Karmabella – Reflection (2010)

The subject in this image is a Flickr user who goes by the alias Tangolarina; she documents her life with an emphasis on a curious and unflinching examination of her own sexuality. (I’ve previously featured an image in which she captures herself masturbating.)

I can’t and won’t argue she’s a good image maker–though she does deserve credit for her brash audacity and seeming fearlessness in what she shows of herself.

The above image–presumably made by a friend–is from the stand point of technique–better than the majority of images in Tangolarina’s photostream.

Yes, it has a nice tonal range: it’s segmented between what you might call sepia-lite (in the skin tones), sepia-mid (in the area surrounding the subject) and sepia-heavy (in the reflection). The way it almost looks as if her reflection is staring back up at her is an inspired touch.

Unfortunately, the canted angle distracts from everything else. (What’s that? You say it’s a reference to the cinematic tradition of using an unleveled camera to convey a sense of nightmarish anxiety. Uh, no. I realize that the vast majority of photographers and image makers don’t have the budget of someone like say Annie Leibowitz. That means that we can’t always control everything about rendering the location an exact match to the initial vision. If the fence hadn’t been there, it’s arguably that this might have worked. (And it might’ve worked better given a vertical composition–the trade off being that the aspect of up-down flow would’ve been de-emphasized.)

My point is merely this reads like a back yard that someone is trying to use as an oneiric setting. The tilt isn’t severe enough to fully convey the aforementioned sense of expressionist foreboding and the fence actually blocks additional light that could’ve filled in allowing the reflected face to be fully visible.

As something between proof of concept and a preliminary storyboard, this is a stellar concept that I would like to see executed with greater attention to detail and working towards a clear conceptual end.

I really need to make one more crucial point here–and this is also sooo much more important than any of the preceding observations: I ADORE the way that Tangolarina is pushing the envelope on at what point depicting the body becomes pornographic. While some of her preoccupations and concerns are decidedly prurient, at no point does she allow things to drift across that nebulous line into the realm of pornography.

That alone is worth the time and energy necessary to explore her work.

Cem Edisboylu – [↑] FRG3519 from Flash of Light series (2015); [←] KOW3207 from Fräulein Kowalski series (2014); [+] ALG2968 from Alessa Ghoulish series (2014); [→] KAD2723 from Sofie seires (2014)

I’m not prepared to endorse Edisboylu’s wholesale. I’m pretty sure it’s digital–and let’s be real there is no reason an image maker with fine art aspiration would ever bother shooting non-analogue B&W.

Further, the nudes-for-nudity’s-sake work reads as both awkward and clunky.

Not to say it’s all bad–I think the above images are all actually brilliant; the central image of Fräulein Kowalski is, in fact, goddamn fucking breathtaking.

And how good the three portraits are–where the focus is on immediacy, intimacy and a sort of Buber-ian relationship, where any nudity serves in an ancillary capacity–is part of why the other work seems so godawfully boring by comparison. If the image maker can do so much with so little, it would follow that with more the viewer would be reasonable in expecting expanded and not diminished returns.

But what I really appreciate about Edisboylu is a feature of his presentation you’ll probably miss if you don’t have fat fingers and aren’t clumsy as fuck like I am. All the images in his portfolio–so long as you open into a new tab–lead to a more in-depth selection of images from the same shoot. This is a badass feature for two reasons.

  1. It shines a light on the darker corridors of individual process and in this case it’s easy to understand why the image maker has chosen the images he has to represent the shoot. (I’m always talking about editing. This is what I’m referring to–the process whereby you pare down the multitude of images to the best and brightest. Given the sampling of other shots, it’s easy to follow the shown work on why each image was chosen.
  2. You can actually interpolate even more about the shoot. For example: Edisboylu clearly shoots a lot during his sessions. The cross section of the shoot with Fräulein Kowalski, for example, seems to suggest that he tends to adopt the loathsome spray-and-pray approach that digital imaging facilitates. Yet, as much as I detest that approach, there does appear to be at least some respect for the audience. Consider the handful of Tumblr famous photographers who go to great lengths to post several new images every single day. I want to see and appreciate an artist’s best work, not experience a continual watering down of quality in an effort to build a sense of brand constancy. I’ll always take two marshmallows later over one marshmallow right now. It’s appealing that Ebisboylu seems to understand that. His work is definitely better for his reserve.