The Advocate, December 7, 1999

Better halves

By Kevin Maynard

Gay couples—some famous—are clamoring to have L.A. artist Ed. de la Torre put his photographic twist on their loving union

Los Angeles-born and-based photographer Ed. de la Torre has come up with a head-spinning twist on presenting coupledom: He takes separate close-ups of partners and then slices each image in half and joins them to form one face. His unique work has attracted gay notables as varied as model Jenny Shimizu, performance artist John Fleck, famed chef Michael Roberts, and L.A. Eyeworks’ chic co-owner Gai Gherardi, all of whom have lined up with their significant others to pose for the 39-year-old artist. “There’s something eerie about them,” says Fleck, who says he and his beau, Ryan Hill, “couldn’t tell who was who” once their countenances were connected. “Ryan needs to get a little bit more tan, but our faces are the same. Maybe when you’ve been a couple for a long time, you start to look alike.”

Such revelations have accompanied de la Torre’s project from its accidental start. Unhappy with photos he and his boyfriend, Tom Lockyer, a customer service manager at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, had taken while visiting New York City last year, de la Torre was ready to toss them out. “I thought we both looked really horrible,” he says with a laugh. But instead of trashing the shots, he playfully combined them and framed the result. “I liked the point it made in terms of the beauty of the union,” he says. “It really talked about relationships, that bonding, that soul mates thing.”

Duos caught by de la Torre’s camera include John Fleck and Ryan Hill; Louise Batsch and Jenny Shimizu; Daniel Adams and Michael Roberts; and Gai Gherardi and Rhonda Saboff.

So far his collection showcases more than 50 duos, the bulk of whom are not famous. (“Most of them have been friends,” he says.) And although de la Torre’s photos celebrate queer love, they’re not the eroticized, airbrushed physique shots of Herb Ritts. “The body beautiful has been celebrated enough,” he says with a sigh. “I’m happy that what I’m doing isn’t erotic, it isn’t intimidating, it doesn’t shut people out in that way. It’s just the reality of two people who chose each other.” A practicing Buddhist for the last 15 years, de la Torre’s beliefs have influenced his art. The pictures are all taken without special lighting and developed without computer manipulation to preserve their honesty and simplicity. “I’m trying to achieve enlightenment, and enlightenment means seeing your life more clearly,” he says. “Without delusions or filters.”

The artist, who accepts commissions, plans to publish a book of his series to be titled Eyes in the Same Direction: Portraits of Same-Sex Couples. Fleck, for one, wishes him well. “Whenever I look at gay rags, it’s never about guys in relationships,” he says. “It’s always about beautiful single guys attracting other single guys. But with Ed.’s pieces, I think, Vive la relationship!” And the soft-spoken de la Torre hopes his work will open some narrower minds as well. “With the political climate being what it is and the lack of respect for gay marriages, it’s time to say, ‘How can you stand between these two people who have chosen each other?’ ” he says. “I mean, who can stand in the way of love?”

Maynard writes for Details and the online magazine Mr. Showbiz