Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

I have no ideas where this is from. But I am totally enamored with it.

There’s a nice conceptual bridge between the pulling the seat of a swimsuit from where it seems to ride up whenever you’re in and out of the water with the opening of the lily.

There is a symmetry between the gesture of spreading/stretching. An emphasis on texture–skin, lacquered nails, mesh, flower.

I am almost curious as to whether these clips are actually linked in the original source or if they were assembled from two disparate clips by someone with a really good eye for editing.

There’s an argument to be made they have to be from the same source. The nail polish and backgrounds–pink with the mesh, blue with the flower–that seem to suggest a similar approach to production design.

However, the light is different between the two–like not just a different color balance but a different approach. Also, the blue background in the scene clip with the lily, not the lines of vertical noise. You’re not getting anything like that in the pink background of the previous clip.

Alternately, whether or not they are from the same source: these work together because they embody a sort of Jimmy Marble meets Tommy Cash vibe that’s really a very NOW ™ aesthetic.

Witchoria – Cancel from Human Error series (2016)

What else is going on
right this minute while ground water creeps under my feet? The galaxy is
careening in a slow, muffled widening. If a million solar systems are
born every hour, then surely hundreds burst into being as I shift my
weight to the other elbow. The sun’s surface is now exploding; other
stars implode and vanish, heavy and black, out of sight. Meteorites are
arcing to earth invisibly all day long. On the planet the winds are
blowing: the polar easterlies, the westerlies, the northeast and
southeast trades. Somewhere, someone under full sail is becalmed, in the
horse latitudes, in the doldrums; in the northland, a trapper is
maddened, crazed, by the eerie scent of the chinook, the sweater, a wind
that can melt two feet of snow in a day. The pampero blows, and the
tramontane, and the Boro, sirocco, levanter, mistral. Lick a finger:
feel the now
. [Ed: emphasis added.]           
                   —excerpt from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (via house-of-fortitude)                

Cecilia WachterLips (2014)

Lips is a reaction to a culture in which female sexuality
and sex organs are depicted as dirty, shameful, and wrong. The slang
words for female genitalia are crude and degrading; ‘meat wallet,’ ‘fish
taco,’ ‘beef curtains,’ and ‘axe wound’ are all terms that aren’t
uncommon colloquially as well as in pop culture and mass media. Slang
words for ‘penis,’ however, carry themes of strength and domination
(e.g., ‘man muscle,’ ‘anaconda,’ ‘pocket rocket’). Whilst researching
and producing this series, I often thought of an article I once read
that printed the word ‘penis,’ but ‘vagina’ was written as a series of
asterisks. Why are the genitals of one person vilified while comparable
organs on another person are not only socially acceptable, but symbols
of power? From childhood, people with vaginas are told that their vulvas
are embarrassing, abnormal, disgusting, and smelly. As airbrushed
images of the idealized naked human body are increasingly more
accessible to young people, our perception of what is normal has become
flawed and distorted; perhaps as a result, in the past five years, the
numbers of people seeking to alter the external appearance of their
genitals has increased more than fivefold (Hogenboom 2012). Lips is
an attempt to appreciate, embrace, and encourage the divine,
unparalleled beauty of female genitals…. I sought to capture the
intimate intricacies of each of my model’s unique forms, emphasizing
their singularity and beauty.

I believe that this series will be confronting and triggering to my
audience, particularly those with vaginas, and I hope that some of them
may have the same realization that I did while viewing my negatives:
that we are more beautiful than we can imagine. Viewers may be drawn
into a reality that I have imagined, where genitalia can be body parts,
not political statements, and where what we are capable of is not
informed by our gender.

Amandine KuhlmannCinq Sens [Five Senses] (2015)

The adage talent burrows, genius steals–most often attributed to Oscar Wilde–actually originates from T. S. Eliot:

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal;
bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something
better, or at least something different.

There’s zero question that Kuhlmann is stealing with this series. The color palate, poses and timing might as well be verbatim visual quotes from the posters for master provocateur Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.

I won’t argue that these images are better than the posters. If nothing else, the posters almost certainly required a team of creatives and tens of thousands of dollars to produce. They are more dynamic, dimensional and artfully constructed.

But Eliot doesn’t imply that the only justification for theft is that you make something better–making something that is at least different is also an option.

Kuhlmann succeeds admirably in that regard by focusing on little tics–scratches, broken blood vessels under the skin, a silvered thread of spit suspending bubble of saliva above a mouth open in an orgasmic gasp, hair clinging to sweat slick skin.

Looking at these makes me realize that although the Nymphomaniac posters are technically superior–they could have been much more impactful if those responsible for creating them had been more attentive to such seemingly mundane details.

Un instant avec ElleMyself, intimate moment (2015)

So here’s a picture which proves an exception to the rule of my general distaste for close-ups in image making.

The gist of my objection is that by diminishing contextual cues with regards to setting (interior, exterior), orientation relative to other subjects (or lack of other subjects for that matter) in a given space, time of day, historical epoch, etc., etc., the information the image can clearly convey is severely truncated. This truncation has a tendency to be employed to foster a sort of forced intimacy–this is especially true with regard to portraiture, where seeing something with one’s own eyes up close invites the viewer to bridge the absence of detailed information with a sort of god-like omniscience; or–to state it in a less abstract fashion–the close-up encourages spinning the inherent lack of certainty as to the identity of the subject into a sort of nebulous knowing predicated upon predictable tropes and societal preconceptions. The close-up works–more often than not–because it gives the viewer permission to fill in a number of blanks. And while this is the base nature of the eternal question with regard to what the frame includes and excludes, typically, I feel like close-ups encourage the viewer to fill in blanks they quite frankly have no business filling in.

This image succeeds partly due to its simplicity. There’s a balance between the warm tone light and the dense shadow space, a similar equivalence between smooth skin-tone and texture; also, flatness and dimensionality–the subtle shadows imposed by the musculature are luminous here.

The composition doesn’t quite work: one triangle is formed from the vertices of the shadow space adjacent to the left hip, between the legs and in the fall off at the right hip; while either leg form vertices with an implicit third point at the navel just beyond the lower edge of the frame. This results in the image having an unbalanced visual heft–with the scale tipping slightly to frame right, undermining the careful balance so stunningly apparent throughout the rest of the image.

However, there is one incredible astute conceptual conceit managing to eclipse this minor transgressions. It’s sort of hard to explain it but try something: invert the image and look at it; now, return it to it’s normal orientation. There is a way in which the grammar of an image suggests that the bottom of the frame is closer to viewer and the top of the frame is further way. Orienting the frame as above makes the action depicted not for the viewer. (Given the angle of the frame it’s not strictly a POV perspective either. In tandem with the caption, an intriguing tension is created between a voyeurism one is allowed to observe even though they are not invited to participate with.)

JoymiiWhat a Ride featuring Josephine and Den (2015)

There are a raft of reasons I ought not be posting this:

  • I am suspicious–at best–of close-ups (let alone extreme close-ups such as this)
  • It’s heteronormative in a way which really goddamned irks me
  • The above image has been cropped from the original (which I would’ve posted if it didn’t feature an intensely intrusive, dumb watermark).

All that BS aside, there is something not if not exactly substantive then I guess ‘considered’ about this. I don’t mean the polished gloss of it–although it certain supersedes that of quotidian porn.

What catches my eye is the extremely shallow depth of field–which allows both out of focus bits in the foreground and background.

Image makers are frequently obsessed with the flattering effects of so-called bokeh to isolate and emphasize the subject of the composition. But bokeh centers on rendering the background out of focus. Out of focus elements in the both the fore- and back- ground is more commonly associated with cinema–where due to the scene playing out of thousands of frames shifting focus can be used to guide who or what within the frame the audience is supposed to attend to. (I’ve written about this before.)

In the above image the point of sharpest focus draws attention to the act of genital penetration. In this crop, the action still manages to be ever-so-slightly off-center. No matter how pretty the soft focus, the image would’ve crumbled given knee-jerk dead center placement.

What’s interesting is in the uncropped version, everything shifts left and down. It’s a better frame by miles but I don’t think I’d have necessarily realized what I have about the image and why it appeals to me without comparing the crop and the original–although not strictly compliant, there are absolutely points of correlation with the composition and the Golden Ratio. (I recommend opening the diagram and the original side by side.)