The Reservoir

Conversations on Photography



Bodies like these: The Counter-Archive of Elle Pérez

by Mo Costello
for Marcelo

This is not a work of history. It is a report full of holes... and it aspires to the borrowed-tuxedo lining of fiction. In the end, it is a welter of associations.

C.D. Wright, One with Others the end, no end, rather, time will put an end to it.

Hélène Cixou, Stigmata

This. This is not a work of history. For history is written by others. For others. By and for those whose needs have been sufficiently  addressed. Realities, previously legitimated. By and for those whose concerns, mainly, the maintenance of this life for their children, their children’s children, are not ours. No. History, this is not.

Our responsibilities lie elsewhere. What place  is there in history for bodies, queer bodies? Marginalized, racialized, colonized bodies. Bodies like these. Bodies with hair. Bodies with breasts and cunt and hands like dicks. With hands that hold, hands that reach. Hands that grapple. And hands that seek,

blindly into the night.

Hands that seek, hands that seek, hands that seek, but

do not find, and as a result of not finding and not understanding, (draw) help the secret beneath their steps to shoot forth.
History? History this is not.

Times fused and towns overlapped. A collective is formed. A utopian becoming.

Bronx Underground, the First Lutheran Church, Bronx, New York
Partners, New Haven, Connecticut
Festival de las máscaras, Hatillo, Puerto Rico

After college?

Euforia Latina, Club Hippo, Baltimore, Maryland

A report full of holes.

Holes through which bodies (light), these bodies (light) might enter.
It is the brilliance of Pérez to know so. Back stage, and down stairs. Cut-out hearts and stenciled stars. On floor mats and under the artificial skies of on-camera-flash, bodies gather.
On streets, wide. And alleyways. In the bar


and in the ring. The emboldened few act out familiar scenes of abjection. Submission. And coercive subjugation. Our task, our only.


More bodies. Actual bodies. Deviant bodies. Bodies with hair and sides like whipped-cream. Hurtling forward. Unstoppable.

Down a long hallway, Pérez reveals two, now a small group, here, three more. Outside the sight lines of gay white, male urban culture. Outside monogamy. Outside domesticity.

Outside, outside, outside.

(whispered incantations of desire)

The emboldened few. A collective is formed.



Form, ing. Not yet.

Knee against back. Foot against neck. Hand over head, onto thigh, reaching for hip.
Shoulder. Floor.

Not yet, no. A gradual unfolding. A relentless becoming.

Our task. Our only. Bodies, gathering. Relentlessly. Into paradise.

Ecstasy: technique.

And at the end?

no end.

Rather time will put an end to it.

photographs by Elle Perez, essay by Mo Costello