Karen KuehnUntitled from MetropoLOVE (2010)

Confession: I find this ineffably effing sexy.

It’s really all the little things in concert that get me worked up into a lather. The texture–his pants (the bunching of the rolled down waist band against the velveteen texture of the rest of the garment), the thickness of the cotton of the waistband and leg holes of her panties (and the visible stitching!!!) vs. the busy pattern on the thinner, inner cotton. His skin against her skin (the sheen and grain of it so tactile.

I love that the picture in and of itself communicates–without a single word–some of the truth underlying the image. The illumination as well as the background (what you can see of it) is very clearly arid and dry. And it turns out that Kuehn is a burner and travels to Burning Man every year with her camera gear.

But it’s really the intimacy of it. His thumb is clearly inside her underwear but the position makes it clear that it’s in the crack of her ass. Further, his index and ring finger are positioned in such a way that he’s almost certainly touching her anus through the material.

Given a wider frame, you would’ve lost the emphasis on the graphicness of the touch while–presuming nothing in the background–contributing a sense of two lovers alone in an empty world.

But the close up here in combination with the gesture, brings in questions of public vs private. With this frame there’s no way to know if anyone else can see this but given that the photographer can, we presume others can but since we don’t see others in the frame, they are both engaging in amorous foreplay with a potential for the behavior to be occurring simultaneously private and in public. (It’s a clever way of invoking the thrill seeking mind set that drives most people to attempt to have sex in public in the first place: the balancing of the risk of being caught with not actually being caught.

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