Jacque JordãoUntitled (2016)

As best as I can tell, Jordão is a Brazilian model with a killer fashion sense with an impressively varied range of projects in her portfolio.

Her Tumblr usually credits other photographers–there this is likely a self-portrait.

Technically, this makes a number of ‘mistakes’. For example: the reason that so many photographers and image makers prefer to work with seamless backdrops is so that the location becomes less of a consideration that the subject. (Also, you can light the subject in any fashion you choose with much less effort than working in an actual real-life environment with light shifting over time, physical obstacles getting in the way, etc.)

This notes he contrast of the bright white wall and the less brilliant white mortar and dark bricks as an astute backdrop for a monochrome image.

This is actually underexposed–likely a feature of this almost certainly being taken with a kit zoom lens, wherein the fixed aperture limits exposure adjustments to ISO and shutter speed. (This is almost certainly a lower ISO–as there really is very little noise.)

I haven’t actually opened this in Photoshop to check the histogram, but my gut says there’s probably 2/3 of a stop before the highlights well and truly blow–and you can usually pull them back just enough in post so they aren’t pure white.

Objectively, it likely would’ve been preferable to figure out what you’d need to set the shutter speed at to show detail in her hair, then split the difference between that and the settings which produced this image.

Yet… I can’t really fault things too much–because although the choices that went into producing this are arguably less than pristine, they do actually work. For example, I’d usually complain about the failure to align verticals with the left and right frame edges. Here, I can’t.

The downward tilt of the camera suggests that the viewer is roughly the same height as the model but is looking down in a submissive fashion. There is–fundamentally within the image at the level of visual grammar: a sense that the subject is intimidating.

In tandem with the way Jacque is standing in the shadow of the potted fern, with her hair swooping low over her right eye–there’s an added layer of enigma in the way her expression and even whether or not she’s looking at the camera remain inscrutable.

uttermusik – Submission to transqueersxxx (2012)

On Loving by Forugh Farrokhzad

Tonight from your eyes’ sky
stars rain on my poem,
my fingers spark, set ablaze
the muteness of these blank pages.

My fevered, raving poem shamed by its desires,
hurls itself once again into fire, the flames’ relentless craving.

Yes, so love begins,
and though the road’s end is out of sight, I do not think of the end.
It’s the loving that I love.

Why shun darkness?
The night abounds with diamond drops. Later, jasmine’s intoxicating scent lingers on the spent body of night.

Let me lose myself in you
till no one can find my trace. Let your dewy sigh’s fevered soul waft over the body of my songs.

Wrapped in sleep’s silk
let me grow wings of light,
fly through its open door
beyond the world’s fences and walls.

Do you know what I want of life?
That I can be with you, you, all of you, and if life repeated a thousand times, still you, you, and again, you.

Concealed in me is a sea: how could I hide it? How could I describe the typhoon inside?

I’m so filled with you
I want to run through meadows,
bash my head against mountain rocks, give myself to ocean waves.

I’m so filled with you
I want to crumble into myself like a speck of dust, to gently lay my head at your feet,
cling fast to your weightless shadow.

Yes, so love begins,
and though the road’s end is out of sight, I do not think of the end
for it’s the loving I so love.

Olaf Martens – Sabine I, Nordhausen (1983)

I effing love this. Part of it is the color–that red is to die for and there’s just enough pale magenta at the edge for the frame to de-emphasize the garish tapestry-esque table cloth.

And while everything in the frame–decor, the dark liquor in an ornate rocks glass, the CRT television set–screams 1950′s housewife fetish, I’m more into the sheerness of the material.

The first nude photo session I ever did was almost two decades ago, now. The model was my significant other and she was interested in posing nude but had some reservations about what might happen if the pictures got out into the world.

She had this silk scarf that was enormous and actually more like a shawl that was see through. I suggested that perhaps she use that to cover up if it made her feel more comfortable.

She loved the idea and the pictures ended up being far more revealing that I ever expected them to be. It was as if that thin piece of fabric was like some sort of armor that allowed her to feel empowered and invulnerable.

The pictures weren’t especially good and I’m uncertain whether I still even have them. So much in erotic image making depends on what is shown and what remains hidden. I humbly submit that perhaps what you can see but not completely or clearly is arguably more sexy than either of the aforementioned extremes.

Source unknown – Title unknown (19XX)

It’s one thing to direct one person to stand here or there, glance through the viewfinder, weave and bob for a bit in order to find an acceptable frame before clicking the shutter.

It’s another altogether to make a frame work with multiple people.

And to be fair: the above only works halfway. Here I think its more productive to approach what doesn’t work first.

For a photograph to demand a modicum of detective work of the viewer is not necessarily a bad thing insofar as the image provides enough context for a diligent viewer to at least attempt to ‘solve’ the mystery given only the presented visual evidence.

Here I think arguably the best starting point is to ask: what in blazes are the women at 5 o’clock and 9:30 doing?

An answer is implied–if only winkingly; note at frame left: the cups on the end table and the bottle between the table leg and the base of the couch.

Thus, I don’t think it’s really that much of a stretch to presume everyone is a bit soused.

(And with that context, the woman at 9:30′s mien becomes much easier to ‘read’–she’s so intoxicated she’s on the threshold of blacking out.)

My experience suggests the binge drinking explanation is correct. For example: Among my friends it’s a well established fact that given a fifth of vodka, my ability to navigate the finer points of sitting on a couch grows progressively jumbled. I’m certain I’ve ended up in a position mirroring the woman at 5 o’clock on more occasions than I should admit publicly. (Ed. Note: this is why the author’s friends no longer allow them to consume vodka under any circumstances whatsoever.)

So although the poses are at best odd (and more likely awkward), the information offered suggests a clear explanation.

Compounding the oddity and or awkwardness of the poses is the flash. Note: the way Ms-Stretching-Her-Back-And-Staring-Up-At-The-Ceiling casts a ugly shadow Ms Approaching-Black-Out-Drunk.

However, although this aspect of the flash doesn’t work, it was a great choice in other regards. It de-emphasizes the reflective qualities of the mirror and renders a super flattering even light on the woman sitting on the couch back. (Who, I have to add looks uncannily like a dear friend–it’s partly her facial features and partly the foot on the other woman’s knee, which is exactly the sort of thing my friend would do while mugging for the camera. Also, I’m probably the only one here but the position of the mirror and the vertical frame remind me of my third favorite painting of all time–Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Wedding Party.)

Okay, so there’s some clumsy shit here: the ambiguity about what’s happening and the cast shadow. The ambiguity is–to my mind–clearly ameliorated given the broader context of the photograph. The cast shadow is a definitely detracts but since its a result of the flash and the flash adds an undeniably immediacy to the moment, what is one to do?

It’s likely the photographer already had their back–quite literally–against the wall. Given the couch and the mirror on the wall, the vertical frame is both logically appropriate and aesthetically wise. (A horizontal frame could’ve probably allowed for positioning the women within the frame better/having their relative positions in the frame relate to one another more organically; but it would almost certainly have compromised the intimate feeling that the vertical frame conveys here.)

Perhaps, it would’ve been possible to shift Ms-Stretching-Her-Back-And-Staring-Up-At-The-Ceiling ever so slightly left and then cheating Ms Approaching-Black-Out-Drunk right by a hair.

But a better way would’ve been to only include three people. (Whenever possible it’s always better to work with odd numbers of people. As anyone with a lot of freckles and a tendency to tune out when people drone on about boring shit knows: any three non-linear dots form a triangle, so odd numbered groupings, with a little thought and organization can be arranged into to triangular configurations.)

Dmitry ChapalaTitle unknown (201X)

I like the idea here. Porting body rituals undertaken in private into a public setting is always going to be something that gooses me.

The problem is: this is almost certainly ripping off an incontrovertibly better image–this photo by Igor Mukhin.

Plus the execution is sloppy as fuck. There is flat out no goddamn reason this image should’ve ever been anything other than horizontally oriented. It’s some offensively egregious #skinnyframebullshit.

Take Me To Your BedroomUntitled from A Bottle of White series (201X)

From the outset, I should mention that I have way, waay too many feels about this image to approach it critically. There are a number of things that in all probability are highly problematic with this frame–but I’m not really able to go there.

Why? Well, where to even begin…

I flat out do not understand why the parameters for being ‘normal’ and ‘well-adjusted’ so frequently demand a sort of pre-dissociative state. It’s like this is the compartment where my work experiences go, so let me put on my work person-mask and get down to tit. Oh, this is the cubbyhole where my personal experiences go, let me put on my personal person-mask. We are ourselves perpetually for the time between our mothers and some maggots, why are we so damned and all fired determined to equivocate?

I know it’s not always that simple to dodge such equivocation. I mean consider our language. What percentage of our words describe visual stimulus? There’s words referencing a spectrum of light to dark, the totality of color, texture, etc. With sound we have a widely varied set of linguistic indicators–but (and I don’t know this for certain, I’m merely thinking out loud) there’s probably half the available words that describe what we hear than the total of words to name what we see. Smell and taste being a physiological response with overlap, feature much of the same language–which again is only a fraction of the total available sound describing words. When we get down to touch–what’s left: hot, cold, dry, wet, hard, soft, rough and smooth, essentially.

I know there are exceptions and that I am committing the most grievous sin of generalizing here but it feels like we use this sort of either or dichotomy when it comes to touch as a means of ordering shades and tonalities that do exist between extremes but are very difficult to fit to words.

For example: it’s very difficult to express concern, empathy and sympathy to someone who is grieving. We reach for stupid cliches–I’m sorry for your loss. How the fuck can you be–the nature of my feeling of loss is goddamn singular you fatherfucker! That’s part of what sucks so much is it’s a burden that only one person can carry.

I know there’s the whole sexist society coloring things as far as the experience of physical things go–the bullshit virgin whore dichotomy–another either/or for you. And you can’t discount that as it seeps its toxic way into everything. I’d like to think there’s another way, somehow.

It’s easy to point at monogamy and other aspects of patriarchal heteronormativity as roadblocks. And I’m aware that a counter-criticism can be leveled against me that I’m just cratchety because I am terminally unrequited. But honestly, although it’s true that I do feel terminally unrequited, I do not sit around all day bemoaning the fact that no one wants to fuck me. What frustrates me is that I almost never know the right words. I’ll frequently try to explain what I’m thinking or feeling to someone and they’ll be like, yeah, sure, I get it. And I’ll be like do you? I have no idea. With touch it’s clearer… or maybe that’s a poor way of putting it. If touch is misunderstood, the misunderstand is like a jolt of electricity–there’s no ambiguity as to whether or not things haven’t been muddled somehow.

As usual, I’m abstracting. Let me try to be concrete: during my Junior year of college was one of the three times in my life I’ve been suicidal. I was very close with my flatmates–even though I’d known not a one of them prior to moving in with them. Amadine (not her real name) had the room next to mine. I wasn’t as close with her as some the other five, but she was always staggeringly kind to me.

Everyone knew I wasn’t in a particularly good place but I think Amadine was the only one who picked up that it was actually a far worse place than I was letting on. With only maybe two exceptions, for three months, she would get up just before I was leaving for the day and stand in the hallway between me and the front door. She’s spread her arms and say sleepily: hug. And she wouldn’t budge until I complied.

The first couple of times I was furious with her. Everything about it felt manipulative. But since she always went out of her way to be so exceedingly kind, I couldn’t really justify how angry her insistence made me.

At first, she’d end up just hugging me. I refused to hug her back. She’d hold on until seconds before I felt like I might actually murder someone and then she’d step aside and let me leave.

By the end of things, I virtually lived for those morning hugs. She’d always be the last one to let go and would hold me for as long as I let her.

Her hugs weren’t passive either. She was attentive with something I can only refer to as openness and presence in the moment. Sometimes it felt as if she was trying to comfort me, other times calm me, other times still it was very clear that she felt sad and needed to feel connected to someone.

So while the polyamory/group sex implication of the image above appeals to me, what I appreciate most about it is the emphasis on touch and the ambiguity as to whether or not it’s merely intended as physical or if it’s also sexual (and if it is the latter, the openness to reciprocation absent any expectation for it.)

I’d like to be this open about myself, my body and my desires with those who matter to me. There are just for me times that words will always fail to convey what a touch (simple, sexual or otherwise) can. Sometimes you need to hug, be hugged, slap or be slapped, kiss and be kissed, come and be made to come. It doesn’t have to be about romance or love or lust, it can just be a profound need to communicate something in a way that is immediate and entirely clear.

Lux Aeterna Girl – Untitled (2014)

(I’m not 100% on the source for this. The original post appears to be a now defunct Tumblr named luxaeternagirl; thus I have credited it as such. If that’s incorrect, please let me know and I will edit the attribution.)

This isn’t a good image–not even close. The camera is off-center a foot and panned right about 15 degrees to attempt to compensate. I understand that after cars, bathrooms are some of the most difficult places to shoot due to them almost always being small and cramped but the two shadows in the upper left and right alone with the angle of the tub edge in the lower right corner is really effing distracting.

What I will say is that given what is probably a single incandescent overhead fixture, the skin tone here is very much on point. It has that natural peach tonality that you get from remembering the rule of thumb w/r/t skin tone: Red > Blue > Green.

The rendering of the skin is super important here–by getting it right, it makes the fact that both participants skin is flushed red more discernible. The edge of the left partner is obvious along the outside of the ears; while the partner on the right has reddening ears, faces and neck. It might almost be sunburn but with the pale complexion in tandem with body language, it seems more likely that she’s just extremely aroused.

And that is what distinguishes these images: chemistry. There is no questioning the primacy of their physical desire for one another. The partner on the right in the top image is doing the hesitant if-I-so-much-as-feel-your-skin-I-will-lose-any-trace-of-self-control; the way the partner on the left is leaning in, in an effort to draw the other out. The response in the second image doesn’t give in so much as beg for defenses to be laid to waste, to earn the victory by no other means except total surrender.

To me–chemistry like this is what is missing from 95% of erotic work. And it’s a shame, really… because were effort expended on facilitating it–less artful work (much like this) would shine in spite of it’s technical shortcomings because it would present a record of physical desire it would also simultaneously illustrate something true about the psychology of physical desire.