The photography of Devon Endsley
The longing for 'the college days' begins before they have even gone, and for some they never really end. But there are golden moments: those mornings when you wake up at a friend's house on the couch, on the floor, maybe on the stairs, and even though your head is pounding and you feel like you might die if you have to walk all.. the way.. to the bathroom, you see another friend asleep on the chair, three of them crammed onto that little single bed, and either someone forgot to close the back door or there's someone sleeping on the porch too. Of course you've got to be to class in the afternoon, but that's beside the point. In those moments, you love your friends more than anything, you love this couch-bed-chair you can feel the springs through, and you love pretty much everything about everything--even your headache, because it meant having a great time.
When I found Devon Endsley's photographs, I stumbled into instant sense of familiarity. Her subjects tend to be 'The Boys' [which is also the title of the above series completed in 2012] who she has gotten to know in her years as a student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, from which she graduated this spring with a BFA. Milwaukee is a city I know well as it is close to home, so perhaps there's an implied familiarity in it being a place in which some of my own memories are wedged. Her images reminded me of late, creative nights spent with boys I have known, in someone's living room, sketchbooks out, poetry books, a typewriter or two, and lots and lots of booze.
Her themes traverse both the personal and social aspects of masculinity, transition from childhood to adulthood, and daily life. Her images are universal explorations of friendship, a sense of community, and a truly splendid phase of youth. These things come across clearly in the energetic compositions that are, in their square format, a great step up from an Instagram photo, but all the more intriguing for that connection since they are, at their core, very personal images of social occasions. It's easy to come across as if I'm belittling photography by comparing it to a social media app, but in this particular series, the connection should be interpreted as the artist's tapping into the shareability of moments that those of my generation have grown up with--and grown into--through social media. I think the choice to use black and white removes them swiftly from the realm of the hastily shared-and-tagged image and places them in a timeless territory like a much more personal Joseph Szabo series.
Interestingly, Devon herself is absent from these images, hinted at only when her subjects look directly at the camera in a way that suggests they know her--not quite posing but acknowledging, giving the impression she's 'one of the boys' and she's comfortable and happy in that sphere. Her interest in exploring inherently social relationships, paired with her obvious love for the boys in her photographs is what drew me to them at first and keeps me scrolling back through the series.
Check out more of Devon Endsley's photographs on her website, devonendsley.com.