Take these photographs—similar in form and content, starkly different in execution.
Top: a stunningly young woman stands on a lanai, skin suffused by white hot tropical light. A medallion—perhaps an inch and a half in diameter—dangles just below her supersternal notch from a thin black cord encircling her neck; a visual trick that succeeds in making her tiny breasts appear flat. Her carefully manicured hands hook a thumb each in the elastic waist of her bikini, offering a glimpse of her depilated pubic area and labia majora. With her head tilted forward and right slightly—she appears as if interrupted in looking down at her body, judging how much of herself to reveal—eyeing finding the aperture and the spectator lurking behind it.
Bottom: Alba, (photographed by the devastatingly talented Lina Scheynius), a stunning young woman stands naked before an amaranth backdrop. Warm amber light—presumably from a window beyond the left frame edge—angles across her chest mirroring the line of her collar bone. Another illumination echoes the angle of the window—correcting it downward slightly— casting white across her right elbow, stomach, hips, unshaven pubis, finally finding her left forearm/hand as a result of the vague contrapposto bearing of her pose. Shadowed, her head gaze downward; focused on something only she can see. A single stray strand of hair escapes the bun atop her head, dangles by her cheek.
I know I am always going on about the politics of frame lines. To what extent I mean that as pertaining to graphically sexual images or all images, I am not sure I can articulate yet.
There is a general “rule” on this matter when it comes to image making: if you have to amputate a limb with the frame edge cut midway between joints instead of closer to the joints; this creating a more life-like rendering. (Don’t ever decapitate! Seriously if you are concerned for your anonymity just take a normal picture and black out your face in Photoshop, already!)
Which of the above follows this rule? What is the effect?
Also, note how the vertical frame edges in the top image do not line up with the fence or the edge of the patio.
The young woman in the top photo is sexually appealing in the extreme. After first blush, she is perfect. At the same time, she is not someone I am convinced could ever be known in any sense. Her eye contact purports a false intimacy, implies that if our paths ever crossed I would be best served to view her as nothing more than her exquisite body instead of seeing her as someone with a life that goes well sometimes, others not so much; who has needs both met and unmet. I am not saying she is objectified so much as reduced to an archetypal idea.
On the other hand: with every shred of context removed except her body, I find myself wondering who this Alba is, what her inner life is like at the same time I am aware that she wouldn’t owe me an answer if I ever met but that if I were lucky she might not mind being asked.
In the end, the last image is for me sexier; like most of Scheynius’ photos its restraint, patience and passion sears itself like a brand onto your visual memory.