Experimenting: New Nudes

Many years back now, I took the screen out of Dad’s old projection television, and discovered the “screen” was three sheets of plastic stacked together. One layer was a fairly standard issue piece of plexiglass. A second layer was a fresnel lens. Those two layers became Naught But An Odd Tree. The third, and least rigid, layer was stacked inbetween them, and is a finely grooved sheet of plastic I can only assume was a sort of anti-aliasing filter to smooth out the projected image and the effects of the fresnel lens.

For a long time now I’ve wonder about shooting a series of nudes through it, because it smashes whatever isn’t pressed right against it into some fairly dramatic blur. It took a bit of work to set up the shot on my ownsome, I’m not used to working both the camera and the object it is pointed at, but, I think so far I like the effect. I’ll have to explore this some more.

Categories: photo Tags:  

Manjari Sharma’s Shower

From "The Shower Series," by Manjari Sharma

For the last few months I have been inviting people to visit my apartment and allow me to photograph them in a very intimate space; my bathroom. I have also been inviting them to take a shower as I continue to shoot them. I soon came to the observation that warm water running over my subjects bodies often relieved them of any unnerving awkwardness the camera brought about. Once they were relaxed, the bathroom, formerly a beauty parlour, now became a confessional and I the hair dresser. Many of my subjects shared intimate details of their life with me and every new person in the shower became a brand new allegory. With every new visit I had a new protagonist; A new plot and a new parable of hurt and heroic that came undone under that shower – My Shower. I felt a personal mythology was being shared in that shower. An independent study that I have gotten addicted to.

Sometimes, Though, Nudity Makes Art (Noah Kalina)

So, recently I posted my somewhat unexpected stance (especially from me) that nudity does not make something artsy. Last night, I was discussing it with my pal Nakul and his friend Ash, both of them distinctly opinionated and interesting debate companions. And, I suppose to make the point clear, I do think that nudity can be art, I’m just saying it isn’t by default. A square is a rhombus, a rhombus doesn’t have to be a square, yadda yadda.

1245909572_21dc2989c8But, I wanted to illustrate this point to them with a work last night and couldn’t find it. Lucky for me I have the advantage of time and internet tonight, and was able to scrounge up this photo from Noah Kalina. Without a doubt Noah Kalina is my favorite artist working in photography right now (wanna know why? start by looking here, here, here, here, and especially here). And, part of why he’s my favorite is that, despite having more topless women than a strip bar, whenever he breaks out the skin it’s always breathtaking, interesting, or so at odds with the rest of the photo that you spend the next twenty seconds trying to figure out why that girl has no shirt on. And, while it’s a trick he uses time and time again, somehow he keeps shifting the context so that while you can start skimming past them faster, it’s rare that any of them are such that you can offhandedly dismiss them.

Case in point, this screwball shot with the topless brunette on a hillside with a Big Gulp. The day I figure out exactly what this means is the day I’ll finally decide to finish reading Finnegan’s Wake. After all, the infamously complex novel might be easy sailing if I can decipher this. But that’s the magic. If the girl were clothed, this would still be a good shot for the art world (the commercial world would of course scoff it away immediately, and that’s a shame). But she’s not clothed, and that adds the extra impetus to stick with the photo, and it keeps adding back into the off-kilter atmosphere. It brings something unexpected to the scene, and just as unexplained. It adds mystery, and mystery is good.

On Sex And Art: The Nude Dilemma

OK, so, let me start by saying this: I have no problems with pornography, moral or otherwise. A fact which my parents will disapprove of, but a fact nonetheless. I figure if I throw that out now I can avoid a few accusations of basing the rest of what I’m going to say on puritanical values.

So, onwards to the meat of the thing. I’m working in the background on preparing a special body of work to execute next year. A primary, underlying/over-riding theme in the work is that of sexuallity. Not of orientation, but of the basics of sex as lust, sex as power, sex as enlightenment, sex as desire, sex as obscenity, so on, so forth. And I’m doing the whole series photographically. Which means I need models, which means shopping on Model Mayhem. And, while it’s a useful tool, it’s also something of the MySpace of the photo world and you’ll find more aspiring ‘models’ on there showing enough skin to make a few nude beaches look stodgy.

And that leads me to the following bold statement: if you cannot define, in words, how the nudity of a subject adds critical meaning to a piece that could not be conveyed in other manners, then it’s not art. It’s just voyeurism.

I’m not saying voyeurism is bad. Mankind would be in a right sorry place if we didn’t like seeing attractive members of the appropriate gender run around unclothed. But, contrary to popular belief, just talking a gal out of her clothes and sticking her in front of a crumbling wall does not make something art. It makes it a naked girl in front of a wall. Sorry, that’s it. Naked girl, wall. There we go.

And, I’ll admit, it’s a difficult stance to take, given that I’m rather fond of well-done nudes myself. And, it’s not like nudes aren’t basically the most recognized artistic subject ever (try flipping through an art history book without finding nudes), but let’s be honest: sometimes even a well-done nude is just a well done nude. It doesn’t make it any more art than a painting of a deer in the woods in the snow (a popularly derided ‘sofa art’ subject).

So, instead of taking shitty pictures, photogs out there, and calling it art because you worked some nipples into it, I challenge you to try and find what the nudity adds to the meaning. If the piece would work just the same (emotion, light, color), if a little less erection-inducing, with the model clothed, then you didn’t make art. You made a picture. Any schmuck can do that these days. Be better.

Categories: theory and philosophy Tags: ,  

Chris Valites’ “Water” Gives Studio Nudes New Lease On Life

"Water", 12/15, Chris Valites

"Water", 12/15, Chris Valites

So, I remain a sucker for nudes in photography, despite my also being ruffled that so many times having someone naked is a shortcut to getting something viewed as art, whether the subject being naked actually adds anything to the piece or not.

And then Mr. Colberg links today to this series from Chris Valites, which is visually very complete, and restores a sense of both magic and intimacy to the nude by mostly obscuring them and creating visual allusions to showers. The whole collection feels very intimate, stark, and elegant all at once.

Chris, my hat is off to you. Very solid work. Bravo.

Chris Valites “Water” via Conscientious

Chris Valites' "Water" Gives Studio Nudes New Lease On Life

"Water", 12/15, Chris Valites

"Water", 12/15, Chris Valites

So, I remain a sucker for nudes in photography, despite my also being ruffled that so many times having someone naked is a shortcut to getting something viewed as art, whether the subject being naked actually adds anything to the piece or not.

And then Mr. Colberg links today to this series from Chris Valites, which is visually very complete, and restores a sense of both magic and intimacy to the nude by mostly obscuring them and creating visual allusions to showers. The whole collection feels very intimate, stark, and elegant all at once.

Chris, my hat is off to you. Very solid work. Bravo.

Chris Valites “Water” via Conscientious