Chris Little – Title Unknown (20XX)

Initially, this image caused my brain to crackle a lil’.

See one of my photographic preoccupations is conveying an entire (or at least the implication of an entire) narrative in a single static frame.

This image is not narrative. The framing is odd and it doesn’t work all that well but the subject is striking enough to round up to interesting.

But: it does provide an unintended cue with regard to the question of the distinction between narrative photography and cinematography.

Namely, images with a narrative slant tend to feature many of the same key aspects of that characteristic bedrock of cinematography: mise-en-scène.

Now, in still images (especially portraits) there is a tendency to place the subject in an environment and then effectively highly and underline the portrait-ness of the image by abstracting the environment. This process is called bokeh; and people will spend thousands of dollars on ultra fast 85mm lenses to maximize their bokeh aesthetic.

Narrative images, on the other hand, tend to go the Greg Toland deep focus/Group f/64 route–presenting an expansive depth of field so that the characters are contextual grounded in their environment.

And I’m not saying that there isn’t a cinematic cross-pollination which borrows from still bokeh and huge depth of field. Yet, what there isn’t really in still images, is the sort of David Fincher-esque shallow depth of field and bokeh wherein, something is blurry and abstract in the foreground, the subject in the mid ground is in sharp focus and the background falls off again towards abstraction. (This isn’t exactly the best example for someone new to the concept but for those who have their footing, it’s hard not to stare at this and not want to furious jill off to the effortless control this shot evinces.)

The thing I wasn’t expecting was to find next to nothing on the photographer. He doesn’t seem to have a web presence anymore. I was able to dig up a version of his old personal website cached on Ye Olde Wayback Machine.  It’s heady stuff–like Noah Kalina, Ryan McGinley and Petra Collins got mad hopped up on methamphetamine at the Hopscotch Festival and passed a 35mm disposable camera back and forth between them.

Malerie MarderUntitled (1998-2000)

She explores the psychosexual undertow in close relationships by photographing herself and friends and family in the nude, often in seedy settings such as pay-by-the-hour motels.

Matilda Battersby on Marder’s Carnal Knowledge exhibition

If you only consider her ethos, Marder is exactly the sort of image maker you’d be right to think might motivate me to quit my job, sell all my possessions and become a disciple.

And as much as I love half her work, there’s a prevailing theme of contrite ars gratia artis–as if transgression (or perversity, in the best sense of that word) needs to necessarily be couched in the framework of fine art if it is to be worthy of contemplation.

Marder tends to be less careful in considerations for propriety when it comes to including herself in her work. There is certainly a nobility to that tact, but it does a disservice to her work. Although it’s not a conversation that seems to be percolating, anywhere with her work, I get the feeling Marder has more in common with vextape than Philip-Lorca diCorcia. (There’s zero value judgment in that statement; merely a reflection of the sad fact that our culture has seen fit to lavish praise on a fixation with sexuality that takes a more pathological, apersonal approach while banishing more experiential, personal work preoccupied with graphic depictions of sexuality to the realm of pornography.)

I guess what I am really trying to point to is that with only a few exceptions, the works that move me–and the above is absolutely fucking exquisite–is the work where there’s a greater concern for presenting the underlying truth with brutal, unblinking honesty.

I sort of not-so-secretly wish Marder would set out to make pornography, at least once in her career because I am certain the results would be nothing short of revolutionary.

David Meskhi – from When Earth Seems to Be Light series Title Unknown 2008.

Meskhi’s website presents his as a photographer preoccupied with athletes, skateboarders and soldiers. Shooting predominately flat black and white, his inclusion of occasional, irreverent bursts of color do nex to nothing to lessen the work’s dour murk.

By contrast– and as suggested by the title– his When Earth Seems to Be Light series is full or warmth and whimsy.

It’s maybe not good but it is undeniably more accessible than the other work showcased.

It is incomprehensible that this image does not appear on the site. Instead, another image of the same young woman–Anna, apparently is featured. The second image isn’t bad; it’s casual immediacy seems forced, as if it seeking to neuter the sentimental nostalgia.

And I see how someone could read the image I posted could as self-indulgently sentimental. It is a little; However, that’s not always a bad thing–arrive for the nostalgia, stay for the Art.

In this case, neither sentimentality or nostalgia pull me in. It’s the sheen of water droplets on her skin, the texture of her wet hair. And I absolutely love how she is turned away– it reminds me of the hypothesis posited by either Edward Snow or John Berger that the young woman in Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring is simultaneously turning toward and away from the viewer. (If you’ve got seven minutes to kill, check out: a physicist tackling this question.)

I confess that this image does cause me to lapse nostalgic. But that is due to the content more than anything pertaining to the execution. See although I am in my… er… well, further from my teens than I have ever been, I missed out on a lot of normal– at least for John Hughes movies–social rites of passage.

I played Spin the Bottle a handful of times but was always told that at least one of the people playing had promised my mom that they would make sure I didn’t play. I would beg and plead but there would always be a caveat that if the bottle landed on me, the most I could do would be choose two other people to kiss. (The stopped letting me play altogether when I began suggesting two boys or two girls should kiss.)

I also realized sometime last year that I have never been skinny dipping. And it’s not that the repressive environment I grew up in was so effective and getting kids to not be kids. It was more that I wasn’t invited to gatherings where those types of things happened.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to go skinny dipping this year. But the truth is I have just as many people to go with then as I do now.

Ryan McGinley

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Untitled (Bathtub) 2005

And as we staggered towards a frightening dawn, I swear all I everevereverevereverever believed in was all of us together all along.

youarecordiallyinvitedtopissoff:

Jessica Silversaga

171.

The dreamy ethereality of Jessica Silversaga’s work compliments her affection for fairy tales.

Despite their suffused light and idyllic innocence, her images have nothing in common with the ubiquitous Disney versions except the subject of beauty. But where the mass market films reify the notion that goodness always carry the day, Silversaga’s images employ the mechanism of the original materials—wherein the brutality of cruel, pricking thorns frame the delicate rose, rendering it all the more beautiful as a result of sinister intentions.

The brilliant white of tiles and tub, the few clinging strands of wet hair escaping thin braids at her neck and her averted face are replete with beauty.

But why is she turned away. I question whether she has a face– perhaps there is nothing but ragged skin lining the edges of a gaping black void.

Maybe such a response is a result of having seen too many horror movies. (Although I do not think I am entirely off base… she is after all turning left and as the eye enters the frame and passes left to right over it it becomes clear there is nothing she can be looking at. Interestingly, if this image were flipped and she was looking to her right, I think the singular thought would be she was merely turned away.)

It does not matter whether she has a face or not, what matters is her knowing what it is to hold chaos in one’s palm because like us all she too has a body.

By knowing this, we also know she is not another dime a dozen damsel waiting for deliverance from distress.

She is the thorn and the rose. As are we all.

A mass of thick dishwater curls pulled aside—dry except where darkened behind an ear, down her back.

Shower mist glistens along a shoulder, the angle of her neck—a second skin.

Invisible lips press against the spine, a slow finger tracing a familiar line—A bout de soufflé.

Tongue sealed up soft in her mouth like clay beneath a highway where she waits in memories amid seasons of traffic and lulls praying to taste the wet sting as vertebral notches open her like jagged teeth of a spinning saw.

(Standing in line for a movie once, there was a girl dressed in backless black with bandaged stitches all down her back. I came within an inch of touching her wound before realizing what I wanted to do, that I shouldn’t.)

The words to truth are terrifying. I am trying to say: do whatever it takes to open me.

(via captio)

A not insubstantial number of images indelibly imprinted on my mind have been made by Traci Matlock and Ashley MacLean—or, as they are perhaps better known: Rose and Olive of tetheredtothesun on Flickr and Nerve.com photo blog fame.

One cannot talk about Rose and Olive without addressing process. As I recall, they their work was always intended as a collaborative undertaking: Rose shot Olive and Olive shot Rose. The subject of the resulting image became the final authority on whether or not the image would ever see the light of day. In this way the subject is also a co-author of the work—an especially clever fuck-you to the proprietorial expectation of traditional male spectator.

Their work rings truer than most, resonating with a sense that this moment was something that happened just as you see it here.

The result has always been in my opinion some of the most sexual explicit photographs—if not so much in content, in implication—I have ever seen.

It’s possible to dismiss it as cloyingly exhibitionist, but the trust between the two is too wide-eyed in its unwaveringly dedicated sincerity.