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.

Sebastián GherrëBare, Love your-self tattoo (2018)

I really like Gherrë‘s work.

And while I love the closeness and intimacy this exudes… it’s technically a mess.

Whatever he used to edit the scan of this image is incompatible with any photo editing software I have–and I’m running at least three different ones–as far as that goes.

Interestingly: downloading the image and opening it in Photoshop results in an incompatibility error and it tells you it’ll open the file but using existing settings. The result is actually a much less muddy or murky image–but one that is admittedly flatter.

I decided to evaluate it against the zone system and illustrate that with a .gif (I’ve selected all pixels in a given zone and deleted them):


There’s essentially no additional detail after Zone VII.

Thus we’re left with extremely compressed shadow tonalities and mid-tones are hanging out where we’d generally still expect to be dealing with shaded tones.

The walls are effectively where we’d expect skin tones and there’s no highlight detail to speak of.

The original negative is doubtlessly underexposed. But the subsequent editing is actually an especially ill-advised strategy given that analog has greater headroom when it comes to overexposure than digital does. Digital, on the other hand, doesn’t have a true black and is better handling low light situations as a result.

From the standpoint of maximizing output results it would be advisable to compress the highlights here and try to give the shadows a little bit more breathing room.

Still… it’s an intriguing image from someone who is clearly very good at what he does.

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

The ubiquity of built in flash systems (point and shoot devices, smart phones, prosumer dSLRs, et al.) has fostered an understanding of the flash as a tool to increase illumination in low-light situations.

A clearer way of putting it might be to say that a flash is increasingly treated as a key light thus relegating ambient light to the function of a fill light.

This is in keeping with magnesium flash lamps of the late 19th century and the flashbulbs of the early-to-mid 20th century. Slowly, studio photography appropriated the flash in service of painstakingly orchestrated lighting design. There are and will continue to be outliers–Diane Arbus, for example, used a flash in a great deal of her exterior shots as a means of separating the subject from the background.

But strictly speaking if the purpose of a photograph is to freeze time, then a flash is meant to freeze motion. (Consider that most flashes have a maximum shutter sync (on the slow end) of 1/250th of a second. For those who aren’t die hard shutter bugs: ignoring film speed and aperture, it’s usually only possible to take a picture hand-held–without camera shake–down to about 1/30th of a second with an SLR type system. Rangefinders give you a bit deeper of a basement; I can operate handheld sans noticeable shake with a rangefinder down to about 1/8th of a second.)

I’m being overly persnickety and pedantic on this point because the flash here is not only the key light in this scene. It’s a motivated key light–it’s easy to think that there’s a lamp overhead and that’s the source of the light (even if an overhead lamp would never give off that much or that sharp of a reflected illumination).

The motion that is being frozen is not a sudden, dynamic motion–stretching the languid, perhaps even somewhat tender moment of this pulling of foreskin into the realm of the timeless and infinite.

It also reminds me of William Eggleston’s The Red Ceiling due to the similarities in the way the use of flash interacts with the composition and the way in which how what is seen (it’s aesthetic) is emphasized over what is seen.

Eadweard MuybridgeJumping Over a Boy’s Back {Leapfrog} from the Animal Locomotion series (1872-1985)

Like any good art student, I hear Muybridge and experience a Pavlovian response where Horse in Motion pops into my head.

And it’s not a bad association but I tend to think of Muybridge as a scientist who used photography as his laboratory.

Unfortunately, that’s been a barrier to really exploring his work. It’s not that I don’t like science, it’s more that I struggle with thinking of a photograph as evidence. Or, as Wolfgang Tillmans has correctly observed: “photography always lies about what is in front of the camera but never lies about what is behind.”

I feel like that’s actually the perfect quote to contextualize Muybridge. Yes: his work leads with a rigorous precision. However, I feel like that’s maybe more a statement about Muybridge’s personality than an accurate account as the scope, form or function of his work.

During a lecture earlier this week I was shocked at the sensual, Whitman-esque humanism of some of his work. Like some of it is straight up erotic in it’s obsessive fixation on an effort to measure the differences between motion as we perceive it and motion as an amalgam of discrete, constituent parts.

This isn’t the best example but I couldn’t find the one from the lecture–but I still think this is pretty damn daring, actually.

Also, Rebecca Solnit–one of our best living essayist–wrote a biography on him. I started reading it a while back but didn’t finish because it started to get into the scientific facets of the work that just presented an obstacle to my engaging with the proceedings. I suspect I am going to have to revisit it when I have some free time. (And who the hell knows when that’ll be… going to grad school FT and working FT is rough, y’all.)

[↑] Lisa YuskavageReclining Nude (2009); [↖] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [↗] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [+] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [←] Helias DoulisUntitled from Blossoms of Solitude (2016); [→] Alexandre HaefeliUntitled from The Company of Men series (2016); [-] Source unknown – Title Unknown (2014); [↙] Ismael GuerrierSacred Garden #1 (2018); [↘] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [↓] Source unknown – Title unknown (19XX)

Follow the thread.

[↖] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X) ; [↗] Source unknown – Title unknown {desaturated} (201X); [↑] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [^] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X);[←] Source unknown – Title unknown {desaturated} (201X);  [→] Source unknown – Title unknown {desaturated} (201X); [↙] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [↘] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [-] Devils Film – Transsexual Gangbangers #19 feat. Annabelle Lane {desaturated} (2017); [↓] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

To be free of fear is to be full of Love.

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

This has catalyzed an intense chain reaction of thoughts in my brain.

As I’ve mentioned like a bazillion times: I grew up in an Xtian doomsday cult. The sex education I received basically entailed two pieces: masturbation is a sin & the unscientific concluding post-script condoms don’t reliable prevent pregnancy of the transmission of STDs.

I mean my mom did buy me a book (James Dobson’s Preparing for Adolescence–if you’re ever irresponsibly bored and have an afternoon to dedicate to fomenting outrage, I’d recommend it).

What I learned about sex arrived initially through my friends, depictions of sex in Hollywood movies and a little bit later on: porn.

It was all about volume and voids–a volume introduced to a void and, in so doing, both realize their latent purpose.

As much as Xtian folks liked to talk shit about Freud’s ideas, their objections were less with his framework than with his insistence about openly discussing sex and sexuality.

In fact, there was a good bit of overlap between Freud’s conceptualization and their own. His notion that the presence of a penis and the conjoined realization that it was possible to be without a penis introduced castration anxiety, while the realization that not having a penis introduced penis envy.

Framing things in terms of volumes and voids creates this tension between giving and taking. It’s a tension that I’ve never really understood and is something which is so heavily tied up in my personal experience of cis-heteronormative politics that I have trouble seeing my way around any of it.

I have never really related to wanting to fill or be filled. I want to be emptied out.

I think to me this is just about the best way I’ve stumbled upon to express my sense of myself as queer.

In my late teens, I somehow stumbled onto Dan Savage’s Savage Love column when it was still in The Village Voice.

If Dan Savage was my first real honest-to-goodness provider of sex education, it was Tristan Taormino’s superb companion column Pucker Up which served as my crash course in how to stop being a kink shaming prude and learn to embrace new/different experiences and expand your horizons.

I specifically remember reading one of her columns where she talked about anal fisting. One of the persons interviewed talked about the feeling of having someone fist deep in your colon was a borderline transcendent experience.

The look on this dude’s face while he’s the meat in an MMM sandwich makes me think that there might be some merit to the notion that certain acts of sexual extremity can–in fact–bring about transcendent states.

Beyond that though this is really the first time I’ve experienced a desire to be a void waiting to be filled.

It reminds me of an interview Stoya did for Jezebel in conjunction with her new book Philosophy, Pussycats & Porn where while decrying the lack of substantive sex ed in the US, she also points out that:

[Porn] can be used to get a window into things that you might not want to
participate in yourself, like, for instance, with the more intense BDSM
stuff it can be a really good idea to experience some pornography about
it first, and imagine yourself in those shoes, before you do something
that risks being too intense. It can be a way of feeling out desires
instead of just diving straight in.

I would go a step further and say that as long as their is a rigorously fact based sex education component in place, pornography when consumed with a modicum of mindfulness can introduce you to things you never knew interested you but suddenly you are curious about.