9mouthUntitled from Instax Love series (201X)

The Sino photographer identifiable by the moniker 9mouth is hugely problematic. (I won’t repeat myself: you can read my previous thoughts on his process here.)

Still he does manage to produce some truly breathtaking photos–seemingly in spite of his galling misogynist bombast.

Here the interplay between the flash and the semi-reflective wallpaper renders an incrementally overexposed skin tone–not only flattering but also steeped in an almost tonal patina of late night in a seedy love motel vibe.

The model’s expression is an inscrutable defensive wall–is she bored? annoyed/impatient? judgmental (of the photographer? Or the viewer? Little of column A, little of column B?)

I get the sense that this is very much front loaded with ambiguity. There is a very compelling feeling of intimacy; yet, also a sense that the intimacy is forced–not exactly contrived or coerced but conditional somehow.

That conditional consideration and that it is effectively what makes this image so successful is more than a little discomfiting. (At least to me.) So while I am willing to acknowledge that this is an astute image–I think it functions in a fashion that operates in a sort of beyond good and evil approach to broader issues of consent and visual representation. Another way to say it might be to say that if mainstream porn shifted its model to produce art, it would likely come off much like this.

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