The enhanced colour and staged compositions of De Sana’s photographs highlight his photography as art, photographs that are made rather than taken. In the darkroom he enhanced colours and used solarisation to create his own particular photographic language. He played with the idea of the body as sculpture and the sometimes extreme sexual imagery was informed by the punk scene of downtown New York. The figures in the photographs were his friends. He also used his own body in some of the images, all of which were staged in his home and studio.
De Sana’s colour photographs exemplify the shift of photography into the art gallery that occurred during this period. De Sana pushes the limits of his medium, as well as his subject matter. Reminiscent of bondage and S&M imagery, De Sana utilises the body as prop to explore our notions of sexuality and uncover perversions of normal.
His photographs begin within a suburban setting, but one slowly infiltrated with the sexuality and absurdity that could only be found in a decaying lower Manhattan. De Sana was influenced from a young age by the writings of William Burroughs (with whom he collaborated on the earlier Submission series) an influence that dispatched the beatific, underground, punk sensibilities and the eccentric, perverse tone that came to define his photographs – the graphic exposure and leaking discovery of licentiousness, carried out within a suburban home. As Burroughs put it, “Look at these pictures in Submission…My dear, its all so Christian and medieval and gloomy.”
De Sana arrived in New York from the South in the 1970s, when he was still in his early 20s. He involved himself in the underground art and music of 70s New York through taking portraits of the people he was meeting, photographing the likes of John Giorno, Jack Smith, Laurie Anderson, Debbie Harry, Billy Idol and the Talking Heads. His portraits became dominant throughout underground journals and newspapers, setting a style that came to define an era of punk.