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Lin Jinfu – Night (2014)
From an art historical perspective, there is a desperate need for someone who has a working knowledge of emerging work in China and southeast Asia.
Lin’s work is excellent but there is precious little written about him in English, e.g. I spent 30 minutes digging through Google results and was only able to discover that roughly a third of the English posts on his work believe that he’s Japanese or ‘Oriental’ :::shudders:::
He’s actually Chinese and lives/works in Beijing.
Other preposterous assertions made by idiots about his work: due to the influence of Baroque and Neoclassicism on his work along with–apparently the difficulty Westerners have in pronouncing his name– he’s referred to as Caravaggio. (This makes zero sense as he actually goes by the anglicized Jeff Lin; also: I know there’s a tendency to assume repressive regimes keep their people from engaging with more modern art–but I would bet a private cam session that he’s thoroughly familiar with the work of Lucian Freud–the more photographic rendering of light is an absolute dead ringer between the two.)
Lastly, folks make preposterous assumptions about Lin’s engagement with the male nude and gay eroticism–and how unconventional that is in China. Okay, got it–perhaps in painting that’s true but what about Ren Hang? (I know there are at least two others I’ve posted but since I can’t use Google to search my archive anymore… there’s no way I’ll ever find what I’m thinking of…)
But really, Lin’s paintings are excellent. I wish I had a single site to refer you to but you’ll just have to apply a little bit of elbow grease. (The effort is worth it, I promise.)
London, June 2013
This is a thoughtful way to present a male-bodied nude: soles of both feet exposed, clenched ass, the arching line of the spine and the his right arm covers his face; except for the heavily dangling scrotum and cut definition of trapezius and deltoid musculature, it is an androgynous-to-effeminate depiction– explicit, vulnerable and mysterious.
It reminds me of one of my favorite images from last year. (That post is worth re-reading as it covers ground I’ll be skipping this time around.)
Comparing these two images does Leonidas’ work a disservice. And although I will give him credit for shooting film (Fuji’s Superia color negative, in this case), most of the faults are a result of sloppy craft.
This is the most egregious example of #skinnyframebullshit, I’ve posted. Whereas most people deploy portrait orientation to the end of reifying the verticality of the composition–lame at best as far as justification goes, lazy at worst–the subject here is not vertical.
You can feeling it just looking at the image but to see it visualize the center vertical as a fulcrum balancing the rear leg of the chair (frame left) and the top of the boy’s head (frame right). Notice the rightward thrust. Add this to the light pooling in overexposed puddles on the floor and back wall, the lack of space between the chair and wall and the flow of the composition is decidedly right leaning. The angle of the shot is an effort to use the line where the floor meets the wall as a means of adding dimensionality but this only exacerbates the existing problems with the slant.
Landscape orientation would have made a much more dynamic composition. And while this lacks the audacity of the image of which it reminds me, it might have done a better job standing on its own.
Criticisms notwithstanding, the scarcity of images depicting male-bodied persons in a simultaneously ‘formal’ and sexually charged imagery is such a rarity, that efforts, however flawed, deserve acknowledgement.
Scarlett Hooft Graafland – Turtle (2013)
My mistake turned out to be fortuitous.
The entire gallery was taken up by The Rediscovery of the World, a group show featuring work from up-&-coming Dutch image makers.
Huis Marseille is a sprawling, disjointed space. Despite this, the work was arranged to ensure each of the fourteen artists had their own space & that the work flowed logically from one space the next. Intrusions of the curatorial hand were minimal and always concise. Any accompanying information set aside from the work and limited to pertinent biographic details, conceptual/process related notes only.
I love the photographic medium but I am not always enamored with ‘fine art’ photography. Not the case here. I preferred some work more than the rest (In particular: Juul Kraijer, whose work gave my goosebumps goosebumpy and made me feel all light-headed & tingly), but a facet of each of the artists work managed to resonated with me.
For example: I can’t pretend I understand Scarlett Hooft Graafland’s work. Her schtick seems to be going to exotic locals (in this case Madagascar) & using naturally occurring material to create oneric imagery. She definitely has mad chops when it comes to capturing supersaturated color color: the consistency of her blue skies is wild and the yellow in We are not your Enemies is fucking insane.
Turtle stuck out like a sore thumb next to the rest of the work, though. When everything else is about color intervention in the landscape, the appearance of what seems the photographer herself, nude and kneeling next to a muddy river with a tortoise shell on her back.
The image isn’t entirely out of character with the rest of the works in the exhibit; but it’s hardly in line with them, either. Seeing it as relating to the other work, suggested a narcissism–the Westerner who travels to foreign lands and in a well-meaning effort to present the indigenous people’s as they are, ends up co-opting a culture to which she has no right.
I am not sure my instinct was off, so much as it jumped three to five steps further than it should have. Graafland made photos of herself nude, bent over the peak of roofs in Iceland almost a decade ago. Turtle like represents a continuation of that practice.
I feel like there’s a trap here, in a way. Seeing a bare ass, there’s a tendency to see the frame through a lens of sexuality. I am pretty sure that is not what the work is about; still, there is an undeniable element of narcissism. And that complicates things further–making the question of the sexualized body inescapable for this image.
Interesting enough, this image passed across my dash maybe a week ago. Echoing Turtle’s pose it seems strangely less sexual than the above, at least to my eye. I am not sure why that is, but I think it’s probably not just me.
Fox Photo-Art – Glass Olive [from the Voyeurism Series] (2013)
Initially, I see the stone wall and sapling filtered, dappled light. All of it pulls up a step or two short of full blown flashback to strolling around Fort Tryon Park on a summer afternoon.
This feeling motivated me to look into Fox Photo-Art.
Le sigh. What is it with image makers bearing vulpine monikers and their privileged insistence upon producing self-important, creatively stunted dreck and deeming it ‘art’?
Usually, this attitude causes me to dismiss the work in totality; however, it somehow increases my appreciation of the above image even if there’s nothing especially inspired about it.
Yeah, the composition is solid: the angle of the ledge leads the eye to Glass Olive; her body is situated parallel to the focal plane so her legs can remain open toward the camera.
Unlike the more natural, obviously comfortable positioning of her legs, her upper body is rigidly posed in order to facilitate reflection of light from the bright white pages of Margot Mifflin’s Bodies of Subversion onto her face.
To my eye there’s a startlingly nuanced yet fraught conceptualization at work here: using Ms. Olive’s face to establish a counterpoint to the focus on her pubic area.
Glossing over the implications with regard to matters of heteronormative gaze and sexualization/objectification of female bodies, this strategy somewhat succeeds. Although, it should be pointed out this counterpoint unbalances the image; and only works due to the dimensionality contributed by the angle of Ms. Olive’s legs balanced against the essentially decorative negative space occupying the left third of the frame.
I am almost always appreciative of clever framing. But what fascinates me here is the degree to which the subject remains completely indifferent to being seen in spite of all the visual cues pointing to the precision with which the scene has been staged. The most obvious being that no matter how much you fidget, wiggle or kick, even given the audacity of sitting in such a way in a dress sans undergarments, dresses only fall like this as a result of being carefully arranged.
It’s like the Fox Photo-Art can’t decide whether he’s dealing in conventions of public nudity or upskirt shots.
Speaking of the latter: recently, I’ve seen some commendable efforts (like this) to recast an otherwise exploitative genre in a more consent-driven, body positive/sex positive manner.
The use of the mirror here is goddamn inspired– obscuring both women’s faces within the frame. (See!! There’s no reason to decapitate yourself in your images to maintain your anonymity. A little creativity goes a long way and makes for better pictures.)
It’s obviously beholden to Francesca Woodman; but it wisely cribs a page from the rock and roll rule book for performing cover songs: make it better than or do it different.
Karasik filters Woodman’s concerns through her own aesthetic sensibility in a way that marks it as reinterpretation instead of a rearranging of elements in a template.
Sadly, it’s either some #skinnyframebullshit; or, :::shudders::: cropped. (I loathe a we’ll-just-fix-it-in-post attitude. Do it right the first time or go the fuck home. Post-production is a safety net in the unlikely chance it becomes necessary; the entire fucking point is not to need it.)
I guess at least evinces some thought went into the decision to opt for the skinny frame.
While I know this is likely a behind-the-scenes production still from one of those ‘feminist’ sites who employ female image makers to work with their models—i.e. Abby Winters and the breathtaking I Feel Myself—I still can’t help but impose a bi-curious-art-student-enlists-lesbian-friend-and-girlcrush-to-masturbate-on-camera-in-their-dorm’s-laundry-room narrative to it. (Lest you think my grip of situational realism is faltering due to excessive porno consumption: I attended a prestigious liberal arts college where that was exactly the sort of thing happening on any given Tuesday.)
And truth be told I asked my fair share of girlcrushes to masturbate on screen in my various student film efforts—more than half agreed with little if any reservations.
Coming from a conservative Xtian high school where boys were expected to be boys interested romantically but not sexually in girls who were girls—wholesome, chaste and asexual—such openness was refreshing but also a little unnerving.
I never actually filmed any of those who agreed to masturbate on camera. Part of it was my own shyness but it was not shyness as a result of shame. (Whether or not I filmed it, I would do just about anything to be permitted to watch one of my friends bring themselves to orgasm.) The truth is, as I have mentioned before: visual depictions of masturbation present a thicket of critical concerns with regard to exhibitionism and voyeurism.
Instead of mirroring, this image employs a surrogate to de-emphasize exhibitionist facets, underscoring the voyeuristic intentionality. A beautiful young brunette leans against a wall while sitting astride a washing machine (which I imagine is mid-spin cycle). Bokeh renders her in blurred focus: her pants pushed down around her shins, her legs and bares knees akimbo, right hand reaching down across her taut stomach, disappearing between her thighs; erect nipples showing through the thin white cotton of her t-shirt and an expression that is a bit of a Mona Lisa smile– somewhere between feigning orgasm and the actual shift where realization dawns that orgasm is imminent.
A young woman—barefoot and clad in a blue sundress with small white polka dots, has climbed on top of the row of washing machines also and monitors her friend with a video camera. Her face is hidden by her long golden hair. She seems thoroughly engaged with her friends experience.
The videographer is in sharper focus than her friend but the sharpest focus is reserved for the foreground. This is fascinating as you essentially have the exhibitionism of the masturbator cancelled out by the videographer’s surrogate voyeur which is subsequently transformed once again into an exhibitionist tableau in turn cancelled out by the depth of field’s inferential reminder to the audience that they are voyeurs.
With that in mind, I must mention that skinny frame contributes NOTHING to the image. Whereas, a landscape orientation would have firmly placed the happenings within a public laundry facility; more fully integrated the lines of molding in the lower left of the frame and the darkening far corner above the videographer’s head into the compositional logic of the image and further emphasized that depth of field by including the foreground washing machine; not to mention, you wouldn’t lose the tail of the blue polka dot dress which would further balance the weight of the masturbators naked right knee.
All things considered this is a goddamn gorgeous image succeeds in its own right but truly shines by what it manages through implication. Less is more, after all (and always).
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And despite being in color this bears none of Hamilton’s idyllic, dreamy soft focus.
The large-format aspect ratio points to Sturges despite the fact that he works almost exclusively in B&W.
Also, I am pretty familiar with his work and I cannot recall an instance where the subject whose eyes were wide open was this close to the camera without staring directly into the lens.
Further, although Sturges favors vertical compositions to echo the people standing within his frames, this vertical orientation is skillfully contrapuntal, delicately diminishing the horizontal force of the pose by balancing the negative space in the doorway against the blue wooden slats.
All in all, this contains altogether more calculation than I expect from Sturges’ knee-jerk fine art-photographer-as-gilded-voyeur routine.
But it’s the un-self-conscious mien of the model—who, although nude, appears not as a sexualized object so much as a spectrum of being that includes the possibility of sexuality. Such presence in both one’s own skin and a moment has a definite parallel with Sally Mann’s wonderful Immediate Family.
Lina Scheynius’ photographs are above all sincere in their straight-forward simplicity and lack of self-conscious pretense—capturing not only the truth of a moment but something of the initial wonderment which sparked her mind and brought the viewfinder to her eye.
Like many young, internet-famous image makers she works at the interstices of documentary, editorial and erotic photography but her handles the material with a rare prescience.
Take this self-portrait where she appears starkly naked but protectively curled up on a leather couch. She is both seen and unseen.
I cannot help but apply that to her sense of herself as a photographer. She presents the world she sees from behind and through her camera. This is especially interesting given familiarity with her larger body of work as she takes great pains to push her personal boundaries more than her models.
In the minefield resulting from conceptual concerns over the visual representation of sexual identity and body politics, although what Scheynius’ is about is perhaps more instinctive than the collaboration between Traci Matlock and Ashley MacLean, it is no less vital or interesting.
And frankly, there are a lot of photographers who could learn something from this. I am sick unto death with voyeurs hiding behind cameras snapping away as they have models enact their most deeply repressed fantasies. (I am thinking here of an individual who I would rather not name but will give apply the psuedonym Reynard Yale.)
Vintage porn doesn’t really do much for me. This is probably due partly to my aversion to cockamamie retro-equals-hip cults and partly to knee-jerk nostalgia irritating the piss out of me.
I dig this though for a variety of reasons.
First, although this isn’t a regularly employed position in porn position bingo, the composition is handled sensibly. It’s maybe even a little innovative—allowing an unobstructed view of the action without being intrusive.
Second, their interaction is awesome: her bliss-stoned expression, his head down focus on his prick penetrating her; the way his hand right hands grasps her left inner thigh, and her hand holding onto his side turns me on.
As a photograph: yeah, it’s a little underexposed. But I’ll take an underexposed emulsion over the god-awful, de-saturated digital images profligate on the Interwebz any day of the goddamn week. Analog brings sexy back and gives not a single fuck about millions and millions of bullshit pixels.