Ethan James GreenConnor Wall for Arena Homme+ (2016)

Green started as a fashion model but he eventually moved from in front of the camera to behind it.

I can think of several others who have followed a similar trajectory: Ellen von Unwerth and Lina Scheynius, specifically. What’s interesting about those two names is that I actually mostly dig both their stuff–because I adopt a particularly dim view when it comes to self-proclaimed fashion photographers. (Looking at trash like Helmut Newton; also, even though Annie Liebovitz calls herself a portraitist, her practice is thoroughly rooted in practicum and I have a strident dislike for both her and her work.)

But I feel like folks who start as models and then transition to roles as photographers and image makers, I feel like they are more inclined to bring clearly negotiated and carefully realized considerations about the nature and purpose of photographs and images to bear in their work. (It’s kind of analogous to a contention I’ve had for years–namely: if you put a dancer, i.e. someone who learns choreography and performs piece focused on notions of contemporary movement, into a room with a digital image maker and introduce a the topic of interrogating conceptual art; the dancer will crush the image maker at a rate which would render the occasional triumph of the image maker as statistically inconsequential.)

What former models bring is not so much a more organic sense of pose and presentation–although that is definitely the case with Green’s image of Connor Wall. Mostly there’s this emphasis on the physicality of the body. The one hand on the splurtting hose the other down his boxer briefs is a clever visual pun. But really that’s set dressing.

The hose explains the wet skin. The frame is composed in such a way that the light grey of the skin of Wall’s upper body stands out in a pronounced fashion–as does the water emanating from the hose. (A sort of emphasis speaking to the constant inconstancy of physical form.)

I don’t think this is perfect. Wall’s eyes are too deeply set and the way they just sit there like slitted event horizons and the way the top and left side of his head have no separation between the background stand at odds with everything else. Still, I am far more interested in this in 99.2% of fashion photography.

Blake FitchJulia on radiator from Expectations of Adolescence series (2005)

There are at least three other bodies of work I can think of that cover similar ground to Expectations of Adolescence.

Conceptually, Sally Mann’s At Twelve–with its 8×10 portraits of several dozen twelve year-old girls–is the clearest antecedent.

There’s also Anna Grzelweska’s less polished (but no less fantastic for that it) Julia Wannabe series–where a mother documents her daughter’s transition from a girl into a young woman.

And don’t forget Siân Davey’s series focused on her daughter Martha.

The two young women in Expectations of Adolescence are the younger sister and cousin of the photographer.

Here I want nothing more than to dive into an examination of the questions as to where excessive stylization begins and where is crosses over into a kind of  over hyper-realism–however, benevolent Satan must be smiling down on you tonight because you are saved due to more pressing matters.

See: I was moderately squicked out by this–at least initially. I mistook Blake for a masculine first name–it’s feminine here.

(And it’s not only me–several people I’ve showed this to had the same reaction.)

Interestingly, not an hour before I found discovered this huge piece of information I had carelessly missed–I had been screaming about that petition demanding the NYC The Metropolitan Museum of Art remove Balthus’ Thérèse Dreaming from their collection.

I wasn’t going to read the petition but I went and did it just now and I was wrong to give it the benefit of the doubt–it’s 100% grab the pearls reactionary concern fapping.

And I just so happen to have a previous version of of this post with my approximation of what the gist of the petition: in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the petitioners view this work due
to it’s ‘voyeuristic’ nature as well as it’s ‘sexualization of young

I am going to just skip over the part about taking a gallery to task for exploiting voyuerism–it’s a bit like saying: that new pope sure is great except for that whole Roman Catholic thing.

I’m curious how many of the folks signing on for this petition have actually engaged with the work in good faith?

I mean–yes: Balthus was almost certainly an hebephile. I’m with Dan Savage on this one: it is absolutely possible for someone to have a fetish that they cannot morally sate. And there are such things as gold star examples of those folks who–due to the inability of the other party in their desire to consent to sexual contact: they abstain.

So the question is: if Balthus did have a thing for adolescent girls but never acted on it–in part because through art he found a means of transferring his fantasies–are his works more or less socially acceptable due to their being less morally bankrupt?

Are we–through the act of viewing–also rendered guilty by osmotic association?

Pretty much that’s the point.

Lastly, the notion that the work glamorizes the sexualization of young girls is maybe even more offensive. The semiotics of the composition from her expression to her pose to the behavior of the cat all communicate an inaccessibility. Or to put it another way: it takes some work to look at that picture and think I want her even though she very clearly does not want me? And that makes you a creep.  (There’s this whole thing akin to that whole thing about whether the angle of the dangle in Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring’s bauble indicates whether she’s looking towards the viewer or away from them.)

I mean full disclosure: it’s one of one of my all-time favorite paintings. So–of course I’m going to defend it; but am I wrong, too? It’s something I’m mulling.

This post brought to you but the letters T, H & C.


Yung Cheng Lin7906 (2017)

At first glance, it’s stunningly obvious that the composition here was guided by the rule of thirds.

Here are super-imposed rule of thirds guidelines for reference:

I was expecting to discover when the lines on whatever sort of court this is are askew.

Interestingly, it turns out that it’s a bit different than I thought. The rule of thirds lines relate to the positioning of the subject. (Also, the angle of the demarcation between light and shadow is very nearly at the same angle to which the painted lines on the court are wawkerjawed.

What I didn’t expect was that the models knickers are so well matched to the white paint on the court. Subtle and at very nearly dead center in the frame, it’s easy to miss.

It’s also a brilliant move to position the model so that her body is ever so slightly positioned toward the bottom of the lower left to upper right diagonal to balance out the paint (positive space) vs the unpainted area (negative space).

Vojtěch V. Sláma – [↖] Catherine in the Pond, Slatina, Czech Republic from Wolf’s Honey series (1998) [↗] Lucy, Jevišovice, Czech Republic from Wolf’s Honey series (2003); [↙] Ka. Te. Mi., Slatina, Czech Republic From Wolf’s Diary series (2006); [↘] On a Schooltrip, Stříbský mlýn, Czech Republic from Wolf’s Honey series (1999)

Is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes? In
perversion […] there are no
“erogenous zones” (a foolish expression, besides); it is intermittence,
as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the
intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing
(trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the
glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather:
the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance.

Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

Polina PoludkinaUntitled (2014)

This photograph resonates strongly with me.

I am not sure it’s completely non-appropriative to assert but I feel that if I could use a picture instead of a label to express my sexuality, this would be one of a dozen images too which I’d point. (Full disclosure: I would always point to this first and this second.)

But, you may object, this image is not explicitly sexual. And I am not going to insist it is but I do think it has something interesting to say–as much as mute images may speak–about intimacy.

I have lost a number of friends over the years and especially of recent. It would seem that more neurotypical folks view a continuum of intimacy associated with the concept of friendship and a separate continuum of intimacy associated with romantic and/or physical attraction; each are mutual exclusive and never the twain shall meet.

I don’t understand the dichotomy; either I trust you or I don’t–there’s no middle ground.

And this photography–and much of Poludkina’s work–is obsessively preoccupied with intimacy. In that her work overlaps the work of a photographer of whose work I will always be critical, Jock Sturges–specifically, The Last Days of Summer.

Both Poludkina and Sturges are interested in intimacy; but whereas Sturges primarily uses the nuclear, nudist family as a means of subverting criticisms of sexualizing pubescent youths–and to be clear just because I dislike his work doesn’t mean I feel it is worthy of censure or that it displays any sort of predatory sensibility, Poludkina doesn’t have to front load her work with the same sort of conceptual contortions. (As an aside: browsing her Flickr photostream there’s a feeling that her work is aggressively edited, distilled down to a moonshine of memories–yet instead of the memories we actually remember when we try to remember, the scope of her work reads as the memories we’d prefer to remember if we could remember to remember them. That’s unnecessarily layered and abstract but although I can’t quite articulate it the way in which the one young woman–who is out of focus–is aware of and watching the camera activates a sort of narrative insinuation. Her look somewhere between curiosity, welcome and insular reservation. The feeling of that narrative insinuation is identical to a prominent tone in maybe my favorite films of the last decade Short Term 12it’s streaming on Netflix you have no excuse. This connection is interesting because Short Term 12 is, among other things: a meditation on the stories we tell ourselves and others and how the telling of those stories shapes our perception of the world around us.)

I feel like the strength of this photo is that unlike Sturges’ work it at least remains unblinking to the interpenetration of intimacy and sexuality.

While in Amsterdam, I happened upon this billboard proclaiming Maika Elan‘s 2013 Pride Photo Award win under the documentary category for The Pink Choice (2012).

I nearly walked right by it as I was stoned, ravenously hungry and reasonably well on my way to getting drunk–not to mention it being tucked away in the plaza abutting the Heineken brewery.

Somehow, the bare legs of the young woman balanced on roller blades snagged the corner of my eye from across the street.

Upon closer inspection, my first thought was this belongs on my blog. I retrieved my phone and snapped several images of it.

Two months later, I don’t question my instinct to share this: it belongs alongside the other images on this blog. Still, I am hesitant to post it. Why?

My initial thought was including the image would provide a great occasion for a sex positive, yay-for-gay post. Now this strikes me as a naive notion at best and more likely disingenuous, lazy and intellectually dishonest.

Issues of sexual orientation certainly overlap with issues of sexuality but the two are not interchangeable.

Being ostensibly a sex blog  I don’t think it’s a good precedent to take the path of least resistance especially when to do so overlooks the fact that what initially fired my curiosity about this image was essentially libidinous– a young woman in her underwear.

As much as that is a problem–the cultural prerogative of sexualizing the female body–it isn’t the image’s problem; if anything, Elan succeeds by offering the viewer so many diverse avenues of approach: attraction, narrative, absurdist humor (seriously, wtf is up with blow drying the cat + who roller blades in doors), inversion of the mundane (aka whimsy) as well as a sense of authentic experience.

And it’s not really something I know how to other than to point out that despite what drew me to the image when I finally turned and lopped south, away from Marie Heinekenplein, I was struck by two realizations: first, I was now just as attracted to the second woman as the one wearing the roller blades– or perhaps more accurately attraction had blossomed into curiosity about them, the nature of their relationship, how they interact with one another, etc.; second, as a terminally unrequited individual, I am frequently and bitterly jealous of ‘happy’ couples, but while this image did make me feel a little sad, it also made me strangely grateful to be alive in a world where love is possible.

I am not just an analog purist when it comes to photography: take your Nook/Kindle/iPad and shove it up your ass sideways.

Give my hand the solid heft of a book, smooth texture of cover and spine against my skin as it spreads open, beckons my gaze, waits for fumbling fingers and claims my mind so completely for a time.

And the smell…

So, in summary:   

1. Books are hell of sexy as fuck.
2.This had me from lesbian foreplay in a bookstore.

Being a book loving nerd makes me no stranger to bookstores. But I have an affinity for them I don’t know how to explain except to admit that books very nearly jump off the shelves and latch onto me. (Also, I want to visit the Ryōan-ji Temple one day and when I imagine what it will be like it always feels the calm, timelessness that I almost always fee in bookstores.)

But there’s also Fowles’ The Magus and Franzen’s The Corrections framing the head of the young woman whose undergarments are being removed—both of which I have read and enjoyed to varying degrees. (Leave the Franzen. Take the Fowler.)

These tiny points of familiarity engage me with the tableau.

Right off, I notice the woman being undressed is not entirely comfortable with transgression of personal boundaries but remains nonetheless consenting.

This resonates deeply with me. See: I am borderline autistic and as a result have zero ability to negotiate expectations others have for/of me. As best as I can tell this is a result of my inability to understand inconsistencies in the personal boundaries of others.

A tact I have learned for managing this is to assume everyone I meet has the most highly restrictive personal boundaries I can imagine until I discover some evidence to the contrary.

This has the benefit of preventing many otherwise unnecessary misunderstandings with strangers and acquaintances. But it causes problems as I only know where I stand with them when they tell me. And in relationships such a prerequisite is not exactly desirable.

The only thing that works is the rare person who enjoys pushing personal boundaries and is completely unprepared for someone who almost completely lacks them.

All that is to say: I would give anything to trade places with the woman and have my friends who I trusted completely begin to undress me daring me to stop them. Knowing they would if I asked and knowing that I would not.


Christian Vogt

Baryta print from the SIX/TWELVE series.

The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled and barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
–the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly–
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
–It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
–if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels–until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.