wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with @kyotocatAnalog Bath (2018)

Bathrooms are not a great setting for photographs. First, they tend to be small/cramped. Second, they generally have crummy lighting.

This was a lesson I learned the hard way back when I was a film student. Every single project I attempted involved a scene in a bathroom. Without a bathroom with a window–which for those who don’t live in Brooklyn is a truly mythical creature.

But–for once–I have a bathroom with a window. It’s small but it’s south facing and my tub is actually photogenic.

During my last session with Kyotocat, I wanted to try to do something with it, esp. given that I only have this apartment for three more months.

By the time we got to it, the light was all but gone. My instinct was to just ditch the idea and cut things short. I figured that since I had no idea when I’d have someone else to work with, I might as well try.

I metered things and it was super sketchy. The rule of thumb is you can operate an SLR handheld down to roughly 1/30s shutter speed. Anything lower and you’re going to have camera shake. Interestingly, this has to do less with drinking too much caffeine and being jittery. An SLR has a mirror which flips up and out of the way before the shutter opens. The up and down motion of the shutter actually causes more of the shake than your movements.

I’ve all but sworn off SLRs–excepting the Pentax 67ii, I have trouble with fine focusing. By contrast, although rangefingers can be more challenging to find gross focus, fine focusing with them is a breeze for me. But I digress….

With a 35mm range finder I can get down to 1/8 of a second before I start seeing noticeable camera shake. When I first measured the light it was 1/4s (100 ASA, aperture wide open–f4).

It was 1/2s by the time I was ready to expose the first frame. In other words, there’s no way doing this handheld is going to work out.

Again, I thought about scrapping it. Instead I locked my xpan down to my tripod, put the camera strap around my neck, straddled the tub, braced two of the legs against the wall behind me and then treated the camera as if it was my tango partner.

To give you even more context: I’m wearing a long dress and Kyotocat is scootched with her legs halfway up the wall behind me. (She probably looked not unlike the model in this magnificent image by Joanna Szproch.)

I tried to line everything up symmetrically–which sounds much easier than it actually is when you find yourself in such a position.

When I got the slides back I was thrilled with the color. However, the slight angle of the composition bothered me. It wasn’t what I had envisioned compositionally–so I didn’t want to accept it.

I kept circling back to it for some reason. I still can’t decide whether the tilt harms or contributes; I have decided that the symmetrical intention is clear enough as it is and that the angle perhaps doesn’t harm or contribute and instead complicates.

Stepping back from questions of composition: the mood I was chasing is absolutely conveyed in spades. So I’m sending this photo out into the wild as a reminder to others just as much as myself that that adage about crisis being another word for opportunity is correct. This isn’t what I had in mind but I’m pretty sure it’s better than what I originally intended. I’m just not sure how to articulately defend that thesis because it’s more a nascent feeling than any sort of intellectual certainty.

Mathilda Eberhard – [←] ** (2010); [→] * (2010)

Whatever Eberhard lacks in polish, she more than makes up for with her audacity.

Apologies if this is a repetition of a previous persnickety and pedantically harped upon point–however, I am presently too inebriated to be able to figure out how to navigate out of this post and onto my blog to check whether I’m remember on of innumerable discarded drafts (there have been a lot more of those than usual lately, alas) or if it’s just something I thought about addressing and then just couldn’t figure out how to fit it all to words…

Anyway, during the nightmare hellscape that were MFA applications, I thought a lot about why I am drawn to the implications of narrativity much as the magnetized tip of the steel needle finds north on the face of a compass.

On the surface, I am intrigued by the power of stories. People can love you because of and through a well-told tale. Stories can connect people. Yet, the can also be used as Trojan Horses secreting ideological payloads.

My time as a film making student taught me that I might not be as great at judging the merit or lack thereof as far as those sorts of payloads.

I asked myself what would be involved in implying the entirety of a story with a single, static frame?

There are really two reliable ways to do this:

  1. Illustrate a story that is uber familiar to your audience
  2. Or, stage a tableau that allows for a familiar dramatic scenario (Pathos).

The former is the terrain of Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; the latter: Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.

Both require being relate-able–a less direct way of saying looking to what has come before. This leads to the sort of work where being lesbian or trans is just another character trait… like born in Louisville, KY, Gay, really likes kabob, etc. as opposed to a wholistic aspect of and projection from the character’s self.

And what we’re finding out is that it’s a lie that our love is only recognizable in the way it mirrors straight love. But we have our own language, or own deeply incised pathos and when you see them you–if you are capable of love–see them too and they mean the same to you.

Eberhard was really far ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. She’s challenging the limits of what pathos allows for in the most fantastic ways.

I haven’t seen any new work of hers in almost half-a-decade. She has an instagram–but it’s private. I would do just about anything to know what she’s up to these days. (She is in the top three on my lists of artists I would do just about anything to facilitate.)

If anyone reading this maybe knows her and could help a super fangirl out it would be supes appreciated.

K Thnx Bye.

Kiele Twarowski Untitled from Genesis (201X)

There’s something disorienting about the way this image fits together.

At the outset, there is a focus on the subject. The skin tone is stylized–it skews  a bit too red in the shadows, decidedly too yellow in the highlight; however, the overall effect contributes a sense of mid-to-late spring/early summer.

I am reasonably confident that this was made by propping a smart phone against a shampoo bottle on top of a closed toilet let. Twarowski is sitting with her back more or less against the tub. (Also, there’s likely been some in phone editing of the image–I’d guess that the divergence in skin tone was likely in service of creating a sense of depth and separation between her face/shoulders and the shower curtain behind her.)

I am curious about the 22 and presumable 23 tattoos on her outer biceps. But more than that I find myself entirely wrong footed by her website and the way it preserves a notion of personal vs. professional work–in this case the distinction is between ‘diary’ and ‘work’.

The ‘work’ section is… well, it looks like someone who is trying to make their approach to image making appear commercially viable. (As I’ve mentioned recently: I’m not convinced this is ever a productive approach.)

Now, hope over to the ‘diary’ section; see the difference–there’s a shimmering and vital intensity to the more personal work that is utterly lacking in the professional reckoning.

Is this something emerging from training or is it fallout from the belief that something is productive only insofar as it is saleable?

Also, I’m dubious about this notion that photography/image making works best with this sort of additive approach. Where an artist sets out to make work which fits within a specific conceptual niche–essentially building a body of work to fit a prerequisite schema. I personally think it’s better to put in the time making the work that interests you and then approach it in more of a subtractive, freeing the form trapped within the mass of work.

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.)

Zuza KrejewskaAnastasia, Hysteria, Warsaw (2013)

I have some quibbles with this from the standpoint of composition–it’s super challenging to have a door jamb that features so prominently and at such an cant and have it not ultimately distract from the image. (Flipping the image along the x-axis would help but it’s still not entirely workable with those tiles.)

it makes sense, though: the down tilt of the camera and the down thrusting lines in the frame all direct your vision. (Another benefit of the landscape frame–you can arrange it so it’s read side to side and up and down; the same can’t be said of vertical orientation.)

What I think this is great at is illustrating something about the number of things in a frame.

The received wisdom is that it’s easier to work with an odd number of things.

The problem is that two things is just fine. (If you can’t think of ten famous images which feature two people, objects or what-have-you, then it’s really time to start upping your game.)

Three is great. Four is workable. Five is great. Six, you would think wouldn’t work but it does because six is two groups of 3 regardless of how your arrange them. You would think 7 would be great–but it’s actually challenging because you’ve got a triangle and a square. (Da Vinci handled a similar challenge with 13 stunningly in his depiction of Christ’s Last Supper.)

(I remember reading that it also has to do with the ability of the human mind to visual numbers. One is easy enough: I. Two is great: II. Same with three and four: III and IIII, respectively. And groups of five: IIIII. Register without us having to stop and count. Six gets confusing but we tend to be well versed at groupings of three, so six scans instinctively: IIIIII.

IIIIIII is nearly impossible to parse without stopping to count several times.

And that’s honestly what this does well is that it breaks down the frame into visual groupings you can understand. I and III.

The I is naked. The III are all wearing black bras. I is in the tub. III are gathered around it. The III form a natural triangle which points away from the one–adding an extra sense of loneliness and isolation to her plight.

Joanne TaosuwanThe Cold, The Dark & The Silence (2008)

I could probably yammer on for a couple of paragraphs about opacity–you know: transmission vs reflectivity w/r/t light.

But even thought it’s just a shower curtain, I can’t help but see it as the surface of a puddle seething with tadpoles and she’s a god like figure who unfolds time and space and unfolds her creation by unfurling it, throwing it away from her, letting the wind catch it and then letting it drift slowing to lay upon the ground–not unlike you’d cover a bed with the topsheet in the process of making it.

If you see it like that it’s not hard to imagine this as an image of a piece with William Blake’s metaphysical illustrations. Perhaps that’s why this has imprinted itself so indelibly on my mind.

Taylor RadeliaUntitled (2010)

This crossed my dash attributed to William Eggleston.

On the one hand I can understand why someone would think that. It’s an image of a piece with Eggleston’s oeuvre–fixated upon seeing the beauty of colors despite the often numbing interference of the mundane.

It’s almost like this photo by Radelia is–from the standpoint of photography math: this + this.

There are still notable differences anyone who has spent any sort of time with Eggleston’s work really ought to have caught: namely, Eggleston doesn’t really use a strobe all that often and although virtually all of his work trades in sublimated sexuality, the above is a little too direct in it’s perverse punning to be a lost Eggleston.

Radelia’s image is fascinating though because it’s a rare work that both stands on its own to feet but also holds up well when compared with the work from which it clearly draws inspiration. That’s not a small thing at all.