Natasha GudermaneRomy from Mademoiselles series (201X)

Mademoiselles feels like a complicated riff on Martin Gabriel Pavel’s Daily Portrait Berlin–probably better known as the naked Berliners 365 project.

Pavel took a picture of Elle and then gave the camera to Elle along with the challenge that she had to take a picture of a naked stranger the following day. Elle takes a picture of M and gives M the camera. And so forth.

As far as quality, the results are all over the place. I still love it because unlike the vast majority of stuff out there, there’s an fascination with context. You get to see not only Berliners but also a glimpse of them in their personal/private spaces. Since I feel an almost preternatural connection to Berlin and am myself so preoccupied with presenting bodies in context, I enjoy the project.

There’s a lot overlap between Daily Portrait Berlin and Gudermane’s Mademoiselles.

If you compare the two in terms of technical accomplishment, it’s not a contest: Gudermane wins hand’s down.

What’s odd is that while both projects feature inconsistencies, the inconsistencies of the Berliner project burnish the conceptual underpinnings. (Translation: of course, it’s gonna look different there’s a different person behind the camera each day.)

Whereas with Gudermane, there’s one person behind the camera but other than the content, I can’t say I’d necessarily be able to pick her images out of a line up.

One the one hand that’s suggests a more organic relationship between image maker and subject. Except there are a number of other disjunctions within the work.

First there’s quality. Some images are glossily picture perfect, others seem a little slap dash–like someone who knew their way around a camera took some OOTD pictures for a close friend.

Then there’s the ruptures between the subject acknowledging the camera and the subject depicted as if they are unaware they are being observed. And again, I think both approaches could probably fit within the parameters of this project.

They don’t though for two reasons: the edit is nowhere near tight enough and the discrepancy in approach and conceptualization through their inconsistency point to the fact that I can’t point to any sort of internal logic with regard to composition–for lack of a better way of putting it, it’s like Gudermane is less interested in how the frame is read by the viewer than that what the frame shows is deemed interesting by the viewer.

Take the above image. It’s designed to appear like a self-portrait snapped in a mirror where you can’t see the edges of the mirror. However, it’s really the the picture plane itself that is suggestive of a mirror due to how it’s arranged. (And here’s what I mean about the slight up-tilt in the frame. Yes, it’s clearly supposed to make you think of a large mirror sitting on a floor and leaned up against a wall. But the effect would’ve worked just as well without the tilt. There are little things in almost all of her frames that are similarly WTF? decisions.)

Yet, if you dive down to the most basic level of this, I do see her implicit removing of the image maker from the equation as a pretty precocious first step to addressing the objections I’ve listed here. If this wasn’t a one off–and unfortunately the rest of the images from Romy’s session appear to be just that–it would suggest that not only does Gudermane have a great deal of talent but she also has a keen understanding of her shortcomings as an image maker.

We’ll see. Her work has enough good to it that I’ll be checking in from time to time to see where she’s headed.

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