SakurawayUntitled from Basic Instinct II series (201X)

Sakuraway is a Chinese image maker based in Shanghai.

He’s a bit like what you’d get if you put equal parts Shae Detar, Ren Hang, Maxime Imbert and Ryan McGinley and shake them vigorously.

He is–quite frankly–trash at editing his own work (far too much work that emphasizes a quantity over quality approach). But there is definitely some great finds amidst the surfeit of dreck and he has a charmingly idiosyncratic eye for color.

Cheyenne Montgomerywater (2008)

Do you ever wonder where stock photos/images come from?

Well, if you’re on Flickr you can opt in to Getty Images and then Getty comes through and if they see something they like/think they can sell; the image is added to their databases.

Montgomery opted in and has 300+ photos listed with Getty now.

Her images might best be labeled ‘sites & sights’–as they favor day-to-day (read: banal) documentation with an emphasis on travel and family events. 

I can’t say I’m particularly taken with the rest of her work. I mean she’s clearly exercising her visual thinking muscles even when a good percentage of her strategies/choices faceplant)–although I will grudgingly credit her for avoiding the typical ‘gram flavor of the week aesthetic which tends to be endemic in work with a similar approach. She instead embraces a moodier, muddier vibe.

The above image is exceptional. The shallow focus emphasizes an Impressionist-adjacent interplay between color and texture. This is–in turn–heightened by the unresolved tension between any definite interpretation of what is depicted, i.e. is this a hug, a fight or a rescue?

It’s not unlike fred hüning‘s work, actually; yes–he’d never have zoomed in this close; but everything else is very much in keeping with his style and conceptual preoccupations. (I’d not be surprised if Montgomery is a fan of his work.)

Petter HegreAqua feat. Cleo (2015)

When it comes to Hegre and his ‘art’, I have mixed feelings.

One the one hand: no matter if it’s his artier forays (a la above) or his more pornographic stuff, he absolutely has a knack for carefully considered, subtly nuanced rendering of light–especially in terms of skintone.

The other hand? He has access to a stable of imaging gear far exceeding the inventory of most high end rental establishments. (For example: the images above were made using a PhaseOne IQ3 80MB medium format digital back–an item that likely set Hegre back $60K when he purchased it.)

I’m not going to hate on someone for having the wherewithal to invest in a camera that costs as much as a sports car. But more often than not I don’t see what that investment contributes to his work. For example: it’s not exactly ideal but there but there is more than a passing resemblance between these images of Cleo and Jock Sturges color work. (Yes, Sturges is working in 8×10 large format–thus there is again the issue of the preciousness of the equipment. Also, I think Sturges’ is probably a gold star pedophile and I think his efforts to sidestep this diminish his work. In the case of his B&W photos, they are–IMO–over-praised. However, his color work is not as easily shrugged off.)

Anyway, I was looking at the set from which I culled these images. (If you click the Aqua in the title, you can see the set 16 images of which these 4 are a part.)

Looking at all 16 images, it occurred to me that likely what bothers me about Hegre so much is his emphatic insistence that his work is art.

Now, if he means that his work exhibits technically accomplishment–that’s one thing. It’s rather another for him to hire a model, get her to disrobe and then take a bunch of pictures of her and then edit hundreds of photos down to a dozen or so of the best of the best.

Yet given the 16 images in this series, there’s not a great deal of consistency. The one vertical composition arguable has better tonality than the rest but it sticks out like a sore thumb. Also, the order in which the vertical composition is inserted actually distracts from the visual flow between images in the series. Further, the look at the camera ignore the camera on the part of the model is hell of indecisive. (Although, it occurred to me that although it is unlikely this was the intention: there is something about seeing vs not seeing that is highly erotic–i.e. when I am watching a lover body intersect with my own I may alternate between watch out bodies coming together to heighten the physicality of my arousal, however as arousal stretch ever closer to crescendo there grows a tension from which focus on visual stimulus may actually prove to be a distraction.)

It wasn’t easy to distill this series into a smaller grouping. I do think there are several of the images that could easily be dropped. There are several where the angle of her face is unflattering–but I suspect the image was kept because of the posture of her body. And I specifically dropped the one image that shows most clearly that Cleo is positioned in shallow water near a ledge where the water suddenly becomes deeper.

With this edit, it’s not so hard for me to concede that maybe Hegre isn’t as pretentious as a think of him as being. I mean if you sort of squint and take the sense of the portrait in the top left image, the sense of quiet reverie in the top right image, the sense of place in the lower left image and the sense of ethereal physicality in the lower right image–there is a fully formed and conceptually sophisticated single scene that suggests itself in the intersections between the images.

However, that I chose these images from a wider set and then ordered them in the fashion I did (which suggests something not unlike a narrative progression) is what it took for me to be able to see that.

Perhaps Hegre had something roughly analogous in mind. Or not. In all likelihood what he does requires a certain degree of open ended-ness in order to account for the various interests and appetites of the consumer. Really, I think that’s the crux of my frustration with Hegre: he could clearly produce more resonant and uncompromising work but he seems more interested in commercial viability. (Something which strikes me as a shame and a waste of talent.)

Marat SafinКазань (2018)

Safin should be mentioned alongside Ren Hang and Akif Hakan Celebi–each possess a visual style you can spot across a crowded, a similar tendency toward profusion of content as well as quantity as a form of quality (or, if you prefer a surfeit of style as substance).

He’s not half as consistent as the other two, however. (Honestly, I don’t have the first clue what possesses him to release some of the thoroughly half-baked images he makes.)

But when he’s on, his work is innovative and sometimes even thrilling.

I am super into this picture. Partly it’s the diffuse right to left lighting, partly, it’s that her pose is such that she appears to be playing it coy, carefully removing her underwear in a seductive fashion. Except: the framing excludes information as to whether or not she is unaware of the camera and therefore the viewer. The way she’s rolled the garment down her hips onto her thighs suggests she’s aware of the voyeuristic element. Yet, the erotic impetus of the image relates to her underwear–while she remains nude but hardly immodestly exposed; a tension which at least allows for the possibility that this is not some sort of orchestrated scene and is a privately sensual moment. (That possibility doesn’t stand up to any sort of close scrutiny even if it is an interesting consideration.)

I also like this because it’s a photo I wish had been of me. I was thinking about trying to tease out why from what I’ve already said–if you want to dig a bit it has to do with the dichotomy between bearing witness and voyeurism as well as the disjunction between sensuality and sexuality.

But honestly, that was all before a recent image of Safin’s started raising some hackles over on Flickr. (Trigger warning: graphic depictions of what I can only presume relates to an eating disorder.)

The image is captioned СПб, the Cyrillic letters corresponding to the Latin S, P and B–or Saint Petersburg. (Over the last several years, Safin has moved away from titling his images and instead merely mentioned where they are taken; the image above was made in Kazan, for example.)

It features a young woman who appears to be dangerously underweight–you can clear see her ribs, spine and shoulder bones. She appears to have stopped crawling along the forest floor long enough to rest with her forehead on the ground, perhaps in an effort to catch her breath.

It’s a striking tableau.

Predictably: the comments range from concern for the model, damning the image maker, defending the image maker under the auspices of artistic expression, comments on how someone else’s body is not an appropriate thing for anyone else to comment on and now things have degenerated to the point where commenters are decrying the overreach of politically correct pomposity. (”Politically correct” being code employed by folks who expect other people to be polite and decent to them but quickly start whinging when someone’s notion of what constitutes polite and decent differs even marginally from their own definition.)

I’m not entirely sure I believe there is any way the image is ethical. However, ethical or not it is strangely effective. The location (Saint Petersburg) and what it depicts (someone chosen because they appear convincingly malnourished) immediately made me think of the Siege of Leningrad–starvation was widespread and some resorted to cannibalism.

The image was made almost ¾ of a century after the siege ended. And unlike most nude in nature work–where the lack of clothing is meant to convey a sense of the work being out of time–this feels very modern to me, somehow.

As if for all the ways the world has ‘changed’ the metrics by which we eat or go hungry have less to do with warfare and more to do with the individual and society. There is still–of course–extremes between abundance and scarcity but scarcity in the face of abundance is still all to rife.

Lastly, I think it’s interesting that roughly a quarter of people think Safin is a woman. I’m fairly certain that isn’t the case. (Although it would be interesting if it were.)

Lionel PrinceUntitled (2017)

Back in February, when I juxtaposed an image of Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa and Brassaï’s Le phénomène de l’extase, I had rather something else in mind when I started.

See the juxtaposition I suggested was not exactly insightful: someone else had connected Dali’s The Phenomenon of Ecstasy (which includes the woman’s face from Le phénomène de l’extase) with the face of St. Teresa in Bernini’s sculpture.

Initially, I wanted to present Bernini, Brassaï in tandem with something more modern and art porn-esque and to categorize it as a ‘follow the thread’ exercise.

At the time, I was unable to find a satisfactory third image. This would’ve been utterly perfect.

Compare this detail of Teresa’s face with the above:


Also, from the stand point of visual dynamics, I’m starting to believe that the bottom edge of the frame has an implicit correlation with the notion of the so-called fourth wall. Consider the above and how it’s #skinnyframebullshit orientation places the viewer in the POV surrogacy with the person belonging to the lower of the two penii. Note how landscape orienting the frame adds the impression of a voyeuristic fourth party:



We have been a huge fan of your blog for some time now, and never submitted. But as my time as a mother fills my days, I look fondly at how my body was during pregnancy, and it is a bittersweet feeling knowing this was the last time I will carry someone within me. My husband could not take enough photos, and I wanted to share some of them with you, and your wonderful community. 

Wow, thank you so much for sharing this incredible portrait. The colours of your tattoos look so nice in the sunlight, and you are radiant and beautiful. It’s amazing you have these photos to look back on and reflect about that time in your life. And I really appreciate you contributing to Submission Sunday for the very first time. 

“Mother is the word for God on the lips and hearts of all children.”