Allison BarnesBlooming Sofa from Neither For Me Honey Nor The Honey Bee (2014)

While I was traveling in Europe several months back, a gallerist inquired as to who I held to be the single contemporary American photographer making the most important work.

Without so much as a pause, I suggested Allison Barnes.

That probably surprises a few of you with how much I am perpetually singing @ericashires praises…

But while Shires’ polyglotism w/r/t various, disparate image making processes along with the way the tone of her work seems to invoke a similar force as when a dream unexpected develops a malevolent undertone and you wonder if you should pinch yourself, appeal to me on an almost preternatural level, there’s a still small voice that questions whether an image maker can be a viable consideration for the gate keepers of culture without at least some degree of academnification.

With the possible exception of digital collage and the definite exception of cinema, photography is an adolescent art–what with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s first image being 1826ish, photography hasn’t even reached it’s bicentennial.

Further there’s a lag between the introduction of the work and it’s adoption by the academie. How long had color photography been around before it was considered a viable fine art medium? How long after Robert Frank’s release of The Americans, the subsequent backlash and the eventual promotion of it to the yard stick by which the art-worthiness of American photography is measured? Who’s the most recent photographer to achieve fine art canonization–Alec Soth?

During the two years I studied photography in an academic setting, I ran into–again and again–this antipathy to work not accepted as ensuing from the framework of fine art photography.

As someone who does a lot of work with nudes in ruins and landscapes, I was concerned about potential overlap with someone like Miru Kim (whom I fucking detest). However, she wasn’t considered to be making work under the fine art umbrella.

I object to this rigid demarcation for at least a hundred different reasons but mostly I hold that without an aggressive cross-pollination of practices, perspectives and methodologies, that which is good becomes less good. In other words, shit stagnates.

No, you shouldn’t include Miru Kim just because she gave an awkward TED talk. But if you step back and look at things with a wider lens, you can see how Miru Kim’s relationship to fine art photography vs. pop photography is the exact inverse of what Noah Kalina’s relationship to those respective categories.

So why Allison Barnes?

Well, to grossly over generalize, it has to do with that adage about a picture being worth 1,000 words. And they question–whether conscious or not–is what do we do with those words? We can explore, document, tell a story, seek out the foreign in the familiar, etc.

I don’t believe it’s an accident that the series from which the above image emerges is taken from one of Sappho’s most famous poem fragments.

There’s that great line by one of the greatest poets–whom I consider an honorary photographer–William Carlos Williams:

It is difficult

to get the news from poems

yet men die miserably every day


for lack

of what is found there.

By using her 1,000 words toward the end of poetry, Barnes does more to unify the rigid parameters of fine art photography with the impetus driving the creation of so much self-confessional pop photography than anyone else with whom I am familiar.

Igor ChekachkovAbove (1 of 24) from Daily Lives series (2013)

There’s no sidestepping comparisons with Florian Beaudenon’s Instant Life.

Chekachov uses light in interesting ways but his composition chops lack Beaudenon’s rigor.

Yet, this image does two things Instant Life doesn’t: it demonstrates a patient reverence for the electric current of sensuality underlying bodily instantiation and an openness to being alone, together in the sometimes mundane, sometimes tempestuous sea of being.

nymphoninjas:

nymphoninjas:

“And it will be more like a song, and less like its math

If you pull on my hair and bite me like that.” (Bright Eyes)

I used to submit my self shots, but now I have few reasons for submitting some I took of my partner.. first of all, there aren’t that many male submissions here usually and I don’t like this difference. this is quite generic view only. most personal is that I enjoy watching my partner playing with himself and it really turns me on. this time I took some pictures of the action..

It was a great Saturday afternoon and we had sex straight after this little shoot and few times later. different places, different intensity but all these were a real pleasure.

Absolutely gorgeous photo, I like everything about it from his sweet purple pants to her knees in the corner. Glad to hear you two are showing off for each other and documenting it, watching your partner get themselves off is pretty much the best way to learn about what they like and how to get them off. Sounds like you two had an amazing day, I’m quite jealous. I hope you two come back to share with us again, thanks again great job A+. 

This and Knitphilia’s Rape isn’t sexy, but being a survivor is are far-and-a-fucking-way my favorite Nympho Ninjas’ Submission Sunday contributions. (An aside: while I am guardedly supportive of the community surrounding NN it does–as an Asian-American–bother me the way ‘ninja’ is so casually appropriated.)

I don’t think this is an objectively good image. Further, pairing it with Conor Oberst’s self-important ravings borders on intolerable.  But, for all its flaws, it has something many more technically adept work lack: truthfulness–the frayed rag rug, messy hair, kick ass pants, beautiful light on the back of his right hand and knees jutting into the frame.

This is the first time in my life I have actually wished a depiction of male-bodied desire was of me–I almost globally identify with female-bodied depictions of desire. Here, I think it’s due to a mistaken notion that if I looked like this there’d might be a slightly better than impossible odds someone would find me attractive.