[↑] Hardcored – Title unknown (201X); [↓] All Fine Girls – Title unknown feat. Amia Miley (201X)

This was originally supposed to be a juxtaposition as commentary post.

That, however, shifted when I discovered that the version of the top image posted by @partialboner (who blocked me, for some reason, apparently–which sucks since he runs a damn fine art porn blog) was a crop of the original.

My initial reading of the crop version of the top image was: this is aggro but fucks with notions of public vs private in a way that this is more edgy than uncomfortable–even the extra color saturation enhances the feeling that what we’re seeing has been carefully negotiated.

The uncropped original skeeves me out because of the production company whose water mark it bears. (I’m fine with BDSM–I’m a switch–but BDSM demands a baseline minimum of respect for boundaries and hinges upon complicated questions of verbal and non-verbal consent. (More on this in a bit…)

The lower image is more visual complex-yes, it’s still very porn cliché-y but it’s at least less flat than the top image.

Initially, I wanted to feature this as a juxtaposition as commentary post in order to underscore varying degrees of visual legibility, as well as how the top scene is ostensibly public and the lower one is obviously transpiring in the privacy of a boudoir.

Also, I wanted to create a comparison/contrast between the way panties (an object) are employed in a manner for which they were not designed–a gag and a penetrative object, respectively.

The post would get close to going up and I’d kick it down to the bottom of my queue because I knew it belongs here but the framing of juxtaposition as commentary seemed too toothless a means of engaging with it.

Part my initial reluctance to post this was a direct result of allegations made by Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon… and, well: nothing about the scenes they are speaking out about are acceptable things to not have explicitly negotiated boundaries/consent in advance.

I think the problem I have with these runs much deeper and has everything to do with objectification. You wouldn’t be out of line to respond: methinks the lady doth protest too much–after all she does run a sex blog that frequently showcases graphic and/or explicit depictions of sexuality.

In for a penny, in for a pound, you’d think; except…

Porn deals in fantasy. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that a person who sees a pornographic video and goes out and treats the video like a how-to guide is a full psychopath. I mean how often has the pizza deliver guy shown up holding a pizza with his schlong just hanging out and the scantily dressed woman who answers to door just pulls him in and starts using his member to probe her tonsils. The world doesn’t work like that and you’d expect that most folks would realize that’s not how things work IRL; except…

Increasingly folks do not have access to fact based, reliable, comprehensive and honest sex education. So in some ways the argument that it’s all fantasy and everyone knows that and only a real fuck-up would think the world operates like that doesn’t follow here because part of porn being a fantasy involves the suspension of disbelief.

Beyond the absurdity of some of the scenarios porn features, what is someone who lacks strong sex education to believe and disbelieve? It’s dangerous to assume and not assuming makes things very thorny.

Generally, I think you can argue that in most porn you can presuppose that the participants have consented. However, I think it’s EXTREMELY dangerous to extend that presupposition to more BDSM elements–since those sorts of scenarios demand additional verbal consent as a result of the escalation.

And I realize I’m applying my impression of the one studio to all of their work; except…

I don’t know it’s hard to read either of these images as if the women are anything more than objects for sexual gratification. And honestly that’s where my primary beef sits: I think there is an onus on porn producers whose bread and butter involves scenes of women being manhandled and acknowledge as little more than warm, more or less moist orifices to penetrate really do have a responsibility to convey something with regard to an awareness of and respect for consent.

It’s definitely easier to do that in a video–I’m not sure how you do it in a single, static frame (it would likely be difficult to impossible and would dramatically slow down production).

But I do think we really have to do better about being mindful of consent when producing this kind of content, fwiw.

Denis PielHeat, Santa Fe, NM from New Mexico portfolio (1984)

Here’s an image which triggers so many associations/causes memories to effervesce unbidden, causing me question my own objectivity in appraising its merits.

The frame is bifurcated: upper half vs lower half. Several interesting things are going on with this. First, the upper half does take up slightly more of the frame (like just eyeballing it I’d say that top is 55% and the sand in the lower half is about 45%).

The upper half has all the detail, contrast, dynamic range–all the positive space; whereas the lower half remains (except for the inspiredly disturbed sand between her right elbow and his left hand and the contrast added to the texture of the sand to create a slightly darker swath of sand radiating up and rightward from the lower right corner of the frame).

This has an odd way of perfectly balancing the composition.

Perfect symmetry is one of my interests as an image maker. But once you get right down to it, actually perfect symmetry is virtually impossible. Even the best lenses have some sort of distortion. Thus, my interest is always piqued when photographers find ways of invoking the spirit of the law of symmetry without being slavishly beholden to the letter of those law.

But I’m also fascinated with this image because of the way it simultaneously reveals and conceals–which is a stellar example of the conceptual underpinnings of the image echoing the physical form (composition). It literally both reveals and conceals the lovers–rendering the visible but also wedged in deep shadows. There’s the desert sand juxtaposed with the chrome and tires. Also, this is ostensibly a public space wherein something that is supposedly private is occurring, presumably surreptitiously.

It’s a narrative image–even if it is too vaguely defined for the viewer to penetrate further than the scenario. A man and a woman taking shelter from the sweltering mid-day sun to communicate their physical passion for one another. There are no indicators of who they are–although I’m inclined to say she’s aristocratic (pale skin); whereas, judging by the depth of his tan, he would almost certainly have to worked outside under the sun for years.

What resonates about this most with me is it invokes a memory of my last trip to Iceland. I’d spent the day in Skaftafell and was taking the bus back to Reykjavik. The bus stopped at Seljalandsfoss in the final half an hour of light– Everything washed in an thin orange patina. I remember being impressed with the vistas but feeling that there wasn’t really a incantatory photo waiting to be discovered.

Yet, as we boarded the bus and continued on our way and the light emptied from the landscape and the sky, we passed through the seemingly endless stretches of lava fields between Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Beside the road, there was what looked like a small campfire.

As the bus sped closer, I just had time to make out two young woman huddled with their backs against the front bumper of their rental car they’d pull off onto the shoulder–more screen and mud than shoulder–of the Ring Road. They were both extending their hands, warming them in the glow put off by one of those camp stoves you peel back the top and set alight. Thus I see something here that reminds me of the intimacy of shared shelter in inhospitable environments.

On top of that, I believe that the car is probably a more blunt symbol. you can also read the photo as if the couple has been run over. In my own experience, when physical intimacy is good, it very much makes you feel as if you’ve been run over but have some how survived uninjured and, in fact, more alive than you ever imagined you could be.

Besos RobadosY en la neblina de una tarde de lluvia… te espero en donde pocas personas te esperarían (2014)

I’ve been thinking a lot about music videos lately…

Partly because I’ve been commissioned to direct a music video for a Boston band. Although to say it like that is a bit disingenuous since the band has a zero budget; they’ve hired me because the singer appeared in three of my five student films and she knows me as a filmmaker who bends over backwards and spits wooden nickels to deliver a product that looks it was produced for roughly ten times what was actually spent on it.

But the other part of why I’ve been fixated on this topic is that music videos played a huge part in paving the path that led me to become a film making kid which led to photography which led to this blog…

As far as informing my basic, initial visual vocabulary, there’s one name that towers head and shoulders above the rest: Mark Romanek.  It’s pretty much unarguable that he made the best music video ever–the issue is whether one points to Jay-Z’s 99 Problems or the Johnny Cash cover of // | /‘s Hurt. (I can’t choose between them mainly because I’ve seen the now all but impossible to find original cut of 99 Problems and that’s just as good as Hurt; but I have always been especially partial to the production design of // | /’s The Perfect Drug and the sleazy post-coital, 70′s porn grunge of Fiona Apple’s Criminal.)

I was aware of Jonathan Glazer‘s work. I was clued in to his work on UNKLE’s Rabbit in Your Headlights while it was still an underground thing–I initially detested but now consider it one of the best narrative videos ever made. (Shows how wrong snotty 19 year old’s can be…)

But it’s Glazer’s take on Radiohead’s Karma Police that applies to above image.

Some context on Karma Police: the video is just shy of four and a half minutes long. It features a total of 13 cuts, rendering in average shot length of 20.7 seconds. (Definitely an enormous anomaly in the mid-90s.)

I don’t know if it’s the extra time we get to dwell on the composition of a camera staring out the front window of a car but this video has–for me at least–become so iconic that I can’t see a shot like the one above without comparing it with Glazer’s image. (As I write this I am in NOLA fresh from seeing the devastating Mark Steinmetz: South exhibit at the Ogden–best photography exhibit I’ve ever seen and there’s an image taken through a car window of a lightning strike in the distance that doesn’t remind me of Glazer and I think that’s because you don’t see the window so much as the out of focus edge of the dash which provides context but is decidedly not a frame within a frame like Glazer.)

The odd thing about Glazer is that while his music videos are far more narrative than Romanek’s and while he continues to explode the boundaries of what is visually possible, his film work–though always beautiful–always flirts with complete incomprehensibility. Whereas, Romanek and David Fincher have proven much better at crafting cinematic narratives.

Source: Unknown (Earliest post)

Whoa. Fuck me, why isn’t this a video?

There’s a veritable treasure trove of dynamic visual potential what with the driver nearing a point when he will ejaculate onto his shirt and abdomen with his friend following suit shortly thereafter. Add to that the transgressive bonus points of being in a car and therefore implicitly in public gives the proceedings a deliciously transgressive charge.

Moreover, as a video I would be less likely to note to notice the personally triggering asymmetry between the passenger’s attention to the giving of pleasure and driver’s focus on receiving it.

When I was five, my military family relocated to the South Pacific. Up to that point, I had lived a relatively insular life so it really wasn’t quite the shock one might have expected.

With my father traveling around the Pacific Rim for months at time, my mother became increasingly dependent upon her membership in the Seventh-day Adventist church–especially the pastor’s family.

They had two children. Ellie was four year’s older than me, Will, a year and a half.

Will had blond hair, blue eyes and a deep tan. He could ride a bike without training wheels or a helmet, collected Smurf figurines and was the most worldly kid I had ever met. He was my first ‘friend’.

In hindsight, Will was a little off. He was secretive, volatile and detached. Of course, all that registered to me was his mom would more or less let us watch cartoons whenever we wanted.

On day, Will said we were going to play ‘Butt Work’. I didn’t know what that was but he said he’d show me. He spread a blanket on the floor of the closet and told me to lay down on it. I did.

Now take your pants off. I did.

I was embarrassed. Will slid the closet door closed. I wiggled out of my underwear.

Spread your legs. I did.

There was a click and a flash of light. I realized Will had his Spiderman flashlight. I the fingers of his left hand spread me. I fidgeted.

Hold still.

After what seemed like forever, Will extinguished the flashlight.

My turn. I scooted to the side and before I could get my underwear and shorts back on was laying naked from the waist down with his legs spread. I tried to replicate what he did to me but I didn’t understand what I was doing.

After a second or two he angrily took the flashlight from me. You don’t know how to do it, right. He grabbed his shorts and slipped out of the closet.

The second time Will suggested we play ‘Butt Work’, I had an erection before I could even get my underwear off. I couldn’t lay down on the ground and Will was cross with me.

The third and all subsequent times, when Will wanted to play ‘Butt Work’ he would shove his hand down the front of my pants and push my penis down between my legs until I was laying flat on the ground.

It wasn’t traumatic and it didn’t really bother me. Even when things progressed from spread my ass and eying anus to blowing a stream of exhaled breath onto it. This led to him using small twigs to tickle me. I didn’t necessarily like what was happening but I enjoyed the attention even if I didn’t understand what he got out of it, it was clear that he was deeply invested in the proceedings.

He never again let me try to do what he did to me to him though.

I can’t remember the first time he penetrated me with his finger. I did not like it but the attention he gave me afterwards was so much more focused, seemingly sincere.

One afternoon, Will and I had been playing hide and seek for most of the morning around my house. My father had come out and was mowing the lawn. We’d made a game of trying to sneak up on him but since he always knew we we’re coming after him the game lost it’s appeal.

I found this centipede in the gutter adjacent to my house. Centipede’s were a fairly regular siting but this one was easily four times the size of the one’s I was accustomed to seeing. I called Will and predictably, he began to poke it with a stick trying to knock it off the grate into the drain.

Or at least that’s what I thought we was doing. Instead, he managed to hook it onto the end of the stick and thrust it towards my face. I freaked out and ran but I made it maybe three strides before I was suddenly flat on the grass and dazed.

Will had tripped me. I heard the lawnmower. Will was on top of me. the lawnmower droned closer. Will pulled my shorts down around my knees and shoved his finger into me up to his second knuckle. He wiggled his finger up-and-down rapidly.

The lawnmower stopped. There was a shuffling sound and then Will wasn’t on top of me. He was sprawled three feet away.

My father put me on my feet. Roughly dragging my pants up. Hurting me. Red faced and screaming. The gist of it was what is going on, what are you perverts doing, I’m going to call your parents. Go home. I don’t ever want to see you again.

I didn’t understand what had happened/what was happening.

Inside the house–with the lawn left half mowed–the interrogation began. I wasn’t especially ashamed and I certainly wasn’t traumatized but I knew that to be truthful about all the specifics would be a very bad idea. I explained merely that it was a game. I refused to admit it had a name or detail the specifics.

Looking back, I realize my parents thought I was gay and they figured this was an early manifestation that they needed to discipline/scare out of me. My punishment was being grounded for three months; I would go without dinner every evening during that same time and since Xmas fell during it, festivities such as presents, stockings and the like were categorically cancelled for me.

As a form of protest, every night while my family ate I laid under the Xmas tree. My mother has always had this stupid fixation with the ‘country’ craft aesthetic and instead of bulbs the tree was festooned with red glazed plastic apples. I would sit with them bobbing directly above my face.

Generally, there would be some comment along the lines of me using the time productively to meditate on what I had done wrong.

Instead, I imagined the apples were real. Imagined how they might taste, if I could just reach up, pluck one and bite into it. I didn’t feel like I’d done anything wrong. And more than once the apple motif made me wonder if maybe this is how Eve felt.