Thursday, January 26, 2006

Once and for all, an explanation/clarification of my work

In interviews and whatnot, I get asked the same questions over and over. How did I start this, what am I trying to do, where am I going, yadda yadda yadda. And actually, I don't blame these people for asking the same questions because if I had answered them well enough the first time, no one would feel the need to ask me again. I never seem to articulate myself as well as I want to when I want to.

But tonight, I received an email from a TV producer of a sex-themed show in Canada asking me, in a sense, those same aforementioned questions, and for once, I think I nailed it. Plus, I've been working on some new stuff, so it gave me a chance to talk about that. So now, once and for all, I will be able to finally say exactly what I've been trying to tell people for the past year. A little repetitive, but it answeres all the questions. I'm satisfied. This was lifted, word for word, from the email I sent:

"The photos actually started as a project for a class of mine while I was still in school. I recently received my BA in Art History, and last spring, I took a class called "The Radical Image" that explored what made which images "radical", culminating in a final project. I couldn't think of anything more radical than sex, especially pornography, given that it's so contentious and polarizing. I had look at a lot of pornography for my art and gender studies classes, and the same two things kept popping up to me: one, porn did absolutely nothing for me, and two, I couldn't figure out why people couldn't look at porn independently of any stigmas or social relevance, and just look at from an artistic perspective. For me, at least, probably because of the art background, the two were related; porn didn't work for me because I was looking at them as works of art. A nude woman, posed, carefully made-up and placed in an artificial setting, with every aesthetic detail manipulated to emphasize her beauty and naked form seems no different to me than any other traditional nude photograph. The only difference is that porn has been commodified as a product, and therefore isn't seen as art. In either case, I think those pictures are fake and fairly ridiculous, which is the other reason I don't like porn, I just can't relate to it. So I originally set out to make anti-Porn, a rejection of the Playboy look in favor or real people performing real acts that really appealed to a multi-sensory experience. Like, maybe if someone saw a photograph of a woman in the throws of an orgasm, maybe they could imagine how she reached that point, or could imagine what her moaning might sound like, or remember their own orgasms, and get turned on by something real. I got an "A" for both the class and the project, but in retrospect, I don't think I really accomplished my goal with the earliest pictures I took, in part because I had little access to willing participants, and I knew very little about how to actually make pornography. I think I'm getting better, and I've certainly gotten more experience, but I think I'm running into more problems.

Part of what I've been doing to improve my work is really study the porn that exists, either Playboy or otherwise. I'm bothered by the fact that the majority of porn is heterocentric, using women to cater to a man's fantasy. Not even in a Dworkin kind of way, it's just that it seems so limiting. There are other types out there, and it seems like there's something for everyone, which indicates some degree of acknowledgment of alternative sexual identities--but that's still not acceptance. I'm convinced that the different types really only exist because there's a market, and it can make someone money. Plus, the pictures, even if they address a different preference or fetish, are still posed and artificial. I'm not entirely sure those pictures are really reflective of sexuality, and not just someone's interpretation of that element of sexuality, or their interpretation of what they think that market wants. So I'm now getting more and more into documentary-style photography, and trying to capture real couples acting naturally. I don't coach them, I just ask them to do what they feel comfortable with, to do what turns them on. So it's not even about my thrusting (no pun intended) my own ideas of sexuality onto someone else, it's really about them. In a way, I'm actually pretty divorced from the whole process, but the final decision on whether or not two show a picture is whether or not I can relate to it. It has nothing to do with value judgments or personal preferences because there are multiple ways you can relate to or appreciate someone or something without actually experiencing it for yourself. SMBD action comes to mind. But the other thing at hand here is that the physical expression of sexuality doesn't necessarily mean sex itself, or even nudity. I think foreplay speaks volumes about sexuality, more so than an actual sex act, because it pertains to exploration and satisfying personal preferences. It's unique to you and your partner. The sex is just the culmination of everything. And again, that relates to trying to make the pictures about the models, not about me or any agenda I might have. But because there's such a strong emphasis on the characters of the models, who I work with is really important. I only work with friends. Hiring models defeats the purpose, and I'm not comfortable working with strangers. So who these people are becomes just as important as what they're doing. I don't think I really captured that in my earlier work, so I'm now working on capturing more faces and more personality, even if that means I might be sacrificing a dirtier or more controversial shot. In a way, I want it to be a form of reality TV-style porn. Real, yes, but I want to capture the unexpected, maybe show that real sex isn't necessarily all that glamorous of perfect, or that yes, you don't need to look like Pam Anderson to have mind-blowing, toe-curling, wallpaper-peeling freaky sex. Good or bad, it all happens. I just want to capture it, but make it as much about the people as about the acts they're performing.

I have a long way to go, and I'm still looking for models and taking pictures, but I feel like I'm on the right track."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

throes would actually be correct

12:37 AM  

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