Laura Brink – missrudy (201X)

I’m not 100% on the attribution for this. While there is definitely enough of a stylistic similarity to guess that it might be Brink’s work–it’s substantively different as far as tone and form.

Either way: I like it a lot.

There’s an increasing amount of work out there preoccupied with representing menstruation. As you’ll certainly recall Rupi Kaur’s Period went several rounds with the ‘Gram censors. (See also: Ashley Armitage’s The Girls Room series, several of Lynn Kasztanovics photos from more than a decade ago & this blog’s #menstruation tag.)

Representation matters. However, I think more often than not by the time we actually start talking about the importance of representation–it’s unfortunately almost always in defense of those who are arguing that the fact that there’s already some representation means that more representation will result in the erasure of the status quo’s perspective.

That’s why I think we should shift the representation matters conversation from quantity of representation to quality of representation. (Because with representation comes less nuanced and non-contemplative knee-jerk demographic place holders instead of fully realized, dimensional representations.)

What I like about this is that although you can read it as being about menstruation–there is something fantastic about it. The boots suggest something at least somewhat badass if not warrior like.

There’s a sense of damage, too. Even if this isn’t a depiction of menstruation, there’s no way this blood isn’t emerging from an intimate wound. But with the two fish trying to swim against the stream–salmon, at least, swim upstream to procreate. The whole thing has a strong sense of the cyclic.

I’m not comfortable going as far as to say that this is necessarily a personal mythologization of menstruation. (Much to my chagrin, I do not menstruate–although I am aware that cramps can be demonstrably equivalent to the pain associated with a heart attack and that I’m sure bleeding from genitals for 8 days a month would probably make me far bitchier than I already am.) But I know from friends who do menstruate that there’s a tendency to think of your cycle as something familiar–Aunt Flow coming to visit, Shark Week, etc.

Even if I can’t necessarily interpret the elements of person myth underlying this, there’s a consistency in the presentation that suggests a fully realized way of relating to the experience.

It’s likely a problematic association but one of my first internet friends back in the early 90s claimed to be able to sense past lives of her friends. She always maintained that I had been a Russian peasant girl in a previous life. It was an idea I never questioned–although I was less than willing to engage with it then than I am now.

I think the difference is that there have been a handful of moments in my life where it feels as if another presence possesses my body and while in possession of it, I experience something that is comparable to the way that giving sexual pleasure at the same time as receiving sexual pleasure can cause this exponential feedback loop where you try to give back the same pleasure you are receiving and your partner(s) lean in also and the intensity builds crescendos upon crescendos or orgasmic pleasure. These moments it feels like I am sharing that experience with a ghost. I think of the ghost as a Russian peasant girl.

Mikael Jansson – Luca Gadjus (2002)

It’s not exactly the whimsy of this that appeals to me–although I’m not without a certain fondness for it.

It’s more that I like it when people flout social propriety.

It’s like at a certain point little girls are told to stop doing cartwheels in skirts and boys are forbidden from showing any emotion beyond anger or some shade of disaffection.

I like boys who prefer dresses and docs, who cry in public and who if they feel like have no qualms rocking a beard and hair like this.

I like it when girls feel like doing a handstand in mixed company and can’t be arsed to tuck their top into their shorts, who confidently raise their hands high in class in front of the jocks who are almost certainly going to make some stupid remark about unshaven armpits; girls who are game to climb trees in dresses or would never think of saying I don’t have a swimsuit with me in response to an opportunity to go swimming.

It’s not so much the bravery of being your own person in the face of mostly BS expectations; it’s more the strong sense of personal truth the people who do these things seem to categorically possess.

So while this is likely just another fashion add, attempting to sell something based upon something that’s seemingly flirtatious, I read it in a completely different way–for whatever little that’s worth.

Chip WillisNathalia Rhodes (2015)

As someone fluent in only one language (English); and who therefore is in the habit of reading left to right, this image caters to my expectations.

I wish I had the time to super impose angled rule of thirds indicator markings similar to what I did with this photograph by Igor Mukin. It would be immediately clear that what I’m guessing is an out-of-focus towel rack in the lower left foreground, the inside edge of the tub and the mildewy grout-line between the tub and the wall separate the image into thirds diagonally.

As a westerner who’s first language is English, I read left-to-right. thus I scan this image starting from the top left. The repetition of the diagonal draws my eye down and right, along the outside edge of the tub.

What’s interesting here is that unlike the Mukhin image, the diagonal of the top of the diagonals of the top and bottom of the mirror and the front and back of the toilet lid don’t align with thirds–but they do represent the most dense range of contrast with in the image.

In the absence of the second set of guiding third indicators, The angle of Rhodes legs functions as the compositional element that redirects the eye from right to left. (Notice: that the angle of her legs forms the base of an acute triangle of which the reflection of her face is the vertex.)

I’m not ready to attribute to this a status of some next level visual shit. It is inspired though. The pose and boots all scream tired porn tropes. However, the effort to include the face–anytime you shoot with mirrors you’re introducing seven different flavors of hell to the process–subverts the seeming unmitigated sexualization of the body as object. (In other words, even though Rhodes is effectively chopped in two by the frame edge, her holistic totality is at least illustrated.

The more I look at this the less I see it as gratuitously graphic. There are details that command attention: the black bobby pins against the white porcelain toilet lid, the strategic placement of the the rear hem of her dress and her gaze focused on the photographer instead of the camera are all inspired touches.

This is the first of Willis’ images I’ve seen where I’m convinced that my suspicion he uses porn tropes in a critical instead of incidental fashion is on the right track. And the fact the above is maybe a little heavy handed in its efforts to conflate fashion editorial work with pornography; however, the criticism is too stunningly on-point/fiendishly executed for me to even thing of docking points.