Arvids Strazds – [←] Untitled from Desires of My Wife series; [→] Untitled from Desires of My Wife series (2017)
Strazds is a Latvian photographer who pictures his wife with various paramours.
The work suffers from a cloying veneer of legitimacy–and by ‘veneer of legitimacy’, I mean to indicate creators who attempt to head off any repudiation of their content by pointing to the demand for technical expertise required by their preferred production medium as proof of intrinsic artistic merit, i.e. these appear to be tintypes (although I am not convinced they are/it appears they may depend upon some post-production digital intervention).
The clearest corollary is likely Jock Sturges, who uses his preference for 8×10 analog view cameras in the creation of his work as a means of dodging valid questions/concerns over the sexual/voyeuristic propriety of his work. (That this has flaccid proposition has succeeded in short-circuiting debate for decades represents an incontrovertible failing on the part of the critical establishment.)
Still, I think there’s more to it than that. The focus on square compositions–a format typically most readily applicable to portraiture, and therefore front loaded with a certain innate intimacy’ is definitely enhanced by use of tactful vignetting and reliance upon the same principle those of us with a ton of freckles have known for years–that any three non-linearly plotted dots will, when connected, form a triangle.
Strazds work works due to these reiterative triads. For example: in [←] the two erections and the the way the rim lighting accentuates her left eye’s acknowledgement of the lens (and implicitly both the photographer and the audience). This scalene imposition renders the composition easily parsed and effectively guides the eye over the scene.
[→] is a bit more complicated. Her downward gaze reinforces that the vertex of the triangle is the site of erotic penetration. This leads to questions over whether the other vertices are her breasts, their faces, or the solarized area under her left breast and the hallow between her armpit and his chest. (This is not necessarily something I would’ve picked up on had I not simultaneously been struggling with how to talk about this absurdist gif while also tentatively engaging with Lucinda Bunnen’s work.)
Another point of convergence with Strazds work is Chloe des Lysses’ erotic self-portraiture. I’ve always had reservations about Lysses’ work–I wouldn’t label it narcissistic but there is an element of narcissism to it. Strazds, on the other hand, seems more collaborative. And although it’s entirely possible that there is a narcissistic cuckold adjacent motivation for the work–he does allow his wife a meditative joy of expression in many of his frames that I find entirely appealing.
Lastly, although I generally frown on watermarking your visual art, I absolutely understand the impetus for doing so. My rule is that if you’re going to do it, keep in mind that one is a visual artist and therefore the water mark should be more than just typeset. (Scott Worldwide is the exception that proves the rule–but again, his logo involves solid graphic design.) Strazds has a superb watermark–riffing off of Albrecht Dürer’s signature and mixing in a bit of the sensibilities from the Japanese tradition of Zen paintings.