Joan E. Biren AKA JEBMy Lover, My Feet (1978)

At first glance, this appears to be a symmetrical, center-weighted composition. However, as you look closer you begin to see that although the moulding is used as a frame within a frame device that there’s a larger margin between the right moulding and frame edge than there is on the left.

Additionally, the focal plane is closer to the wall on the left than it is on the right–indicated by the encroachment of the seam joining the wall to the ceiling that juts obliquely into the frame a third of the way from left to right. (This makes the mirror appears centered in the frame, even though it is not actually so if you take the time to measure it.)

But notice the positioning of the photographers feet as well as her lover’s body–not the angle of view puts the toes of her left foot closer to the body and the toes of her right foot (in addition to the angle of her instep being more open; also the body laying on the floor echoes that openness) conveys an awareness of the relationship between representation of space via reflection and 2D rendering.

It’s freaking ingenious. Every time I encounter a new photo JEB made I’m floored by how amazing her eye is.

Girls Delta – Untitled feat. Rio Kakizaki (2017)

Parallax refers to the way different viewpoints change the way something is seen.

This image is staged so the viewer is allowed access to a personal/private moment under the guise of experiencing someone elses POV.

With mirrored reflections–it’s almost always an either/or situation: either the subject sees their reflection ideally or things are cheated to favor the cameras access to the ideal reflection.

Given the position of the mirror above, this is cheated to privilege the camera. In other words, despite the fiction it purports–i.e. that Kakizaki is curiously checking out her own genitalia in the mirror–it is unlikely that given the position and placement of everything that she’s got any sort of instructional view.

Thus, to the extent that this image might give someone permission to embrace curiosity about their body, I think it’s useful.

To the extent that it shrouds its voyeurism by co-opting a woman’s curiosity about her own body, it’s critically and conceptually underdeveloped and lazily executed.

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

I think the point of what’s being depicted here is arguably better presented given the following reframing:

You lose the distraction of the handles on the bathroom cabinets, power outlets and although I do love the angle of the top of her foot perched on top of the counter, the angle of it and the way it aligns with that brighter area from the window behind her (and the way that lines up in the original with the side of the window) is super distracting.

You are losing the view of her bum but for me what appeals to me is what happening with her face. I’d have likely framed it so that the inner thigh of her left leg dictated the left frame edge. But you’d have needed either a slight shift in the camera position or a different lens to pull that off. (I could’ve just cropped it but I did make an effort to preserver the original aspect ratio.)

Honestly, I’m much more intrigued by what her arm is doing in the mirror than I am by actually seeing-not-seeing what she’s doing with her fingers. (That sudden gasp/jaw drop at the loop point is tres adorbs.)

wonderlust photoworksγνῶθι σεαυτόν in collaboration with @kyotocat (2018)

With the exception of a few days scatter here and there through the worst wilds of winter, it’s been viciously cold here in NYC. Today was a bit better–even if there is still a lingering chill in the air that is not at all normal for here.

In an effort to sum up the state of things one of the high end liquor stores on my walk home had a sign out front reading: this weather is more confusing than my teenage daughter.

It’s not that it’s a bad joke (it’s awful); it’s not that cliché (the union of forty-something straight white cis dads from the 1970s called and wants their joke back) and it’s not that it punches down instead of up–it’s victim blaming.

If young women are ‘confusing’ maybe it’s less due to the fact that they’re hormonal while trying to negotiate cryptic boundaries/navigate societal expectations with regard to gendered embodiment and perhaps due in large part to the complete contradictions our society imposes on them with regard to their appearance, behaivor and even physical being.

The expectation to be attractive without being so attractive that you invite unwanted attention. Because no matter what you do–there’ll be someone who isn’t happy about it.

I’ve talked with too many femme friends who all offer variations on the theme of men started looking at me different, treating me differently and behaving differently toward me long before I ever even started puberty. Everything from then on was less about me and my own autonomy and instead was about making a space to exist and feel if not safe then at least not always threatened.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies–positivity towards them and acceptance of them. The idea started out as a result of something I read years ago about a young woman who curious about why she was dirty or disgusting because of her genitals decided to get a good look at them in a hand mirror. Instead of finding something unappealing, she was fascinated by the lips, ridges and folds. She realized through nothing more than the act of looking closely that everything she had been told was wrong and that her body was beautiful, miraculous even.

This is just as much for young women–who through the glut of false expectations foisted by porn–think their own labia aren’t normal/attractive. It’s also for those who experience dysphoria related to their genitalia–because it’s not always about learning to love/accept what you’ve got.

The title is in ancient Greek–which is insufferably pretentious–but it’s known widely enough that it doesn’t strike me as hermetic. It means know thyself and was allegedly the inscription over the enterance to the oracle at Delphi. (A place well known for giving cryptic but astonishingly prescient advice–the disconnect between the wisdom/efficacy of the advice and the resulting actions endeavored based upon the advice given frequently catastrophically hinging on folks really not having a clue about their essential nature.)

And huge thanks to Kyotocat for working with me through a bazillion different variations on this concept before nudging me in the direction of something that didn’t immediately come crashing down under it’s own weight of self-serious import.


(via girlswithcameras)

Nastasija Trill’ – Parts (2009)

As an image this doesn’t completely work. (Based on the way she’s holding the camera, this was taken at a cant and then cropped in post. This positioning was likely a result of wanting to keep her arms in this particular pose–which makes sense because check out the exquisite shadow that’s cast by her right breast on the wall behind her. Proper landscape orientation would’ve de-emphasized the up-thrust of the vertical mirror, drawn more attention to the angled light slanting through the slated shades and just overall made better balance between positive and negative space. I’ll stop short of labeling this #skinnyframebullshit, however–given the custom of horizontal orientation being a code for depicting secular conventions and vertical orientation being favored for spiritual consideration/prompting worship, this fits like a glove with the latter.)

It’s also a clever visual pun. There’s the pair in her lap and the pairing of a pair of breasts via the reflection. (My brain then subsequently rockets on to relating this to that bible story about Jesus allegedly feeding a multitude with only a small quantity of fish and loaves of bread and wondering if it was like a modern magic trick that used mirrors onto the statement about illusion smoke and mirrors… each and ever step of the way seeming to fit the image’s implications a little too astutely.)

Janice Guy – Untitled (1979)

Murray Guy is one of the most preeminent galleries for photography, film and video.

Janice Guy is the co-founder and co-owner through March 2017.

She founded the gallery in the 1990s after moving to NYC from Düsseldorf, Germany.

In Düsseldorf, she studied photography at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, working closely with Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Being a woman and a photographer preoccupied with self-portraiture, she’s frequently lumped together with folks like Ana Mendieta, Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman–the operative framing being fixated on artists as both simultaneously author and subject.

To think of it that way strikes me as a bit lazy. It fits–with certain limits–for Sherman and Woodman–less so for Mendieta; however, most of Guy’s photos feel less like self-portraiture and more like proto-selfies.

If one were to describe Guy’s work she documents herself as a photographer considering herself in a mirror–i.e. she’s not setting up the camera like Sherman or Woodman and then positioning herself in front of it; she’s interested in including considerations of process in her product (if you subtract capitalist connotations and instead consider the term in a more mathematical sense).

She’s nude in most of her work–except for a utilitarian wristwatch.

Her work wasn’t really exhibited until the late aughts–but there continues to be interest in it to this day and I suspect that interest may even grow down the line.

Georges Thiry – Title unknown (195X)

Thiry was Belgian and worked with a 6×6 Rolleiflex.

He demurred that his photography was little more than a lifelong hobby–yet there aren’t many hobbyist photographers who managed to make portraits of the likes of René Magritte.

The image above was part of a long running series where Thiry took photos of sex workers. He was not in the least bit shy about availing himself of their services–yet his photos focused less on their status as sex workers and instead presented them more in their own element–preferring to depict the women in their various domiciles.

Ian ReidAmanda Marie & Molly Ace (2017)

There are about 15 different things about this image that leave me with questions. Foremost: yes, clearly the focus is what’s going on in the foreground but what I notice and what keeps claiming my attention is the reflection of the script tattoo across the Ace’s upper back.

Backing up: I didn’t know who any of the folks in this image were upon first encountering it. I knew I’d seen Ace before in an image by @vk-photography and another by @crosxsover. I followed model mayhem through a series of defunct Instagram aliases to an actual Twitter account back to an Instagram (linked above) that is–at the time of this writing–active.

All that was a bit more work than I was expecting just to you know offer proper attribution. However, then things really took an unexpected turn: as far as I can tell there’s not a picture anywhere that has the entirety of the tattoo visible and in sharp focus. (And let me just cut off any objections ahead–given the above resolution, which is the highest res version available… the ubiquitous police procedural motif of enhancing a digital image infinitely just doesn’t work here.)

So then I pulled out a fine tooth comb and went through the pictures I could find. The bit on the right shoulder is easy enough–there are several snaps with it in sharp focus. It reads: ‘these been’

Also the script on the other shoulder is relatively clear in a couple of shots: ‘Quid a’

The middle of it is the problem. In one picture you can make out ‘insolitus’ and something that I’m pretty sure is ‘trinus’.  In another shot at another angle it’s Quid a p-something?

By using Google and Google translate to attempt to reverse engineer something I realized that there is a fish called the Mangarahara cichlid, or Ptychochromis insolitus. They are critically endangered and were thought to be on the verge of extinction when one at the Berlin Zoo was killed while attempting to mate. Later, a small school was discovered in the wild.

Looking back though it’s definitely ‘quid a p(o- or e-something) so no dice on an elaborate Douglas Adams joke.

Best I can tell it reads ‘Quid a po-(something illegible) insolitus trinus is these been’

It’s weird because ‘is these been’ is not Latin. The rest is more or less a way of saying ‘what a long strange trip its been’ but in a way that is not the standard way of translating the Grateful Dead title into Latin–so I suspect there’s some kind of pun I’m too dumb to understand.

Anyway, this was not the direction I wanted to go with this post. I’d originally intended to find out what the tattoo said and then use one of those online tools that mirrors text so that you can post text backwards and just post that.

But I guess now you’ve at least got a wacky story to go along with a really goddamn interesting picture.