Yann FaucherUntitled (2012)

Frustrating and illogical composition aside, there is so much to love here: suffused summer light bleeding from the window like a wound, suffusing the fringe of a beautiful body and clotting—white and diaphanous—on curtain gauze; eyes closed lightly, mouth open just a little; long arms dangle, finger tips tracing the textured braille of the bed sheets; above his right knee, and the forgotten change left on the sill that will stick for a moment when he stands again.

The content of the work is stunning, trading in sincere portraits of primarily nude male-bodied models. When [gender neutral pronoun] does make images of female-bodied individuals, the result is a sort of Fassbinder-ian waiting for those quiet moments wherein women are no longer divided into a me & the-me-the-world-sees and are finally alone with their thoughts.

It kills me to say it but all this potential is greatly diminished by Faucher’s thoughtless reliance on #skinnyframebullshit. I don’t know what it is more insufferable or sloppy.

There needs to be a reason, a compositional logic behind a vertical frame. I don’t know if in making portraits Faucher considers portrait orientation more fitting—though [insert gender neutral possessive] grasp of the technical seems more nuanced than that. It might also be an effort to comment on the way audiences view images (what with smartphones leading the #skinnyframebullshit charge). If that was the case, I could accept it. (I am not against vertical frames; I am against using them without any good reason.)

I admit that I haven’t looked closely at the rest of Faucher’s images; but the sense driving the framing seems to be the grievously mistaken notion that the frame should echo the length of the window. Only, due to the camera’s pan and the lenses wide angle of view, the visible portion of the window is closer to a square than a rectangle.

The window bay’s leftmost vertical angle does not align with the left frame edge. A small point, yes; nonetheless one that would have been de-emphasized with landscape orientation.

In this case the oddity of the angle indicates other glaring inconsistencies: the boy’s body is not balanced within the frame– the top of his left knee is lopped off by the right frame edge, his left foot hacked through the ankle and heel by the bottom frame edge. Then there’s the dead space directly above his head…

Don’t get me wrong the work is good; but it also has the potential to be so fucking much better. Unrealized potential pisses me off. (However, I suspect this says more about me than Faucher.)

Danilo Pasquali – from Bagno (2010)

As far as explicit images go, depictions of masturbation are among my favorites. On that level at least, I find this interesting.

And I’m not sure I want to go full-blown feminist killjoy screaming exploitation every time I run across something sexually provocative but something about this really sketches me out.

It’s partly the composition–was it really necessary to frame the water streaming over her genitals at the exact fucking center of the frame?!?!!

And partly that fact that this is meant to convey the notion of masturbation, it’s clearly staged. Fake–not a problem in itself  I suppose, despite my distaste for affectation.

What irks me is the feeling–despite the compositional flaws, this image is as superior to any of the others in the series as it is more blatantly sexual–that depicting masturbatory tableau was the aim of the shoot but that wasn’t conveyed to young woman.

More likely, during the shoot Mr. Pasquali asked the model to pose as if she was using the faucet to masturbate. She probably didn’t think much of it and may have not been displeased with the final results. To me there is something untoward and skin-crawlingly sleazy about that sort of disregard for personal integrity.

Beyond that it even has an effect on the image. The position of the body reads masturbating with a faucet head. Nothing else about it conveys any sort of derivation of pleasure–except on the part of the person holding the camera.

toutdroitaller:

Mark James

(Note: I can neither confirm nor deny tout  droit aller’s attribution.) EDIT: The source listed (fallinglondon) is run by Mark James. (Sincere thanks to the anon who took the time to point out what should’ve been obvious right off)

This image is a train wreck.

Although the left frame edge is more or less in-line with the vertical of the tile grouting, the lens’ wide angle focal length, the rightward pan and slight up-tilt, the tile’s verticals are distractingly misaligned against the right frame edge.

Given the obvious motion blur along the bridge of her nose, I would be thinking the camera was hand-held, except there is an awful lot of illumination in a fairly tight space. I’m thinking more screen capture from a video than slow shutter speed.

And that’s really a goddamn shame because despite of the sloppy composition, there are some ingenious accidents.

Either a knee or shoulder extends beyond the edge of the tub at the lower left corner of the frame; it doesn’t especially matter which because either speak to the presence of another person in this cramped bathroom.

There’s also the young woman’s exquisitely unselfconscious pose, stooped slightly forward to slide her black panties down, the image freezes her in the moment just before she reveals the top edge of her pubic fringe. The too bright light accentuates the musculature of her hips and abdomen. The angle of her shoulders in relation to her hips causes a down tilt in her breasts, emphasizing her erect nipples against her own skin and the door behind her.

Her expression is loaded–a mix of playfulness, anxiety and maybe something not unlike hunger.

And though I am against employing the upper frame edge as a tool to preserve anonymity, in this case an additional point of tension is established between what is seen and what remains hidden.

Source Unknown

I would never claim this is a great (or even good) image: the off-kilter composition and offset flash suggest equal parts luck and artsy pretension.

And from a standpoint of image politics, it’s problematic for all the usual reasons: frame edges ‘cutting up’ and ‘immobilizing’ the three young women along with implicit kowtowing to the porn manicured male gaze that expects a smooth, depilated pubis.

I am not willing to give this a pass. However, I do appreciate the focus on a FFF threesome–something I wouldn’t mind seeing more often. Especially, if like this image, unfeigned desire (closed eyes, flushed faces and chests) and intimacy (holding hands, reaching caresses, giving and receiving of pleasure) feature in the proceedings.

passius:

porn4ladies:            passius:

Olga Karasik404 2013

The use of the mirror here is goddamn inspired– obscuring both women’s faces within the frame. (See!! There’s no reason to decapitate yourself in your images to maintain your anonymity. A little creativity goes a long way and makes for better pictures.)

It’s obviously beholden to Francesca Woodman; but it wisely cribs a page from the rock and roll rule book for performing cover songs: make it better than or do it different.

Karasik filters Woodman’s concerns through her own aesthetic sensibility in a way that marks it as reinterpretation instead of a rearranging of elements in a template.

Sadly, it’s either some #skinnyframebullshit; or, :::shudders::: cropped. (I loathe a we’ll-just-fix-it-in-post attitude. Do it right the first time or go the fuck home. Post-production is a safety net in the unlikely chance it becomes necessary; the entire fucking point is not to need it.)

I guess at least evinces some thought went into the decision to opt for the skinny frame.

David Meskhi – from When Earth Seems to Be Light series Title Unknown 2008.

Meskhi’s website presents his as a photographer preoccupied with athletes, skateboarders and soldiers. Shooting predominately flat black and white, his inclusion of occasional, irreverent bursts of color do nex to nothing to lessen the work’s dour murk.

By contrast– and as suggested by the title– his When Earth Seems to Be Light series is full or warmth and whimsy.

It’s maybe not good but it is undeniably more accessible than the other work showcased.

It is incomprehensible that this image does not appear on the site. Instead, another image of the same young woman–Anna, apparently is featured. The second image isn’t bad; it’s casual immediacy seems forced, as if it seeking to neuter the sentimental nostalgia.

And I see how someone could read the image I posted could as self-indulgently sentimental. It is a little; However, that’s not always a bad thing–arrive for the nostalgia, stay for the Art.

In this case, neither sentimentality or nostalgia pull me in. It’s the sheen of water droplets on her skin, the texture of her wet hair. And I absolutely love how she is turned away– it reminds me of the hypothesis posited by either Edward Snow or John Berger that the young woman in Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring is simultaneously turning toward and away from the viewer. (If you’ve got seven minutes to kill, check out: a physicist tackling this question.)

I confess that this image does cause me to lapse nostalgic. But that is due to the content more than anything pertaining to the execution. See although I am in my… er… well, further from my teens than I have ever been, I missed out on a lot of normal– at least for John Hughes movies–social rites of passage.

I played Spin the Bottle a handful of times but was always told that at least one of the people playing had promised my mom that they would make sure I didn’t play. I would beg and plead but there would always be a caveat that if the bottle landed on me, the most I could do would be choose two other people to kiss. (The stopped letting me play altogether when I began suggesting two boys or two girls should kiss.)

I also realized sometime last year that I have never been skinny dipping. And it’s not that the repressive environment I grew up in was so effective and getting kids to not be kids. It was more that I wasn’t invited to gatherings where those types of things happened.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to go skinny dipping this year. But the truth is I have just as many people to go with then as I do now.

Juan TroncosoPremonición 2009 (Made with a Nikon D300)

There are strong similarities between Troncoso’s work and art historical precedents. For example: Iluso smacks of Margritte, Real’s bad acid trip made flesh, borrows from a similar work– which escapes me at the moment but also used fragmented images attached to models’ bodies for unnerving effect–both owing a thing or fifty to Max Ernst.

But I can’t help thinking the references are little more than premeditated sleight of hand. The first clue is the image quality. There simply are not that many people around who can coax decent greyscales from digital equipment. Second, though his Flickr account is noteworthy, his personal website–despite its awkward and unwieldy layout– is incisively curated.

My Spanish is quite rusty but I ran Troncoso’s artist statement from the body of work in which this image features through a translation engine. What resulted was borderline nonsense. I tried to clean it up a bit–bear in mind my Spanish grammar is severely limited by my utter impoverishment when it comes to English grammar:

These images were performed over the course of five years and are chronologically arranged to portray a questioning evolution. A journey of visual interventions that came together in interpretations and symbols. Each photograph is a projection of my imagination, inspired by feelings involving me with this world. [A world where] reality and time intertwine with the infinite. The images seek to portray this connection.

Correlations with Margritte and Ernst shift to the background and I am left thinking of Yves Klein–specifically Saut dans le vide. Whether or not this is an astute response, there is something of Klein’s brash dynamism in Troncoso’s work.

Honestly, it matters less to me how they work than that they do–quite well, in fact.

Google Image Search suggests the earliest instance of this image being post to a site on Blogspot called Tacobill in June 2010 even though all the links on the page are broken. Beginning in August 2010 a broad swath of entries are attributed to So Many Boys. (EDIT: Wyohhandplay was kind enough to inform me that the source for this is bitemarks.)

It’s really a shame. For what it is– a staged photo of a boy with his fist circling his cock– I think this is classy.

The composition is nice. He’s presented entirely within the frame, not making eye contact with they camera. His body’s mid-line angles to his right, counter-balancing the framing which clips the vertical of the lamp base against the middle vertical of the metal bed frame/headboard.

With the lamp turned toward the wall, the light blows out into a white-hot super overexposed orb. In turn this allows the reflected light to illuminate the rest of the frame with appealing, dusky tones.

It’s an artful take on what could have easily been another uninteresting, disposable iteration of the same old thing.

boudoirboudoir:

42112 (by brittanymarkert)

I like this image—perhaps for the wrong reasons.

To my eye, it represents a discontinuity with the rest of Ms. Market’s work because I am not inclined to associate it with an obvious photo-historical reference (i.e. Untitled is an obvious homage mashup of Francesca Woodman’s Untitled Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-76 and Untitled Providence, Rhode Island 1976; this still from the hotel haunting screams Diane Arbus via Kubrick, while room 109 invokes David Lynch with the subtlety of a thunderstorm.

Influence is crucial—sheer force of will and work ethic only goes so far. Hell, without inspiration, how many would have picked up a camera to begin with? Let alone kept on after all those rolls of ruined film, struggling through plateau after plateau in the work, etc.

So called fine art photography operates off the principle that imitation of your influences forms the most effective framework for becoming a photographer. Although seen through rose colored glasses, Arno Rafael Minkkinen presents the essential premise behind fine art photography with insight and aplomb in his renowned Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

While I disagree with the notion that gallery owners would so much give you the time of day let alone inquire as to your familiarity with X or Y artist and object to prejudicing the destination over the journey, Minkkinen’s theory does have special resonance for photographers with a vested interest in visual narrative or those—like Ms. Market—who count filmmakers among their foremost influences since the Helsinki bus station presents us a bit of a conundrum.

Even though I am not, let’s say—for the sake of argument— I am a enamored with Stanley Kubrick’s films. But for whatever reason, I prefer the medium of photographer so I arrive the Helsinki bus station and after looking around decide that to take a bus departing from the same platform as Diane Arbus. However, once on board I don’t even make it as far as the suburbs before realizing this isn’t for me. I go back and decide to follow the Walker Evans’ line—which departs from a platform on the opposite side of the station as the previous one. Maybe I make it a little further this time but quickly discover it’s still not for me. What then?

I go back and merely because I have no idea what else to do I wander onto the platform from whence Ansel Adams departed. This time the route choice sticks—but not due to being on a line the focuses on landscape photographer so much as finding a route pathologically preoccupied with the technical. (After all, what Kubrick lacked as a storyteller he more than compensated for with his exacting abilities as a technician and unparalleled production designer.)

Filmmaking and photography are sibling art forms and like siblings, you cannot approach them in an identical fashion. Those of us who come to photography by way of narrative/filmmaking share a frighteningly similar list of influences that, to stick with the metaphor, are dispersed all over the Finnish countryside. Most are contradictory.  Mistakes are going to be made; routes will need to be abandoned and subsequently re-chosen as the line that works for each person is almost never the first choice.

But back to this image—I like it. And I like it because it is one of the few images where I do not feel the photographer is not leaning on something that has been said well before in order to add feeling, depth or relevance to her own ideas.

Flattery is the sincerest form of flattery. Brittany Market demonstrates she handle imitation flawlessly. My interest in her work is what she will produce when she finds herself on a line long enough to leave the Helsinki suburbs behind. This image suggests a great deal of potential that will hopefully be realized in her maturing work.