Source unknown – Nicole Vaunt (2017)

Few places I have ever visited have gotten so thoroughly under my skin as Iceland. If my Seasonal Affective Disorder wasn’t already off-the-charts, I would have moved there by now.

What’s so great about it? If I told you it’s because it’s magical, there would be two distinct  responses: those who will grin stupidly/nod knowingly & those will look askance/skeptical–the former have visited, the latter have not.

I could talk about the light. But the light in-and-of-itself is not entirely exceptional. If you’ve watched any of Bergman’s films–you’ll understand why he and Sven Nyquist strove to work with natural light whenever possible. (Arctic light in the summer is pretty much ripped out of a Romantic Period oil painting.)

The landscape might as well be off-world–the stunning vibrancy of color contrasted against the harsh landscape is something that stops you in your tracks at least a half dozen times each day.

It’s not all rainbows and kittens: most folks view Iceland as a sort of Viking inhabited glacier. (I started having dreams about the place during my middle teens and it was all snowbound and empty. I found out after about a decade of having the dreams that Iceland is green and Greenland is ice–in fact, viking languages were apparently uber literal because the capital of Reykjavik means nothing more or less than ‘smoky bay’ and Iceland in the native languague is really Island; it’s westerners that make it seem like a stronghold of winter.) The weather is hardly perfect. I’ve seen it rain sideways while it’s still blindingly sunny. (But as the saying goes: if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes–as is that ever the fucking truth.)

What appeals to me about this image is the degree to which it–by decontextualizing both the relationship of the landscape to light and color, it demonstrates the degree to which the landscape has texture. (I think that’s something I’ve always felt on an instinctive level but it would’ve taken me several more trips to come to that realization on my own. And as far as I’m concerned that’s really the single credo you need when asking whether or not a photo or image is good: does it show me how to see something that I might otherwise have never discovered? If the answer is yes, then that’s already more than halfway there.)

Davide PadovanSara Pavan (2016)

I feel like photos/images–and just to clarify this blog strives to counter the current conflation of analog processes (photography) with digital media/methods (images) of lens based visual representation–of nude/semi-nude woman reclining supine amidst lush vegetation are a dime a dozen these days.

That being said, there’s something special about this… I want to say ‘photo’–the shadows appear thicker and more viscous than I’m accustomed to seeing from digital–but the beveling at the lower frame edge seems indicative of some sort of post-production intervention… so we’re going to go with ‘image’ in order to exercise appropriate caution.

I feel like representing nude bodies in or against the backdrop of a landscape is a fairly common motif throughout art history. I feel the justification for this ranges from an urge to envision a sort of utopian realm, a preference for timelessness, a juxtaposition between the predictable solidity of the body contrasted with feral flora variegation.

Hopefully, you’ll excuse* the trotting out my overused example of Edward Weston’s famous nude surrounded by desert sand–however, I think one of the reasons they are so memorable to me is because these photos employ more than one justification for their existence:

  1. An interest in contrasting the texture of flesh with the grain of sand;
  2. A sort of vague narrative insinuation that the woman is sunbathing instead of posing for a camera.

The second notion is important because it’s a way of thwarting criticisms of catering to the art historical (lecherously entitled) male gaze.

(I’ve also suggested previously that a figure in a landscape is intrinsically narrative by default.)

Anyway, what I like about this is that it’s doing something I can’t recall ever seeing before: as the industrial world becomes more and more ‘technologically advanced’, there are increasingly insurmountable barriers between humans and the natural world–we don garments to protect against the elements, design and build structures to shelter and protect us. In effect, we are separating ourselves from the natural world of which we are an inherent part and function of.

This image seems to be embodying the same sort of openness to the environment that inspired Walt Whitman to personify nature as if it were his beloved when he wrote in Leaves of Grass: I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked.

*The laziness in recycling this example is due to the fact that I am feverishly working on applications to a handful of MFA programs and I am honestly spread far, far too thin. (But I am committed to keeping this project up and running even if I am thoroughly overwhelmed; thank you for bearing with me.

Eric ChangMiki Modernica (2015)

This image appeared as part of an exclusive series for Treats! Magazine.

I could give less of a fuck about the rest of the images. This one appeals to me though.

Partly, it’s the stone tiles and the blue grey of the concrete setting off the grass’ cobalt green; Partly, it’s my preoccupation with questions of pubic vs private, so any work featuring nude figures ostensibly in public is relevant to my interests.

The question I have is: why the up-tilt? Yes, it more or less splits the frame in half, divided along lines of positive and negative space–which shouldn’t need to be stated but is a terrible composition strategy. Plus, the light reflected on the glass stairway railing is super distracting.

And actually, the more I look at this the more it irks me. I can’t dispute that Chang’s work is visually polished. It looks like quality. The issue I have is that he so frequently all but quotes from other artists. (If you like shit like Where’s Waldo, hop on over to his website and look for where he seemingly cut/pastes elements from Andy Goldsworthy and Tim Walker into his work.

The above references or borrows heavily–I can’t decide which–from Akif Hakan Celebi, Yung Cheng Lin and Miru Kim. I can’t speak for Kim–mainly because I’m in a longstanding feud with her (that she is likely to remain unaware of since I don’t usually broadcast the fact) but I take umbrage to her work. But as far as Celebi and Lin go, both wouldn’t have added an up-titled perspective to this scene even if both would’ve been drawn like moths to flame by the elements of this location.

Alexandra SophieSecret Garden (2014)

I have no idea which came first this project or Natalie Fressel’s Forbidden Fruit but there is absolutely overlap between them.

Fressel is all about color and blunt synecdoche; Sophie is more subdued but she also presents a coy playfulness.

I’d be willing to give both the benefit of the doubt and tout them as promising up-and-comers. Except, well, when you get down to the nitty gritty, Sophie’s work is actually categorically better.

No, it doesn’t have to florid color. The skin tone is a little flat and the grass doesn’t quite pop the way you’d maybe hope from an artist working in color. What is exceptional about these are the positing of the hands.

Now before you start lecturing me about how you didn’t even notice the hands, so why am I banging on about them. Well, that’s my point. Look closer–remembering the oft repeated frustration people express about being in a photograph: I never know what to do with my hands.

The hand positions in this are very obviously staged but not in a way that stands out. (The hint of the fingers in the third frame from the top is freaking ingenious.)

I’m super hesitant to impose meaning on work by artists with which I am only passingly familiar, but the way this is about touch and so much of the dynamic effect depends on the hands, I think under the darlingness of these pretty pictures is a very intense effort to develop a visual language to address representation of a woman’s sexuality. Specifically, I’d be pretty willing to be this project is actually about the relationship between young women and masturbation.

Arno Rafael MinkkinenSandy, Connecticut (1971)

My familiarity with Minkkinen pertains more to his seminal Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

Yes, I would take issues with a few of his tangents but his analogy is otherwise lethally on point.

Given that I was so moved by his words, I was put off by my ambivalence for his images. They reminded me of Jerry Uelsmann–for whom, as someone reasonable skilled in photo manipulation in a traditional darkroom, I have a great deal of respect but whose work does fuck all for me.

Mostly because I’m lazy but also due to the fact that I’m impatient, I didn’t bother to dig deeper into his work.

As it turns out, that was an appreciable mistake. If someone manages to make something that not only speaks with you but connects with you, it’s very rare in my experience that there’s not something similar animating the rest of their work.

Will I ever be into the in-camera optical illusions that typify Minkkinen’s work? Hardly. But, the man really has a knack of translating the feeling of physical intimacy into something visually manifest. That’s no small feat.

Also, I can know see a thread running from Minkkinen to Ahndraya Parlato; a thread that once observed serves to amplify the effect of both.

Source unknown – Title Unknown (201X)

I have objections to this–namely, the camera’s proximity to the action implicates it as a participant/not strictly an observer. The image would’ve been improved dramatically by moving backward say two feet. (Further, you know, DoF could’ve been a little more thoughtfully implemented and a series of unfortunate Photoshop decisions might’ve been avoided.)

Still, the image is super hot and not just because of the graphic penetration. (Also, it bears mention that I am super supportive of this as a depiction of safe sex that doesn’t come off as perfunctory, forced or trite.) I think it appeals to me because there’s enough context to suggest that this is a public environment. But something I’m realizing more and more about myself is depictions of sex that are salaciously focused on reproductive organs just do not do it for me. I want to see an effort to communicate physically the unsayable intensity of passion. Her the kiss is what sells the image and it in no small part reminds me of another equally arousing (though non-pornographic) photograph by Lina Scheynius.

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↑] Les KrimsFall, Fargo Avenue, Facing the West Side Armory, Buffalo, New York (1969)

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↓] Masha Sardari – The Ashen Heart (2013)

Juxtaposition as commentary.

scherbius:

constructed/deconstructed

model Cam Damage

If you aren’t following Cam,  you’re doing Tumblr wrong. Her work is singular, distinctive and almost without exception is of the highest quality.

The above (shot by Zeitgeist Photography) is hand’s down my favorite image of hers. Each panel functions in and of itself so well that even divorced from the others, it would retain its dynamism.

Additionally, breaking the image out in this fashion works more or less like showing your work which solving an equation; the choices the went into constructing them image are implicated in how the image is seen.

It’s damn engaging. And not to detract from it but I would be remiss were I to overlook the obvious parallels with Benoit Paille’s recent work–specifically: Visions/Hyper-reality/suburb as well as the loading docks backdrop.

Paille uses a staggering number of manipulations. (Here’s a glimpse at his process.) For all the fuss, these manipulations only change the images insofar as clarifying the impetus for creating them–highlighting matters of shape, line and form designed to nudge viewers toward noticing how their eyes scan an image.