When I see this image, I can’t shake the notion that photography and digital imagining can arguably be reduced to questions regarding contrast–e.g. inclusion vs exclusion (framing), luminosity vs. opacity, near vs. far, etc.
More directly linked with this image–and it’s genius–is the quintessential question of depth vs flatness.
No matter whether it’s photography or digital imaging, the result involves compression. Spatial references are reduced to micro-fine layers in an emulsion or an array of pixels. In other words: three dimensions are rendered in two.
Over time certain modes of visual shorthand have become codified–e.g. with skintone we have notions interpolated based on the Zone System or the red before blue before green rule of thumb.
As best I can tell these tendencies are meant to be aesthetically pleasing but the why they are attractive has to do with stylistics–the notion of skin as smooth and/or soft. (And this is more of a psychological prejudice than a factual one–I mean look at the back of your hand up close and it looks like a muddy landscape that has been sun baked until it takes on the appearance of craquelure.)
In other words, there is a notion that as far as Caucasian models are concerned there is a preference for either an alabaster or apricot tone–an ersatz synesthesia by consensus where tonality or color is in and of itself supposed to be suggestive of texture.
As a synesthete, I am constantly befuddled by this knee-jerk approach. I mean: show me an image of a swatch of twill pictured under strong light and I can actually feel the texture of the material on my fingertips.
Here though it almost works and how it works is by taking a step back to consider how photography/image making is about contrast and then juxtaposing something which easily conveys textural information (water) against something which does not easily convey textural information (skin).
Simple, elegant and something I’ll be trying to figure out how to apply to my own work going forward.
We have been a huge fan of your blog for some time now, and never submitted. But as my time as a mother fills my days, I look fondly at how my body was during pregnancy, and it is a bittersweet feeling knowing this was the last time I will carry someone within me. My husband could not take enough photos, and I wanted to share some of them with you, and your wonderful community.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing this incredible portrait. The colours of your tattoos look so nice in the sunlight, and you are radiant and beautiful. It’s amazing you have these photos to look back on and reflect about that time in your life. And I really appreciate you contributing to Submission Sunday for the very first time.
“Mother is the word for God on the lips and hearts of all children.”
So here’s a picture which proves an exception to the rule of my general distaste for close-ups in image making.
The gist of my objection is that by diminishing contextual cues with regards to setting (interior, exterior), orientation relative to other subjects (or lack of other subjects for that matter) in a given space, time of day, historical epoch, etc., etc., the information the image can clearly convey is severely truncated. This truncation has a tendency to be employed to foster a sort of forced intimacy–this is especially true with regard to portraiture, where seeing something with one’s own eyes up close invites the viewer to bridge the absence of detailed information with a sort of god-like omniscience; or–to state it in a less abstract fashion–the close-up encourages spinning the inherent lack of certainty as to the identity of the subject into a sort of nebulous knowing predicated upon predictable tropes and societal preconceptions. The close-up works–more often than not–because it gives the viewer permission to fill in a number of blanks. And while this is the base nature of the eternal question with regard to what the frame includes and excludes, typically, I feel like close-ups encourage the viewer to fill in blanks they quite frankly have no business filling in.
This image succeeds partly due to its simplicity. There’s a balance between the warm tone light and the dense shadow space, a similar equivalence between smooth skin-tone and texture; also, flatness and dimensionality–the subtle shadows imposed by the musculature are luminous here.
The composition doesn’t quite work: one triangle is formed from the vertices of the shadow space adjacent to the left hip, between the legs and in the fall off at the right hip; while either leg form vertices with an implicit third point at the navel just beyond the lower edge of the frame. This results in the image having an unbalanced visual heft–with the scale tipping slightly to frame right, undermining the careful balance so stunningly apparent throughout the rest of the image.
However, there is one incredible astute conceptual conceit managing to eclipse this minor transgressions. It’s sort of hard to explain it but try something: invert the image and look at it; now, return it to it’s normal orientation. There is a way in which the grammar of an image suggests that the bottom of the frame is closer to viewer and the top of the frame is further way. Orienting the frame as above makes the action depicted not for the viewer. (Given the angle of the frame it’s not strictly a POV perspective either. In tandem with the caption, an intriguing tension is created between a voyeurism one is allowed to observe even though they are not invited to participate with.)
These images are presented as a diptych even though they do not function as one.
They’re solid; neither composition holds up under scrutiny–the left appears symmetrical until you look at it a second time and discover it’s really not and that the positioning of he arms is actually makes it even more glaring; the wawkerjawed-ness of the second one is even more obvious but here the position of the arms actually de-emphasizes it ever so slightly.
Either way, together they round up to good because of the thoughtful use of color.
What’s interesting about the relationship between them not being diptypical (hurr durr) is that they imply a continuum between concept and execution.
The left image is simple, clear, the color pops and as a result it’s absolutely memorable. The right image uses negative space to draw entirely undue attention to the use of color–it’s like screaming hey, everyone look at how great I am at using color. However, the slight shift in the position of the arms on the right is utterly fucking sublime. (Also, you get water drops splattered on the side of the tub highlighted by the light pooling on the side of the tub.)
Split the difference in the distance between the left and right, make sure you line up the lines of the tile grout with your frame edge and include just a hint of the bathroom floor and keep the pose on the right and you’d have a great image.
I think there are all kinds of negative implications when you use the frame to dismember a body like this. HOWEVER, everything else about this is in-fucking-credible–the Albers-esque palate, the texture and semi-reflective opacity of the water, Keegan’s skin tone and pose, etc.
The other thing I want to point out here is to reiterate the notion that as bad as it is to amputate legs, it’s much MUCH worse to decapitate.
I know, I know, you want to reclaim your body autonomy while remaining anonymous. I hardcore support you. But there are literally hundreds of ways for you to post your nudes without resorting to offing your own head. The above is a stellar example. Yes, Cora Keegan is a famous model–but the principle still applies. A little creativity instead of the lazy head-out of frame strategy produces seismically better results.
If you’re willing to think outside the box and engage your critical, creative problem solving skills, then you’ll likely be able to keep your head inside the box while making a better picture and remaining anonymous.
I’ve stared at this enough to realize it’s a backless evening gown she’s wearing backwards.
Remember that feeling when you were young and on the threshold of sharing your body with someone new? How your back teeth were filled with bees and your knees went all jello-y electric? That’s what her line of the dress caused by her right thumb makes me feel.
I have a conflicted relationship with Weston’s photography: on the one hand, his images don’t do much for me; on the other, I consider his print making skills unsurpassed.
Yes, Pepper No. 30 was printed by Weston’s son. And yes, it features the dynamism of a stiletto pressed against your jugular. But the prints made by Weston’s son–although never less than monumental–are good because the exaggerate what the senior Weston was so astute at underscoring in his work: dimensionality conveyed by means of rigorously exacting control of tone and texture.
Perhaps I’ve just worked too long with B&W film but the skin tone in this looks more perfect than I can fit to words. I don’t miss color. In my head, Wilson’s skin looks exactly how I see skin in my head. (And I love, so much, that one of the most iconic images of feminine beauty in the photographic canon features a woman with unshaven legs and pubic hair.)
You can want to be drawn me like one of those French girls all you want. Me? I want to see (and be seen) the way Weston saw Charis.
Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)
I really, really wish I knew where this is from because it is quite possibly perfect.
Let’s start with the color: the walls are an eggshell that go white in the daylight key lighting, peachy in the spill splashed behind his left hand and hazes towards blue gray as it nears the edges of the frame. His pants and her skirt (?) are black; her top is white and his top is grey. These muted colors punch up the skin tone rendering a spectacular range in both parties skin tone.
That alone would be enough to make me swoon but there’s more: the way his shoulders are cantilevered against the wall as she pulls his center towards her is almost certainly a visual rhyme with one of the most exquisite studies of figuration motion in the western art historical canon–Bernini’s Daphne and Apollo.
In the best case, this essentializes female-bodiedness to genitalia. (Duchamp’s Etante Donnés being a likely point of departure isn’t a good enough excuse.) Worst case–which isn’t all that different from the best case–it operates as misogynistic synecdoche.
The presentation is rather clever (mounted Kodachrome slide as a winking meta-joke on fetishization); but, not so clever as to dismiss criticisms.
With these foibles, it‘s still motherfucking gorgeous. I don’t care how expensive and difficult it was to manage, Kodachrome ran circles around later color positive stocks.
And now that Fuji discontinued Astia, there is no longer a world class color transparency stock. Yes, there are good stocks–I use Provia 100, to better than middling results. And a good chrome–in terms of color reciprocity–is indisputably preferable to the best negative stock. (Whereas neg stocks compared to digital are like comparing the illumination of the sun to pitch darkness encroaching on a guttering flame.)
I mention this partly to provide context on my fetish object assertion and as a result of recent speculation that Fuji may be leaving the E-6 party in the next five years; a move that would mark the end of color positive film stocks.
Motherfucking megapixels suck at B&W due to digital only theoretically supporting 75% of the range of blacks the human eye can see. That’s why there will always be B&W film stocks. But despite still remaining grossly inferior, digital is killing color. I categorically don’t want to live in a world where representing colors like those in Steve McCurry’s so-called Afghan Mona Lisa have been rendered obsolete due to an insistence on following the path of least resistance.