Bruno DayanWinter’s Tale for Ilva Hetmann and Erin Axtell Flair Italy (2011)

I really like this image.

A big part of my attraction is tied up with perhaps the closest thing I have to a legitimate paraphilia, namely: I get unspeakably aroused by things which press up against the boundaries separating traditional conceptions of the sacred vs the profane.

In this image it’s the Amish inspired wardrobe rubbing up against a quasi-masturbatory sensuality. (I can’t tell if the white on her thighs is her pulling her dress up to reveal knee-high stockings and a swatch of skin–essentially exposing herself to the open window and summer breeze–or if it’s pattern that’s a part of her pants; either way, it’s extremely evocative.)

The other part of it is the art historical resonance. This image immediately aligns with at least three other undisputed masterpieces: the young woman’s expression is a riff on Bernini’s sculpture The Ecstasy of St. Teresa and the view out the window of the scorched grass is obviously intended to invite associations with Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World, as well as Malick’s film Day’s of Heaven.

Also, perusing Dayan’s other work, this project is interesting as it steps well outside his usual pre-Raphaelite sensibilities.

Chip WillisKelsey Dylan (2014)

I’m having one of those aha moments where the incandescent bulb over my head flickers, falters and then begins to glow bright.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, if you participate in the Tumblr art nude/erotic image community, then you know who the fuck Chip Willis is. The list of model with whom he has collaborated might as well be the Tumblr model A-list.

Honestly though, I’ve always felt meh-ish at best about his work. I mean, don’t get me wrong: it’s quality; it just hasn’t ever really moved me.

This image connects somehow. And I think it has to do with the fact that it features Kelsey Dylan.

The first image I ever saw of hers was the incredible Polaroid diptych by rabbits. This is one of those times where my thoughts don’t align all that well with language. But the aforementioned photos resonate with an unnerving curation of representational identity–looking at them my body has this strange psuedo-synesthetic response where I physically itch in a way that is half mosquito bite, half throbbing erogenous arousal. It’s an experience that bypasses critical/conceptual academnification via an impossible, coup de grace killshot, the bullet lodging in the liminal space between the thinking mind and the feeling brain.

It’s not just the Polaroid diptych, the majority of Dylan’s work seems to have a similar effect on me.

Therein lays the bait. But by the time I’ve realized it, the hook is set–or more accurate Willis’ image becomes something of a labyrinth I must now learn to navigate because I have found myself unexpectedly at its center.

If you know you’re in a maze, you just pick either the wall to your left or right and you as long as you follow that wall without deviation, you will eventually find your way out.

This image provides two clues as to how it is to be interpreted–and looking back over Willis’ work, these seem to hold true throughout:

  1. The image maker is aware of the voyeuristic slant the content contributes to the image,
  2. The image represents an effort to sublimate tropes and tableaux customarily relegated to the realm of pornography by employing methods associated with Art practice.

I suspect Mr. Willis would probably object to the second point. He might contend that he’s interested in presenting a narrative. But as with every image maker who uses an image’s potential to convey a story, the truth is: indubitably narrative images tend to be the exception not the rule.

What possible narrative could this image entail? What reason is there for such a pose? Is Dylan being fucked by the light pouring in through the open window? Hardly.

The futon is positioned with more a mind to mise en scene than interior design and the framing of the doorway imposes a sense of voyeurism on the proceedings. That it is a wide shot–presenting a more or less complete context–shifts it away from its pornographic trappings and towards a mediation on representation of physical identity, sexuality and objectification.

390. by Nicolas Sisto

The first thing I see, the thing that reaches out and smacks the shit out of me is the light. Fucking A.

Next and simultaneously, I notice the color of the tile and the way the light diffuses on her skin, in her hair—the way it suffuse the blue tiles and tub.

This is the sort of light photographers kill for, a distinct cousin to the magical cinematography in Malick films.

Further it’s analog, a real photograph—any detail in the highlight with such bright white hot spots would be DOA in digital. And the photographer is clearly trying to emulate the tenebrist contrast range and vivid colors of Polaroid’s late 90’s palate.

Also, in the images favor is its inclusion of two quintessential photographic tropes: nudity and miraculous light.

Still, even though I want to like this, I can’t; the light alone isn’t enough. There are two glaring flaws:

First, who sits this way in an empty bathtub? I mean honestly. It’s overly self-conscious and awkward. Look at how gorgeous I am just plopped down here in this pool of perfect light… ladiladidah.

Interestingly, there’s an outtake from this same sequence. In it some of the light’s grandeur gets lost, the pose is at least less self-conscious and therefore less contrived.

Yet, in both case the composition is fucked. You see it a lot—envisioning a strictly balanced and symmetrical shot within the frame and shooting hand held. That saying close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades goes triple for symmetrical images. Either keep the hand held camera and accentuate the asymmetry or use a motherfucking tripod.

I am posting this photo along with the link to its sibling not to bash either so much as point out that somewhere between them is an image I wanted to see in both but didn’t. The hint of what might have been but never was is pretty incredible to me.