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.

Karin SzékessyJutta auf dem Sofa (1968)

As I’ve mentioned before I went to parochial schools from 2nd grade through high school.

In 5th grade, the school didn’t have enough money to hire a qualified Physical Education teacher. And despite the fact that every student attending already paid tuition, the school came up with the brilliant idea of charging families for extracurricular PE options.

This was how I learned to ski.

I actually did okay, at first. Managing to not fall for the first several hours I strapped fiberglass planks to my feet. Then I had my first lesson and the first thing they did during the lesson was to have everyone lift their foot–right first then left–and touch the tip of the ski to the snow and then the tail.

From that point forward I spent one day a week for the next three weeks falling often and hard. Be I pushed through the difficulty, learned and before long as tearing up green circle and blue square slopes.

Photography and image making are deceptive media. Our culture is so visual and so immersed in lens based modes of representation, that whether most folks give a second thought to it, those of us in the western world are steeped in an unthinking awareness of the basics of how to present a scene.

It’s relatively easy and takes minimal training to call one’s self an image maker. However, inherent talent only goes so far. At a certain point–if this art form means anything to them–they need to do the equivalent of lifting their ski off the snow and touching the tip and the tail to the snow; in other words, a certain dislocation or disorientation is required to truly begin to learn–one must realize that what they thought they knew they know not at all.

What does all this have to do with Székessy photograph. Well: although it’s hardly the perfect analogy–the realization that one knows little to fuck all about art history is probably the more apples-to-apples comparison with the example of learning to ski–as much as we’d like it to be (and as much as new technologies attempt to make it so–a lens does not interpret the world in the same fashion as the human eye.

And it’s not just any one thing that’s different–it’s a complex of things.

On thing is that lenses allow us to render visible subtle gradations in light we don’t normally perceive. Arguably the best example of this is covered as a part of the thoroughly excellent documentary Tim’s Vermeer–which centers on Tim Jenison’s attempt to recreate a perfect copy of The Music Lesson.

I feel like that’s in some way what Székessy image here is trying to convey–beyond a curious and dynamically presented scene.


by Benoit Paillé




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An image of Paillé’s—from the World Rainbow Gathering in Guatemala—slid across my dash several months ago.

Intrigued, I quickly found his candid portraits of illegal Ivorian immigrants working as “beaters” outside Paris’ Chateau D’eau Station. Despite the conceptually problematic aspects of the project—fetishizing alterity, for starters—the detail and precise exposure control floored me.

The majority of his works causes me to suffer an uncharacteristic loss for words. I am never particularly enamored with his choice of subjects and I think his use of color borders on gratuitous hyper-stylization. But damn if I don’t absolutely dig his eye.

However, the thing that makes his work so distinct is for me less a visual signature and more an attitude toward the subject. I’ve found it’s always stupid to try to say something that has already been said well better, so there’s this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

            You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.

To my eye, that is what makes a Benoit Paillé image so unique—he seems less concerned with taking a picture than offer his camera as a means of recording the intrinsic truth that comes from sharing a holy moment.


Mathilda Eberhard


Is it me or is there something almost post-coital about the way this feels to the eye—towel-wrapped, shower-wet hair and still damp skin sheathed in afterglow and diaphanous light?

In spite of being digital, I wish this were an image I had made. It exemplifies so many imagistic attributes I hold dear:·       

  • It eschews the forced intimacy of knee-jerk close-ups    
  • Employs a scale fixed somewhere betwixt Wall’s voyeuristic medium shots and Angelopoulos’ telescopic long shots in order to offer the viewer a wealth of contextual information.
  • A visually compelling interior is presented so as to avoid the trappings of perfect production design. (Tarkovsky is as close to having a deity as I come, but I’m perpetually frustrated by his über-eclectic, pristinely cluttered sets with no room for real people to live)
  • It features a beautiful young nude woman with exquisite, tiny breasts and pubic hair.

All that is missing is a narrative seed, one moment suggesting what came before and what follows. But this is more of a tone poem, it would seem.

Tone poems, though, are slippery as eel skin. And there is a tendency to use them as an excuse for untouched inconsistencies.

For example, the framing here pans the camera slightly right to ensure the golden light on her back appears reflected in the mirror; this wawker-jawing complicated by the extreme wide angle is nearly balanced out by the uneven curtain rod’s counter-angle—keyword: nearly.

Also, her pose is odd. It is clearly staged but she holds it in such an unself-conscious way that it from avoids appearing contrived.

These inconsistencies cut both ways: justifying the unresolved aspects as endemic to the work is what makes it great; it is also what keeps it from being truly exceptional due to such justification obfuscating the implicit awareness the image provides of viewing something up to a terminal point—the snapping of the shutter—and then being left with little except the technical inconsistencies to ponder for clues that simply don’t exist.