Andre de DienesNude (1955)

Dienes is known primarily for early portraits he made with Norma Jean Mortenson before she became Marilyn Monroe.

His worked primarily with nudes in natural settings. His poses tend to be ripped straight from Greek antiquity and there’s not a lot of differentiation between photos.

This is uncanny in a way the rest of his work just isn’t. From the standpoint of form–the models pose is a bit awkward. I’m not sure the positioning of the head works for the image but the way the models body echoes the form of the rocks upthrust is a bold choice.

The problem is… well, there are problems plural. First, while there are reasons to center the horizon line in a photographic frame at the center of the picture plane–it’s generally not a great strategy. It’s better to ask which contributes more to the meaning of the purpose of the frame and then going preferring whatever will carry the most weight. Or, depending on what the frame is depicting, perhaps giving the most important aspect too much weight obliterates any sort of ambiguity.

If Dienes had wanted to emphasize the upthrust of the rock more, he should’ve included more of the ground than the sky. To emphasize the surreal aspect of it, he could’ve treated the sky preferentially.

Further, the contrast isn’t quite right–it’s as if the contrast has been dialed down on everything in the frame except for the model’s skin tone.

Honestly though those are all minor problems that could’ve been erased merely by adding a red filter–resulting in a darker sky, light crowds and an increase in textural differentiation in both the boulder and surrounding sand.

Dejan Dizdar AKA CDAstudioD0215 (2013)

If
not exactly a good image, it does feature several noteworthy facets: it
bears the blanket blessing bestowed by dwindling golden hour light, the
pose imposes an intriguing sculptural form against the sand, sky and I
suppose you’d term that grassy mass ‘a tuffet’.

What is extremely
cool is that the camera is essentially pointed up hill–giving a view of
both the ground sloping upward as well as the clouds strewn all about
overhead.

However, unless I’m mistaken, part of what makes this work is a feature of optical distortion–specifically what’s
termed barrel distortion; basically, horizontal and vertical lines only
run truly side to side or up and down, respectively, at the center of
the frame. The further you are from center frame the more they bulge
outward. Like so:

Not how this visual aberration creates and illusion of bringing the model closer while pushing the sky further back:

Txema YesteExtase featurig Stella Lucia for Numero (2016)

The image above does not really fit the format of this project. I’m including it anyway.

Why? Well, first of all, it’s more or less embedded itself in my subconscious. There’s something both beautiful and sinister about it.

Also, I really don’t care for snakes. To the extent that whenever a photo of a snake slithers across my dashboard, I physically cringe–every damn time.

It’s not an intrinsic or irrational fear–I came about half a second from stepping barefoot into a nest of copperheads when I was a wee one. I remember it very distinctly because of the sudden sharp stop from my father that despite the fact that I normally did not give a fuck what he said his voice left no room for anything except to stop dead in my tracks. I saw it a second later–a big momma copper head ready to strike, her babies relatively oblivious nearby. I was instructed to back away slowly. Took half a step and then was suddenly yanked back several yards.

I also remember connecting that memory with a scene in a PBS educational series where an Indiana Jones type character had to proceed through a tomb and there was a pit of snakes and the viewer was informed that a certain number of the snakes were venomous while the rest were harmless. The idea being that you could calculate the risk of clamoring through the pit if youw ere so inclined.

So snakes are one of the few things where something in the real world has crawled into my dream world. Any dream where I am outside and there are leaves on the ground or visible tree roots, my brain is automatically wary of snakes.

And ring neck garden snakes or corn snakes are great–and I have no qualms handling them. It’s just coming upon a snake unexpectedly always makes me very antsy because I’m not so great at determining if their venomous or not. (Same way that I’d love to forage for mushrooms but there are too many that I just can’t tell the super poisonous ones from the edible ones… so I just don’t mess with it.)

The snake in this image is some sort of boa constrictor or python, I think. But it’s shot in such a way that you don’t immediately know that.

It’s also a narrative image–what the narrative is, is ambiguous; but it is better for such ambiguity. (Also, there’s not many interpretations that aren’t somewhat surreally unhinged.)

As much as I don’t care for vertical oriented images, this is an example of an image that would only work as a skinny frame.

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.

Soapstonesfoto para el nº de abril de 192 mag (2013)

I spend a lot of time thinking about the impetus for nudity in image making.

The easy answer is who doesn’t like looking at naked folks?

I think that’s a lazy and knee jerk explanation.

However, short of equally facile justifications (i.e. figure studies, ‘timelessness’ or porn), there’s precious few image makers who fixate on naked people and who also offer some sort of implicit notion of why the people in their images aren’t clothed.

Consider someone like Mona Kuhn who works primarily in nudist resorts skirting the Mediterranean. Or Traci Matlock, whose work when it involves nudity feels a little like the photographer is functioning like the person at a party who suggests everyone join in a game of strip poker and as soon as they’ve achieved near universal agreement, strips down before the game even starts to demonstrate a commitment to the journey and not the destination.

I have no idea who this Soapstones is–beyond that the person responsible for the photographs most likely uses male pronouns in self-identifying and seems to hail from Mexico.

The above probably isn’t the best image to illustrate my point about his work because it’s very staged and there’s a feeling that the two guys in the image probably weren’t already naked ahead of preparing to take it.

However, that’s the exception to the rule. Generally, you get the feeling that the image maker was less intrested in nudes as a subject and more interested in documenting the hijinks of his friends and acquaintances. But his friends and acquaintances are close knit enough that expectations for social propriety take a back seat to fully inhabiting the moment.

msjanssen:

idiedatbirth:

I haven’t Tumblred in a while.

It’s cause this girl happened.

Deal with it.

this is an amazing image…

^I agree.

But I also think it could have perhaps been improved. In tone, form and content it reminds me of Jim Richardson’s A thunderstorm halts haying as two farmers watch the sky–which is less compositionally muddled and self-contained.

I say that not as a slight to the above–just as an example of how people who make images like the above need to think differently if they want fine art legitimacy.