Jack WelpottSherry (1980)

I featured a couple of interesting photos from Welpott a little more than a year ago.

The way his focal plane tilts ever so slightly forward–not sure if this is to emphasize the floor or was an effort to subconscious facilitate a behavior in the viewer or to convey a sense of psychological superiority to what he was depicting but I can’t say I’m fond of this unconscious tick.

Still: there’s no arguing that he was a master at presenting space as if it pre-ordered by some cosmic pattern instead of carefully constructed by the artist.

There’s something about scale with this image. Sherry looks improbably large in that bench. At first glance it seems like she might be floating because the bench is so deeply set into the shadows.

Also, this sort of lighting situation is realy difficult to handle. Stop down too much and you lose any of the interior details, open up and you get wicked over exposure. (Metering your highlight and then your shadow and splitting the difference usually works OK for exterior stuff. And admittedly B&W gives you even greater over to under range. This was carefully finessed. I’m not sure whether there was some sort of additional light source–whether some sort of flash unit filtering in just a touch of spill, or if there’s some sort of reflector out side the house bouncing light in, if things were shot with heavy bracketing–it’s  a real pain in the arse to do but you’ll never regret having done it when you’re editing; or, if it’s split graded when it was printed. (Although I was pretty great at split grading and this looks a little too seamless.)

It also reminds me of something I was asked for when I tried to apply to a filmmaking program after finishing my undergrad stint. They wanted my reel to contain at least one instance where I had an interior shot with a window and you could see through the window in such a way that you could make out both what was outside and what was inside. (It’s actually a fun little challenge, if you’re ever bored.)

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

Although this doesn’t quite work there’s some great elements.

First off, I have a strong affinity for work which is ostensibly heteronormative but sublimates expectations. For example: most porn seems to operate from the principle that you shouldn’t see dick unless there’s a naked lady in the frame at the same time or a woman who although partial clothed is in some way interacting with the penis.

The positioning of the hands and the way they inform the rest of his pose reminds me of a Renaissance contrapposto sculpture. Also: the texture of the upholstery makes me think of those benches in national galleries.

The pattern of the tile and it’s alignment with the upholstery of the table is one of the reasons the composition more or less works–the eye scans left to right and the snaking chain attached to the shackle around his scrotum pulls the eye back across the image emphasizing the off kilter angle.

Overall all, as an image: it’s mostly strong enough to transcend the sloppy way his right ankle is chopped off at the ankle.

Vivian MaierUntitled (1971)

Finding Vivian Maier isn’t just enthralling, it’s an exceptionally well-orchestrated documentary that is crucial viewing for anyone who is passionate about photography. (If you haven’t seen it already, please do.)

After watching it I was left with a number of questions: was Maier perhaps on the autism spectrum? To what extent is her work improved by Maloof’s posthumous curation? How did this woman who was–by all accounts absolutely awful at dealing with other people–produces such luminous and humane images?

But this image makes me drop those questions in favor of an imaginative flight of fancy:

A year before this image of was made, William Eggleston captured an image of a very similar looking young woman. Recently, Bryan Schumaat produced an image clearly intended to mirror Eggleston’s but that draws Maier’s image into more intimate dialogue with the other two.

It’s clearly not the same person–just a reflection of similar trends in fashion, similar predilections in image makers. (Although the same woman never aging and being photographed throughout the ages would make a wonderful premise for a sci-fi/fantasy story, no?)

I recently received a comment from an anon claiming that I was entirely too ‘self-satisfied’ considering the effect of prevailing intellectual trends in forming my notions. Generally, I do my damnedest not to feed trolls. And in spite of the fact that the fair response would’ve been have you bothered to read anything I’ve written? I’m pretty upfront about the deleterious effect of academnification on my brain. I call myself on it regularly.

I think less the question and more the statement these images make–whether they meant to or not–about the objective limits of originality in creative expression. Meaning and understanding function as a result of convention, after all.


Do it Now! Photo by Richard Fegley ● Playboy Magazine (September 1974)

I have qualms about posting anything originating from Playboy but I had to make an exception here because:

  1. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of my favorite places in NYC. I walk it several times a week.
  2. The politics of public nudity fascinate me and feature prominently in my personal work.
  3. I harbor this stupid dream of making nude portraits of my friends and I in very public around the city.
  4. From the red jacket, loud sweater, rainbow socks and roller skates, the model bears a resemblance to a former girlfriend.  (She would flip her shit over this.)