Traci Matlock & Ashley MacLean – Title Unknown (2006)

This was the first image from Matlock and MacLean’s collaboration that I encountered.

I remember being profoundly impressed with the simplicity of it. The edge of the bed perfectly aligned with the top-left corner and the exact middle of the frame to the right. The woman’s body stretched out intersecting the bottom of the bed plane at a perfect 90 degrees.

It was simple but so intricate in its mannered specificity.

And the light–fuck me, the goddamn perfectly sublime light: the way the right hand is almost blown out and the rest of the skin is so exquisitely perfect.

It was as if someone had taken Caravaggio’s stylized lighting and mashed it up with Helmut Newton’s can’t-decide-whether-it’s-fashion-or-trash/heavily-expressionist-inflected work (some of the very little work of merit the shit heel ever made).

I immediately went through everything they had posted on Flickr, then clicked over to their absolutely gorgeous website (which like most gorgeous websites, turned out to be nearly impossible to navigate). Hell, I even bought a year’s subscription to Nerve to follow their column.

Almost a decade later, I still find the effect of this photo to be hypnotic. And I think if there’s one thing their work has taught me it’s that good creative work doeen’t answer all your questions–instead it ensures that the questions you ask of the work are productive.

And honestly the questions their work asked of me–continues to ask of me–is the reason (for better or worse) I’m still out there fumbling around with a camera myself.

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