And while I love the closeness and intimacy this exudes… it’s technically a mess.
Whatever he used to edit the scan of this image is incompatible with any photo editing software I have–and I’m running at least three different ones–as far as that goes.
Interestingly: downloading the image and opening it in Photoshop results in an incompatibility error and it tells you it’ll open the file but using existing settings. The result is actually a much less muddy or murky image–but one that is admittedly flatter.
I decided to evaluate it against the zone system and illustrate that with a .gif (I’ve selected all pixels in a given zone and deleted them):
There’s essentially no additional detail after Zone VII.
Thus we’re left with extremely compressed shadow tonalities and mid-tones are hanging out where we’d generally still expect to be dealing with shaded tones.
The walls are effectively where we’d expect skin tones and there’s no highlight detail to speak of.
The original negative is doubtlessly underexposed. But the subsequent editing is actually an especially ill-advised strategy given that analog has greater headroom when it comes to overexposure than digital does. Digital, on the other hand, doesn’t have a true black and is better handling low light situations as a result.
From the standpoint of maximizing output results it would be advisable to compress the highlights here and try to give the shadows a little bit more breathing room.
Still… it’s an intriguing image from someone who is clearly very good at what he does.
Further encounters with his work have caused me to warm to his so-blunt you can only call it heavy-handed and acontextual style.
I’m not usually a fan of the throw everything at the wall and see what sticks approach. (My nemesis when I was a photography MFA student had exactly such an approach–in the interest of full disclosure, she’s one of two people in a class of 17 that is paying her bills with her creative endeavors.) But with Gherrë there’s a sense of both openness to experimentation that is damn near playful more often than not wed to a commitment to an unflinching and omnivorous eye.
It’s a little too pat to compare his work to someone like Ren Hang–an artist whose is equally out and who works with similar prolific profusion. (In fact, lately I find myself rather put off by what I feel are Hang’s tendency to be casually shallow, mean-spirited and cruel in his work.)
But it is an interesting comparison, in so far as Gherrë‘s photos show ever sign of becoming less focused on provocation and more focused the inherent provocation in moments presented without context and therefore rely upon success or failure with what the convey about immediacy.
The above print is actually enormously clever in it’s composition. The viewers eye follows the boys white inner right thigh down into the frame at a diagonal. A lesser talent would’ve sought a bilateral top-to-bottom symmetry, but they inner left leg juts off at a different angle, pulling the dick in hand off a rigid top-to-bottom mid-line. (The frame is bottom heavy, but the angle of the blanket manages to tie everything together so that it doesn’t feel unbalanced.)
There’s also the way the slight curve of the boys erection and the way it forms a sort of ever so subtle s curve from the base of the cock through the spurting line of ejaculate–allowing for one of those serendipitous moments where things line up almost magically and the lead semen globule floats perfectly aligned with the boy’s suprasternal notch.
And honestly, this is the closest I’ve seen to a photo I’ve been trying to make for almost a decade now.
I feel about Gherrë the way I’ve come to feel about Araki–namely: I don’t always get it but the work is consistently of high quality and in spite of the tendency for both artists to cover the same ground over-and-over-and-again, there remains surprising freshness and variation.
Also, I love that there’s someone out there who is still making traditional dark room prints. They just look so much better, damn it.