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Stein’s images suffer from critical wounds, shot through and through as they are with magic bullets of commercial viability.
In that manner his work is of a kind with Edward Weston—a photographer who epitomized the craft of photography but whose work leaves me cold.
Stein almost certainly holds Weston as a formative influence. And while I do not think he’s achieved a similar level of mastery yet—despite my ambivalence toward his content, Weston’s black and white prints are un-fucking-paralleled—when he pushes the limits of his over-produced, studio lighting comfort zone, Stein makes riveting images.
What grabs me here is the shadowplay and its emphasis of the tactile—sand, granular and smooth, against fluid human skin. (The ability of images to invoke something akin to sight-for-touch synesthesia is a long-running personal preoccupation.)
Also, it makes me think it’s high time I re-watched Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Woman in the Dunes.