Chip WillisNathalia Rhodes (2015)

As someone fluent in only one language (English); and who therefore is in the habit of reading left to right, this image caters to my expectations.

I wish I had the time to super impose angled rule of thirds indicator markings similar to what I did with this photograph by Igor Mukin. It would be immediately clear that what I’m guessing is an out-of-focus towel rack in the lower left foreground, the inside edge of the tub and the mildewy grout-line between the tub and the wall separate the image into thirds diagonally.

As a westerner who’s first language is English, I read left-to-right. thus I scan this image starting from the top left. The repetition of the diagonal draws my eye down and right, along the outside edge of the tub.

What’s interesting here is that unlike the Mukhin image, the diagonal of the top of the diagonals of the top and bottom of the mirror and the front and back of the toilet lid don’t align with thirds–but they do represent the most dense range of contrast with in the image.

In the absence of the second set of guiding third indicators, The angle of Rhodes legs functions as the compositional element that redirects the eye from right to left. (Notice: that the angle of her legs forms the base of an acute triangle of which the reflection of her face is the vertex.)

I’m not ready to attribute to this a status of some next level visual shit. It is inspired though. The pose and boots all scream tired porn tropes. However, the effort to include the face–anytime you shoot with mirrors you’re introducing seven different flavors of hell to the process–subverts the seeming unmitigated sexualization of the body as object. (In other words, even though Rhodes is effectively chopped in two by the frame edge, her holistic totality is at least illustrated.

The more I look at this the less I see it as gratuitously graphic. There are details that command attention: the black bobby pins against the white porcelain toilet lid, the strategic placement of the the rear hem of her dress and her gaze focused on the photographer instead of the camera are all inspired touches.

This is the first of Willis’ images I’ve seen where I’m convinced that my suspicion he uses porn tropes in a critical instead of incidental fashion is on the right track. And the fact the above is maybe a little heavy handed in its efforts to conflate fashion editorial work with pornography; however, the criticism is too stunningly on-point/fiendishly executed for me to even thing of docking points.

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