Eikoh HosoeEmbrace#47 (1970)

Dreams, memories, the sacred–they are all alike in that they are beyond
our grasp. Once we are even marginally separated from what we can
touch, the object is sanctified; it acquires the beauty of the
unattainable, the quality of the miraculous. Everything, really, has
this quality of sacredness, but we can desecrate it at a touch. How
strange man is! His touch defiles and yet he contains the source of
Yukio MishimaSpring Snow (1968)

AdeYdependency (2015)

I think it was in third grade where we learned about the five questions a good reporter always answers when relaying a story: Who? What? Where? When? And How?

This isn’t exactly a shabby mode of approaching art, come to think of it. Except, there’s perhaps a proscribed order (at least as far as visual art goes).

I suggest you start by asking: what is this, what am I looking at?

In this case, it’s a stereotypical locker room–rows of lockers on either side of a central bench running along an aisle. A woman (nude) is standing on top of the bench leaning backwards in a manner that has to be both uncomfortable and precarious as far as balance goes. A male arm extends into the frame from the lower right corner; its hand holding her face not unlike a basketball superstar slam dunking.

The lighting in the locker room indicates that it is currently unoccupied and the lighting on the interaction in the foreground has a sort of cinematic flare that is suggestive of a nightmare tableau or horror film. (I can’t look at this and not think of the penultimate scene in It Follows–where they fight the monster at an indoor pool.)

What is seen speaks to viscerality/physicality but in a fashion that is unsettling/menacing/sinister.

Now–if this we’re in hanging in a gallery–there would be some placard someone explaining that the artist’s name, the title of the piece (if there is one) when it was made, where the nationality of the artist, perhaps (I’m pretty sure he hails from Sweden). Astute galleries will address the how with notes on media (in this case medium format Polaroid), the size of the work, provenance and ownership/bibliographical information).

And here’s what I think people who think art is dumb mean when they criticize it. If you’re going to understand what you’re looking at, you often have to conduct the same operation multiple times. In this case, when you get to the title, i.e. ‘dependency’, you are forced to ask yourself what that means in the context of what you’ve already figured you’d gotten super clear about.

The first thing I think of is that dependency can indicate something suspended–like a pendulum or the Sword of Damocles hanging by a single hair from a horses tail. (The position of her head to his hand is in keeping with this reading and it further strengthens my original notion that there’s something malevolent happening here.)

The second thing that pops into my head is this woman I walked by two mornings ago. She was speaking loudly on her phone to someone and I heard her say: I’m not going to waste my time on you, ‘cause I can’t depend on your ass for nuthin’.

I think there’s a tendency to view dependence as a bad thing. But I’m a dependent upon food, water, shelter and clothing (alas, we have not yet returned to the naked idyll of Eden). I depend on my job to pay me for the work that I do so that I can trade the money I earn in order to survive and exist in the world. I–personally–am also dependent upon a steady stream of illicit substances to counter the stress of functioning somewhat normally in this completely fucked world.

In other words, there are degrees of dependency and degrees of acceptability of various forms of dependency which general relate to whether they serve society or the individual.

Yet, my gut is that the sinister tone is a projection I’m placing onto the image–and it’s a strange feeling. I’m not used to it. And when I poke at it a bit more things shift for me.

My BFF and I have been talking recently about how depression–despite being awful and numbing–is actually sometimes beneficial.  When you’re numb the generally awful stuff has a muted effect and things need to be really horrendous to register. That’s a defense mechanism, of sorts. I think this photo functions similarly.

For me it’s about the fact that her face isn’t so much held as covered–the proceedings the viewer witnesses here are reasonably anonymous. And anonymity is a concept without a point unless the one who wishes to be anonymous is likely to be seen.

It feels to me like this is–in a fumbling way–trying to get at the dichotomy wherein the voyeur watches in order to see/understand and the subject wishes to both be seen and unseen at once.

And if this is more than just pedestrian hearsay, which equivocation muddles meaning more–that of the voyeur or that of the subject?

Danny LaneJohn Yuyi for Purple Magazine  (2017)

Perhaps the primary reason I’m less than fond of studio/studio adjacent work is that the point is–to greater or lesser extent–emphasizing decontextualization.

It’s sexy knickers on a model in a catalog vs you finally trying them on in front of a full length mirror.

If you’re going to make studio work, it’s a good idea to embrace the decontextualization and to show the viewer something about why the absence of more context was a necessary precondition of the work.

The above photograph succeeds marvelously at this task. It’s simple. A beautiful model, in front of a plain white wall. Light left to right, after the Baroque fashion. The pose is unusual, dynamic–fashionable in its artifice, but open, confident.

It’s an astute use of space–the balance between the positive space of the Yuyi’s body/posture vs the wall and shadows cast on the wall.

@house-of-fortitudeUntitled (2014)

This blog gets it’s fair share of garden variety Internet trollery. After that, the most common query I receive is people making reasonably cogent arguments that I present myself as an infallible authority.

Uh… no. I’m wrong. Frequently. However, the frequency is less a function of idiocy and more a matter of the fact that I really do put my ideas out there a lot–which presents more opportunities to be wrong.

(For the record: I encourage everyone to take what I say with a Gibraltar sized grain of salt. Always think for yourself. If you think I get something profoundly wrong, drop me a line. I have zero qualms with substantive disagreement–the point of this project is actually to facilitate dialogue that I find to be currently lacking and which I feel is both vital and important to have within the medium and those who appreciate the medium.)

Case in point: very early on, El Desouky submitted a photo for publication. I don’t really accept submissions–although I have something in the works that won’t necessarily change that but will shift it slightly. (Hoping to make that announcement during the back half of the month. Stay tuned.)

I turned up my nose at it.

Now? Well, now I feel like an arse about it.

I mean I’m super hard pressed to name another photographer with as singular a visual voice, who works in both B&W and color in ways that underscore the necessity of that particular image preferencing one medium over the other and who can be bothered with the notions of melancholy as neither inherently positive or detrimental so much as necessary or perhaps even suggestive of a form of radical self-exploration.

I freaking L<3VE the above photo. It’s partly the simplicity of it. A cluttered kitchen and a woman. Nothing about this is in any way so complicated as to be prohibitive to arrange. Yet, there’s something magical about it. It really does look as if she’s drifted off into quiet reverie as a result of looking at snapshot. The snapshots–splayed as they are on the table, clearly legible as photos but not clear enough to distinctly discern what the portray–suggest a glimpse into the woman’s thoughts in a way that let’s the mystery be.

Then there’s the light–which as far as I can tell comes from two sources. An ugly, bare overhead bulp as well as a single very direct light source just beyond the left edge of the frame angling down on the table, her face, neck, shoulders, back of the chair and the little leak filtering through the shadowed triangle formed between her neck, shoulder, bicep and forearm, drawing attention to her left breast, accentuating the nipple.

The magic of it is that anyone with a camera could have made this image but only El Dosouky could make it in a way that is both insinuating of a narrative and resistant to such interpretation, that feels so vibrantly alive and authentic. It’s a scene that is so mundane, we might overlook it we happened upon it unaware. But now we get to revel in it’s glorious wonderment.

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with Kelsey Dylan– [↑] Not a Place–a Feeling (2016); [-] The Anchorite’s Niche (2016); [↓] Opia (2016)

Kelsey and I were able to pull together a quick session while she was in New York in November.

There was nowhere near enough light and I only had 100 speed film on hand but I think we still managed some good snaps.

Also, I think I’m getting a better handle on how to communicate with photographic collaborators. And I’m super excited now that my B&W slide lab is back online. (Can’t wait to get back into serious B&W work again.)

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with Lyndsie Alguire – [↑] The Right Light; [^] A Piece of the Sky; [+] Fever Dream; [v] Invisible Syllable; [↓] Annunciation (2016)

Nothing short of pure joy to work with @suspendedinlight and I could’ve easily included double the images here. (About half turned out really damn well.)

These were the most intriguing and distinctive to my tired eyes, though.

I am already very eagerly anticipating the opportunity of work with Lyndsie again in the future.

Vojtěch V. Sláma – [↖] Catherine in the Pond, Slatina, Czech Republic from Wolf’s Honey series (1998) [↗] Lucy, Jevišovice, Czech Republic from Wolf’s Honey series (2003); [↙] Ka. Te. Mi., Slatina, Czech Republic From Wolf’s Diary series (2006); [↘] On a Schooltrip, Stříbský mlýn, Czech Republic from Wolf’s Honey series (1999)

Is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes? In
perversion […] there are no
“erogenous zones” (a foolish expression, besides); it is intermittence,
as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the
intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing
(trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the
glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather:
the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance.

Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with Kathleen Truffaut – [↑] Atelier (2016); [+] Redolent (2016); [↓] Cauterwaul (2016)

My last trip out to L.A. was pretty much a cluster fuck of truly epic proportions. The highlight of the trip though was meeting and making photos with the angelic and thoroughly intriguing Kathleen Truffaut.

(An extra special shout out to @jacsfishburne–without whom the above would not have happened.)

June CanedoVarious Untitled (201X)

I shouldn’t be as completely over the moon about Canedo’s work as I am–almost without exception she composes vertically, she’s all about Kodak Portra and she’s exploring the currently trendy no man’s land between portraiture, fashion/editorial and so-called lifestyle photography.

But, contrary to everyone else hanging out in that space–her sensibility comes across as generally curious and engaged instead of being just another cookie cutter hipster affectation.

The above photos are my favorite and they fit the theme of this blog. However, I do feel a little conflicted for focusing solely on photos featuring nudity to the exclusion of some of the other work.

For example: Canedo has a bunch of what appear to be medium format film portraits of people in Wal-Mart parking lots. That these images are luminous and enduring is one thing; but as someone who frequently feels a desperate urge to make something against the odds and my own personal stagnation–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about doing something similar in order to run some film through the camera. It’s never something I do–because I’m convinced that there’s no way the ends will justify the means. It works for Canedo, though. And the results are noteworthy.

She also does fashion/editorial work.Yet, although it fits the expected mold for that sort of thing, her work always features a distinctive personal style–low angles re-envisioning the customary tropes into towering and statue-esque abstractions, rendering a cool and detached view of something that is fundamentally unreachable; or a stunningly humane flicker between subject and photography, the splendor of which the viewer sees without ever being fully able to decode the entirety of the context surrounding what they’re seeing.