my first proper camera and taught myself how to shoot manually, because doing anything on automatic was, once again, limiting. It was years later that I actually begun to learn about photography as an art form. I was on my way to film school and thought _let me get as comfortable with a camera as an extension of self, and what better way to do so than to practice?_ So I sought out a film camera, dead set on understanding the craft without all the modern perks, and I shot everything; trees, lampposts, empty streets, crowded streets, friends, family, lovers. Having just arrived in New York City, I drank up all of the visual affairs it offered, basking in the experience of shooting film—much unlike digital, which creates a sort of careless and removed process, although at times advantageous and necessary—excitedly dropping off my film to be developed at the local lab. And since then, it’s grown naturally. I still shoot on my Canon A-1, with a lens that was used in the 1984 Olympics—years before I was born—and it’s often around my neck. Film is timeless, film is alive and well, but it’s an expensive habit. **What is your creative process like? What do you look for through your viewfinder?** It depends on the project. Art is a lens through which we further understand ourselves and the world we occupy. Often, mine doesn’t include a process, rather it’s the documentation of moments shared with people I admire in spaces I’m lucky to gain access to, those rife with individuals who perform their own unique personal expression. I recognize that, and ask them to share. Other times, my work is based on ideas that arise or because I think _I wish I’d seen something like this_. There’s an essay I’m planning on writing along with a series I’m going to begin soon. So they’re a bit like studies, really. Photographed by David-Simon Dayan ![Photographed by David-Simon Dayan](https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bd53d9c940c1f978d770_Flaunt%2BMagazine%2BDavid-Simone%2BDayan.jpeg) Photographed by [David-Simon Dayan](https://instagram.com/sirdavidsimon) **What originally drew you to photographing male ballet dancers?** With _‘Ballerino,’_ I had spent some time reading about Mapplethorpe after being viscerally drawn to the elegant and timeless portrayals of these desires of flesh of his. I felt connected with him through proclivity, and having grown up queer, I had developed a craving, an intense urge to finally understand the history of my community— as we aren’t being readily handed that information. I had made a couple friends that danced ballet, spoke to them about their practice and knew I needed to create with them. **What do you hope people will take home with them after seeing ‘_Ballerino’_?** Well, I hope the viewer recognizes the beauty of the discipline carried in these dancers’ bodies, in their muscular fibers. I hope the viewer appreciates their willingness to be captured. And I hope they, in some way, open themselves up to the idea of men being tender, graceful individuals, challenging their own notion of the ‘ideal man’ in an attempt to embrace the many variations on masculinity, those liberated from societal norms and personal expectations. **What is your impression of how male ballet dancers are portrayed in media?** Are male ballet dancers truly portrayed much in the mainstream media? It’s a dichotomy; they are celebrated within the craft’s community itself. They are given stage time, and even attain high levels of respect and celebrity, but they are also limited. They must be immaculately presentable. The rules within ballet differ between say, white and black men, and how they must groom themselves. They must adhere to certain expressions of gender, but they move with an ease not mirrored in the typical man—or the idealized man—in Western society, and I find that utterly inspiring. Photographed by David-Simon Dayan ![Photographed by David-Simon Dayan](https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bd52d9c940c1f978d760_Flaunt%2BMagazine%2BDavid-Simone%2BDayan.jpeg) Photographed by [David-Simon Dayan](https://instagram.com/sirdavidsimon) **What/Who are influences and inspires your work? How has Robert Mapplethorpe’s work influence ‘_Ballerino’_ and you as an artist?** I’m inspired by those I work with first and foremost. I have the utmost respect for certain photographers, Herb Ritts’ perspective on form, Ellen Von Unwerth’s ability to capture the beauty of women, free from any male gaze, Andy Warhol’s world and ripple effect on visuality, Helmut Newton’s cinematic use of light,  Avedon’s skill for taking the seemingly mundane and making it extraordinary. Lately, I’ve been genuinely moved by Adi Nes’ portrayal of the soft fraternity of Israeli soldiers, which really hits home because as a first-generation American with an Israeli citizenship myself, I had to plea my case to the embassy to avoid spending the last few years in their army after being drafted, so it’s almost a peak into a parallel universe. But inspiration can be found everywhere. I’m often stopped in my tracks, enamored with humanity. Just last week, while walking through downtown, I saw a man on a ladder presumably painting a sealant on this building, and the way the light cast on him, creating a stark shadow split by the ladder as he stood there toiling away under the setting sun, it was beautiful. As are films, and poetry, and sex, and love. I write often where imagery fails, and I photograph where words fail. **What is your experience with vulnerability in your own identity?** It’s an ongoing journey. You’re a writer, don’t you write to understand yourself in a way? I often photograph people I honor, because I’m afraid of certain aspects of myself, yet they’re able to embrace them. I am learning to be vulnerable. Having spent my adolescence unsure of how to express myself, my emotions, my desires, I’m thankful I feel increasingly able to express this journey through art. I went to an acting conservatory, and I had one teacher who was such a beacon of wisdom and love. He pointed things out that I hadn’t ever realized, or I’d tried to hide under charm, or aloofness, but then someone calls you out, someone picks up on something you’d thought you’d hidden so well, and you think _fuck, it’s peaking through,_ and you know you need to finally try to subjugate it. The ego is a tricky one. It wants to maintain strength, to maintain a mask, a shield, a wall, but it’s our responsibility to throw rocks until it crashes down, or to nurture the ground it stands on so vines can breathe love into it. It’s our responsibility to tear ourselves open, to cry and cleanse ourselves in that salty goodness, but it is anything but painless. Photographed by David-Simon Dayan ![Photographed by David-Simon Dayan](https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bd53d9c940c1f978d76c_Flaunt%2BMagazine%2BDavid-Simone%2BDayan.jpeg) Photographed by [David-Simon Dayan](https://instagram.com/sirdavidsimon) **What can we do to help deconstruct the stigma and welcome vulnerability in men?** We can lead through example. We can teach our youth to recognize how  the social dominance of the male has governed the gender hierarchy that continues to underpin society. There was this documentary I saw a few years ago called “The Mask You Live In,” that touched on the relationship between mental health and masculinity and how the social issues we’re facing today are a direct result of our culture. We live in a patriarchal society, one that uses gender as one of the primary systems of human classification, one which breeds misogyny because we ask one another to uphold certain unrealistic expectations and any deviation from that norm is frowned upon. We need to show our young boys—really all children—the importance of vulnerability as not the antithesis of, but a complement to strength, a variation on strength. People can be cruel, but we can constantly push to understand one another. After years of struggling with what I now recognize was a deep depression and inability to process my experiences, I’ve finally begun to see a therapist, and knowing there’s a kind man out there, willing to take my call, willing to see me in person when I fear what my own thoughts might lead me to, that’s important. Feeling understood, knowing someone does care and that life can be so beautiful if you allow it. Although it is highly influenced, life isn’t defined or decided by anyone else but you. I’ve lost too many loved ones to suicide and drug abuse, and I believed for much time the former would be the end of my story, but you’d never have known that without my mentioning it. You never know what someone you encounter is experiencing, but you can always ask, or simply lend them a listening ear or try to make them laugh. **What is the story behind pairing your pictures on instagram with a song?** Haha! I don’t think I’ve ever really spoken about that. Well, music fills my existence. I’m constantly on the search for new musicians and unique sounds. Every single moment can be paired with a song. And in some way, my photography can too. They’re always carefully chosen, sometimes because of the use of a word in the lyrics, others because of the general feel of the photo. I’d love to supervise soundtracks on films. Music composes the energy of a space, as does light. They dance and intertwine and sometimes it’s difficult to tell them apart. Don’t certain foods taste like sights to you? Photos look like songs to me.  **What song would you use to caption this period of your life?** Have you listened to “La Vita Nuova” by Christine and the Queens yet? I’ve felt connected to their music for a while now. It’s groovy, sexy and playful. It breaks my heart and makes me want to dance. I think they are a genius and absolutely the type of pop star the world needs. I’d also say the same about Perfume Genius. I cannot wait for the release of his next album. “Describe” is such a gritty take on loss. His sounds are always spatial. You can hear it bouncing off the walls of your mind, so music sounds like photos, too.