Cecilia WachterLips (2014)

Lips is a reaction to a culture in which female sexuality
and sex organs are depicted as dirty, shameful, and wrong. The slang
words for female genitalia are crude and degrading; ‘meat wallet,’ ‘fish
taco,’ ‘beef curtains,’ and ‘axe wound’ are all terms that aren’t
uncommon colloquially as well as in pop culture and mass media. Slang
words for ‘penis,’ however, carry themes of strength and domination
(e.g., ‘man muscle,’ ‘anaconda,’ ‘pocket rocket’). Whilst researching
and producing this series, I often thought of an article I once read
that printed the word ‘penis,’ but ‘vagina’ was written as a series of
asterisks. Why are the genitals of one person vilified while comparable
organs on another person are not only socially acceptable, but symbols
of power? From childhood, people with vaginas are told that their vulvas
are embarrassing, abnormal, disgusting, and smelly. As airbrushed
images of the idealized naked human body are increasingly more
accessible to young people, our perception of what is normal has become
flawed and distorted; perhaps as a result, in the past five years, the
numbers of people seeking to alter the external appearance of their
genitals has increased more than fivefold (Hogenboom 2012). Lips is
an attempt to appreciate, embrace, and encourage the divine,
unparalleled beauty of female genitals…. I sought to capture the
intimate intricacies of each of my model’s unique forms, emphasizing
their singularity and beauty.

I believe that this series will be confronting and triggering to my
audience, particularly those with vaginas, and I hope that some of them
may have the same realization that I did while viewing my negatives:
that we are more beautiful than we can imagine. Viewers may be drawn
into a reality that I have imagined, where genitalia can be body parts,
not political statements, and where what we are capable of is not
informed by our gender.

Nobuyoshi Araki Untitled (19XX)

After college, I moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’m not talking McGuinness & Nassau, either. We’re talking practically under the Kosciusko Bridge.

It was a 15 minute walk to the Nassau G and either 13 or 18 (depending on traffic) to the Graham L.

By New York standards, my room was enormous. But I shared a wall with a Dave Grohl wannabe sax player who constantly practiced atonal three note arpeggios at odd hours.

I was only working part time and after commutation expenses, it was a struggle to make rent each month.

At the time, my significant other was in a similar place. We spent a lot of time walking–which really and truly is the best way to get to know this city. We’d hang out at hip bars sipping a beer between us. Anything that was free and appealed to our mutual creative predispositions was a draw. But if you’ve spent any time in this city, you know it’s not a place you want to be poor.

It took us two months to discover the New York Public Library. Not the one with the Lion’s guarding the stairs but the one that’s caddy corner and a block down. Over the next few months, we spent hours there pouring over their photography section.

We scanned work the likes of Steiglitz, Friedlander and Goldin.

Thing was–and I swear I’m circling back to the image above, hang in there–the selection lacked any sort of breadth and instead focused on an obsessive depth. The number of fucking Araki’s books exceeded a plethora to the exponent of plethora.

I remember three things about the work:

  1. An image like this except with an orange and black flower with petals more like a daisy and Araki himself squatting beside the suspended model.
  2. It was the only thing besides Goldin where sexuality figured in any denotative fashion in the photos,
  3. I preferred Goldin even though I found her work exploitative.

My opinion w/r/t Goldin has evolved rather dramatically; my thinking w/r/t Araki has, yes, shifted but it’s less pronounced and far more complicated to explain.

See: on a purely formal level his work is on-point. His compositions are impeccably executed and his work is hugely influential: would Wolfgang Tillmans be a name anyone knew if Araki hadn’t shot highly styles hair and eyes? Probably not. (Also, the shit he shoots that subtly skewers skewers fake sets in high profile fashion shoots–looking at you, Tim Walker–are about as good as polemical provocations get.)

I can’t even really argue that Araki should pursue more aggressive edits. If he’s published it, it’s almost certainly publication worthy. My primary continued objection to his work (beyond the aggressive heteronormativity of it) has to do–synchronously enough–with an idea I encountered more or less concurrent with my first encounter with the work: William Ian Miller’s The Anatomy of Disgust. In it he attempts to analyze why humans experience feelings of disgust.

One of his points is that profusion is–almost counter-intuitively–a potential locus for disgust. I don’t completely recall the rational underlying this assertion but it absolutely serves in application to my queasiness regarding Araki: there’s too much that’s too good.

The thing that’s especially galling is the fact that almost seems to be the point of the exercise. And I’m no less sure how I feel about that now than I did eight years ago.

Source unknown – Title Unknown (201X)

I suspect the image maker intended to nominate a single image to represent the entire sequence. (Or, perhaps, the context whereby I initially encountered them was individual and not collective.)

Each frame features both compelling and distracting features. For example:

  • (top left) This features the best composition including her nostril in a way that allows the sudden shift to black to operate in a thoroughly flattering fashion. The down side is that while my brain immediately makes the connection that it’s cum spilling over her lower lip, the artsy chiaroscuro could also mean it’s spit or one of those ostentatiously sexual popped bubble gum photos.
  • (top right) If this image had the entirety of her nostril in the frame, it would easily would’ve been the one to rule them all; except for that oversight, it’s a better frame in the way it uses space more interestingly by cutting out the distracting flyaway hair above her ear from the previous frame disappears. Plus, it’s clear that the substance in her mouth can only be semen. Zoom in close and check out the texture in the highlight that contributes dimensionality to the greyer air bubble area.
  • (bottom left) You could argue that the upper right frame has the best skin tone. I’d say that this one is better because the highlights blow out just a little more evenly and although I haven’t dragged it into Photoshop, I’m prett sure this one features the most detail in her lips. The composition is a little wonky, tho. She’s tilting her head slightly into the light and the upper margin makes it seem as if she’s uncomfortable. (I’d also argue that the focus is a tad bit sharper her, probably due to the additional light.)
  • (lower right) I want this one to be so much better than it is. I think it suffers from the worst skin tone, composition, color but there’s also something perverse about it the fact that you can see a little ways into the darkness; see that she’s wearing what is–to my untrained eye–a nice sweater and that this is either a bathroom or a kitchen. (There’s a sink behind her, unless I’m mistaken…) This uses light in a way that I try and with which I am subsequently always disappointed in the results.)

Yet, when they are re-collected and presented as a series… the continuity between the frames bridges the gaps in each of the individual images. In that way it’s clever. And it shows a certain inspired instinct in that this isn’t the sort of image I’d normally be interested in, much less turned on by.



Source: as best as I can tell these six images were likely gathered and arranged by fulme. (The top-center image seems to predate this assemblage.)

In theory, I am a proponent of bricolage.

However, if you are working digitally, there is very little that isn’t at hand for you to use. To me this muddies the already precarious distinction between ‘formal’ collage and MacGyver free association.

I don’t know how to illustrate it except to point to another image that was making the Tumblr rounds back in early October. It’s a really solid idea but the execution is lame brained–half a grapefruit on a white background super-imposed over what looks like the legs of a model wearing a white one-piece American Apparel swimsuit.

On the other hand, the six images above were carefully selected. The similarity in tonal range and luminosity is striking. Further, the arrangement serves to activate the images in different ways, promoting interplay, building and relieving tension by means of line, color, echoing of shape, conceptual mirror, etc.

Highly astute work deserving of recognition.


Joanna Szproch [also : The Quiet Front & Dripbook]

Welcome to Swoon Town. Population: me.

This. Is. Just… woah & woah again & amen.

Yes, it flouts conventions I drone on & on about: hands cut off at the left frame edge, legs amputated mid-calf by the right third of the upper margin.

Underlying these choices, however, is a logic strengthening the ambiguity of Eva’s pose: is she being lowered into the water or pulled from it?

& ambiguity in keeping with the image’s liminality; lingering as it does between color & desaturation; at once strong & vulnerable, artful & lascivious.

I cannot even begin to list the host of things that go through my head when I look at this image. But two things seem vital to mention. First, I am jealous of Eva. Not because she is so much prettier than me & not because I wish this was me instead of her (even though I do a little, okay: a lot.). It’s that I want to be seen by someone (anyone, honestly) the way Szporch sees Eva through her camera.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure: I wish I had made this image. It is chapter & verse the sort of work I try–& more of than not fail–to make.



Work by Oscar Delmar (Watercolor and graphite)

Onomatopoeic words tend to grate on my ears even if I am intrigued by the concept of a word’s sound being its meaning.

Similarly synesthesia fascinated me; although, again, I am less interested in someones seeing the number one as blue than in the fact such an associative experience happens.

These and other word-concepts like them make me wish there were a term indicating a unity between medium and message. It would prove a helpful too for talking about images like this where the medium and the process involved in creating the final image bestows great authenticity to the truth of the message–  watercolor, the wet and mess of lips, tongues and teeth & the surreal impression of immediacy, color and texture upon execution that is rendered when the colors dry, respectively.

vanishing / Nicole / slowly, she did by Alessandra Celauro

Increased proximity to a subject expands the detail seen. But expanded detail comes at the expense of contextual clues with regard to the position of the subject and the relationship between the subject and its surroundings, etc.

Such is the primary reason I have such a profound distaste for close-ups.

This series is a notable exception; here, the lack of context adds a salacious charge.

The tight focus on the open mouth, pink lips, elastic bubblegum and tongue provides the viewer with an unusual vantage. Beyond the center images title, all cues with regard to gender, age and positioning in space/time are absent.

Although the images are stridently coy, there seems to be an anticipation of this criticism on the part of the image maker that is at least partially ameliorated by titling the images.

Still I can’t help thinking the cleverness of the work is just a smoke screen covering an inquiry much closer to spirit of Eadweard Muybridge work on Leland Stanford’s behalf.

Either way, it’s solid work from a talented young image maker.

This post is guest curated by azura09:

When I had a crashpad membership recently, one of my favorite videos included a scene where a Domme made her sub hold the chain to her nipple clamps in the manner above while she was aggressively fucked.

There were many things I liked about this scene: how the Domme was assertive without being cruel, how the sub followed orders in an almost casual way, and how gleeful this sustained rough sex obviously made both of them.

It’s true that there are some tricky things to navigate when one partner enjoys being objectified during sex, and I certainly wouldn’t want to downplay the reservations some people may have toward this kind of roleplay. 

Then again, I don’t want to avoid the fact that I find consensual objectification, especially when my girlfriend is hellbent on being a good girl, hot.

In reasons related to this, I’m attracted to how the girl in this photo is holding the chain fast between her teeth as if the idea of decreasing the pain to her nipples has occurred to her, but she is wholly intent on resisting this impulse.




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Great googly moogly aren’t freckles goddamned sexy as fuck?

And their effusion on this young woman’s shoulders and face is truly resplendent.

Now I could follow my usual knee-jerk rabbit trail with regard to composition—a horizontal frame would have almost certainly improved this photograph—but the freckles seem more the point.

Photography and digital imaging distill the space and time of a select visible area down to a two-dimensional representation. In the process, a great deal is changed and/or lost completely.

To a degree, image makers exercise control over what remains in the picture. For that reason, I am constantly unnerved that given a field of so many options the results of what stays and what goes tend to be so starkly homogenous.

Most images provide a record of an objects position in a particular spatial field at a given moment in time. How often though is the object treated as more than an insinuation representation of itself? Or, to say it in a less abstract way: when was the last time you say an image wherein skin was presented as more than the container for representation identity or a symbolic placeholder?

It’s not just pictures of people, it’s fabric, wood, everything. Photography fails more often than it succeeds to give solidity to its representations. A means of accomplishing that is beginning to think less strictly visually. There is this amazing sensory overlap between sight and sound—a sort of synesthesia that everyone shares: the sight of different textures affects our eyes differently, in a way that is—in fact—somewhere between seeing and feeling.

For example, consider this image of coffee beans ground to varying coarseness. By looking at them you see the different visual texture but that impression is processed in some fashion as an awareness that each feels different.

That’s ultimately what I adore about this image: her freckles add texture to her skin and thus weight and solidity to her body. She is not a representation; she’s a living, breathing, dreaming being with fears, hopes and ideas who also happens to be breathtakingly beautiful.