@deluckas13untitled (2017)

Do something for me: use your hand to block the two finger tips you can barely see in the upper left corner. See how this renders the picture almost cartoonish in it’s exaggeration.

Remove your hand. See how that creates a tension where the cartoonish is constrained by a sense of equal and opposite resisting pressure.

I think there’s a valuable lesson here not only about the dynamics of dramatic composition but also about creative expression. Playing to your strengths fails to have the same effect once you remove them from their inter-penetrative connection with your limitations, shortcomings and weaknesses.

Oliver RathDer Sommer Kommt feat. Phan Toma (2012)

I’m not sure whether this is a good image or not–but there is definitely a lot going on with it.

The depth of field is such that although it’s ostensibly clear that the person in the foreground is supposed to appear as if they are using electric clippers to remove pubic hair. (I am not entirely sure whether Rath paid Phan Toma to shave for the photos or if this was someone else’s hair and the scene was staged. My gut says it’s the later–although with Rath, it really could just as easily have been the former. In the favor of the latter is the fact that electric clippers don’t really get things that clean shaven–usually you need to use the clippers first and then bring a razor to bear.)

Also, although the toilet is not the venue I’d ever recommend as ideal for this sort of thing. The image has been staged in such a fashion as to make it read clearly that the model is in a bathroom and removing pubic hair. That post cannot be especially comfortable and usually the idea is that you sit on the toilet so that it’s less muscle strain and the hair can just be flushed. (Although, come to thinking of it: I think I’ve only ever known it to be dudes who favor the flush the pubes depilatory routine. (I don’t know a woman who does it like this–I lay out newspapers like I was taught by other women.)

I have mixed feelings about the fact that you can see the photographer bear feet and legs in the image. On the one hand: I am inclined to agree with the sentiments of those who find shots like this creepy AF. Further: the fact that this is a model and the photographer is straddling a leg while taking a picture of the removal of pubic hair is… intimate–but intimate in a way that the photo gives us zero context to discern whether or not the intimacy is consensual or coercive.

The image reads very clearly but in so doing it trades in ambiguity that is more interesting that any of the sum of its parts. The trouble is the ambiguity hinges on questions of voyeurism and propriety but relies upon the ambiguity of the presentation to head off any criticisms at the pass.

[↖] Girls Out WestAllegra (2017); [↗] Liza MandelupUntitled from Give Yourself to the Sea (2013); [+] Julien ZarkaKim (2017); [↙] Source unknown – Title unknown (200X); [↘] Louis TreserrasTout Simplement (2011); [-] A Private ExposeIt’s Time to Begin (2018)

My work flow for this project is pretty straight forward. I spend about two hours every day cycling through my dash to the point where I quit the previous day–liking anything along the way that catches my eye.

From the resulting likes, I conduct a second pass and ask myself do I have anything to say about this photo/image/illustration/set/etc. Such items get shunted into my drafts. Drafts get moved to my queue so that I can decide the best order to present them in and I usually only compose an entry for something that’s already in queue.

Anyway, there’s a mass of images in my drafts right now that I know I want to engage with but I’m not sure how I want to approach them. (Unfortunately, this has resulted in a bloated drafts section that is a bit cumbersome to navigate.)

I realized this morning that what I want to say about these six images has been difficult to coalesce because individually they don’t trigger much for me except to say that these images all view feminine embodiment in a way that I wish was a way I could learn to see my own body–as something beautiful, a bit awkward sometimes but thorough well-suited for utilitarian use and fundamentally desirable.

Robert MapplethorpeCock (1985)

Ever since the Venus of Willendorf or Lascaux paintings–or, as I refer to it, tongue-in-cheekily: prehistoric Instagram–visual art, as such, has been preoccupied with ontology of representation.

There has been–and as far as I’m concerned, continues to be–resistance to photography/image making as capital A Art. Although I am decidedly on the photography can absolutely be Art side of things, it does occur to me that there is a fundamental conceptual rift between other forms of visual art and photography; namely: painting, sculpture and architecture are arguably not primarily but intrinsically decorative, too.

Painting, sculpture and architecture proclaim look at this here in this specific place, i.e. the location of the canvas, the relationship of a sculptural object to its surroundings, architecture as the physical manifestion of space as decoration.

Photography/image making starts from the same impetus–the hey, look at this! exclamation. However, it does not have the same relationship with location in place, space and time. (Thus, I think, the fixation in fine art photography on conceptualization and installation–whether that be in a physical/virtual gallery or increasingly in the making of artists’ books.)

In a sense–presentation becomes part of what activates the photo/image as Art.

(I don’t have time to tease out the implications in this forum, but I do think it would make an excellent interrogation to expand this notion using Benjamin’s rt in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction viewed through the prism of @knitphilia‘s thesis on the deeply misogynistic history of distinguishing (and through distinction, diminishing) forms of creative expression normally associated with femme creators as ‘craft’–as opposed to ‘art’.)

Strangely, it was this thought that led me to a ‘discovery’ (of sorts) in the above photo It seems this was never something Mapplethorpe printed during his life. A print was made in 2010 and gifted by The Robert Mapplethorpe foundation to LACMA .

The digital print was clearly made by someone intimately familiar with Mapplethorpe’s work–the balance and interpenetration between highlights, mid-tones and shadows with the sort of atmospheric haze (sfumato) despite the razer sharp focus, couldn’t be more Mapplethorpe if it bore his signature.

Yet, knowing all that about the work there is still something about it that makes it Art–I think–even before it becomes physically instantiated: yes, the work (just like all visual art) says hey, look at this! and like all photography/imagery it (implicitly) states this is how I see this thing! Mapplethorpe takes things a step further and says: by looking at this it will be clear to you why I think this is beautiful should be appreciated.

Vlastimil KulaUntitled (2004)

Henri Cartier-Bresson famously admitted to staging many of his best known photographs. This? Staged. This? Same.

It’s ironic that as one of the first to pinoneer the genre of street photography, that his work pretty much flew in the face of many of the subsequently codified conventions of that genre.

Personally, I could take or leave his work. But I do think his staged photos are better for their contrivance–I think that’s why so many people revere his work: it unified the criteria for what made a good street photograph with what distinguished an objectively good photograph.

This image is staged as fuck–and not in a good way. (HCB, at least, staged his shots so that there was an easily apprehended logic to the blocking and composition of the shot.) This is… I mean… if she’s going to get into that tub, it’s going to overflow. Also, the way she’s pulling off her top is something you’d expect of the overly theatrical way you’d expect to see someone perform a striptease. (This runs counter to the placement and framing of the camera which logically suggests surreptitious voyeurism.)

What I did find interesting about this is that the level of water in the tub, immediately made me think of Archimedes and his Eureka! moment–wherein he realized that you can determine the volume of an object by the amount of water it displaces, i.e. buoyancy.)

I think conceptually it’s interesting that buoyancy tells you about what is there by what is not. (The displaced water indicates the volume of the object that displaced it.) Reflections show you what’s there but reversed–left is right, right is left.

This is also complimentary to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle that states the more accurately we know the position of a molecule that less we know about it’s momentum and vice versa. It’s as if measuring things in terms of other more easily grasped things automatically becomes more difficult with the increasing complexity of the system being measured. (My feeling is this relates to Wittgenstein’s aim in Philosophical Investigations. And while I’m not in love with this photo–it’s kind of salaciousness for the sake of being salacious, and otherwise hollow–I do feel like it prodded my brain in an interesting direction.)

Molly WalshPubes (2016)

This little comic is excellent for a number of reasons.

It’s simple, cute and spends a lot of energy contextualizing the action in a fully formed world, i.e. the shower with a polka dot shower curtain, soap, shampoo, a razor–in other words the detritus you’d expect to see in any normal shower; the nude beach is palm trees, tropical fronds and flowers but also other people go about there lives pretty much normally (except for the fact that their nude in public).

Someone a great deal wiser than me once gave me the following advice: never tell where it is possible to show.

A lot of folks on Tumblr like to talk a lot about how radical they are. There are folks that argue that the normalcy of the patriarchal expectation for women to shave down there has rendered the natural state of post-pubescent women as undesirable. To combat this, some people go overboard supporting personal autonomy w/r/t body hair to a point that is–for all intents and purposes–fetishization.

This cleanly cuts through all that mess by showing a woman who clearly inhabits a world similar to the viewers own. The ‘politics’ of it don’t enter into her decision–it seems she’s just curious how it’ll look and finds it cute.

Subsequently, her friend expresses surprise in a joking fashion but is super accepting and supportive. (Instead of being like oh look at you, you rebel you!)

In other words, this isn’t focused on theory or praxis, it moves straight to simple application and in so doing it presents something that’s equally legible to folks who’ve spent half a lifetime immersed in critical theory to folks who just stopped in for a momentary distraction.