Mona Kuhn – [↖] Untitled from Evidence series (200X); [↗] George by the Door from Evidence series (2002); [←] Libellule from Evidence series (2006); [+] Untitled from Native series (200X); [→] Untitled from Venezia series (20XX); [↓] Jacintha from Evidence series (2006)
I cannot in good conscience endorse Kuhn’s work wholesale. I fucking love the photos above–this one is great, too; but, hearing her defend her work is rather off putting.
She’s big into nudes due to their ‘timelessness’ and the human body as a ‘residence’. She’s quick to point out that she’s also interested in totality and, as such, sexuality being an element of physical embodiment–which is problematic for it’s failure to include the experiences of folks with an asexual reality–it is clearly a facet of her work.
She’s walking the same high wire as another photographer with whom her work shares overlap (a focus on nudes, specifically within French naturalist communities), namely: Jock Sturges.
I find her work much less disingenuous and of a higher quality but it still vexes me that she dodges accusations of sexual overtones in her imagery because while I totally think Sturges is a perv who goes to great lengths to insist he’s not a perv–and to be clear here, I’m reclaiming ‘perv’ in a non-value judgement-y, re-appropriative, sex-positive way–Kuhn images function due to a sexual tension. (I’m referring specifically to Jacintha [above] but I think there’s a voyeuristic heavy-handedness motivating the concealing/revealing of nudity, i.e. her depth of field–which clever–is also a wee bit salacious in the way it invites squinting leers.)
What always ends up nudging me away from these concerns is how powerfully the photos communicate a palpable sense of intimacy. I’ve always maintained that narrativity and how we determine what is and is not narrative holds up a mirror to questions of the function of eroticism. Increasingly, I am beginning to think that it’s a trinity: narrative, intimacy, eroticism.