Kimberly Butler Web Conference
A few notes I took from the thoroughly inspiring conference with Kimberly Butler this week. “Integrity is everything” – something I have always held dear, but it is nice to have this reaffirmed by someone in the profession. I am very proud of my own integrity and sometimes loose trace of the fact that there are many practitioners out there who simply do not care – as long as they get the shot it is all that’s important.
“My job is to shoot – your job is to interpret” – a very interesting standpoint within any discussion on the photographic truth and how blatant we are with our message. My personal preference is that less is more so that the reader can take what they like from a shot and in the hope it makes my work more intriguing. We were asked a couple of weeks ago ‘Is photographic ambiguity an intent in it’s own right?’ – I think this often leads to a richer dialogue, so have employed this within my work in the past (and doubtless will continue to do so in the future).
I found her ‘Banned Books’ project particularly effective. I enjoyed trying to guess the references but must admit it was helped enormously by her explanations. I guess it resonated with me so much as I had also been inspired by Ray Bradbury’s books. Indeed with my growing tattoo collection I sometimes think I am becoming his Illustrated Man. What intrigued me as well was the reaction she was getting in the US to the images. We know the USA can be ultra-conservative, but it takes an interview with a practitioner such as Kimberly to bring it home to roost. You are left to wonder whether the series would cause such a furore in the UK or France perhaps.
“No art is possible without a dance with death.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Must watch ‘Howl’ staring James Franco about the poet Allen Ginsberg.
Naked or Nude
I have the opportunity to have another shoot with a local subject who poses a conundrum as to how to portray him. My usual stylised images of poses and careful lighting do not really suit him as a character – they just show up the artifice even though these same styles suit the vast majority of guys I get to work with. It would seem the patriarch when he is such a fine example of the patriarch requires a different technique when photographed nude. The nude patriarch does not sit comfortably – he is neither beautiful youth, nor athletic Adonis so how do you go about creating imagery that compliments, looks natural but does not descend into the trite. I think this is where we begin to question what makes the difference between naked and nude. We know from John Berger that naked is natural, whereas nudity places itself on display (with the intention therefore of objectification). So I need to consider how to to portray this man so that he retains his power without it looking set-up. This probably involves treading a very fine line between naked and nude. The example below I took in 2016 and I think this illustrates it well – this image is staged, but has an air of the natural stolen moment and it allows the model to be naked, yet still has a reference to the nude. I hope it exemplifies what Martin Hammer would describe as a Naked Portrait; something with the simplicity of the naked without the overt sexuality of the nude.
Side Project To Try
During this weeks webinar with David Evans something was mentioned about the difference between highly magnified film grain in comparison with digital pixels. This is something I should like to explore in particular regards to censorship. If I were to shoot film of naked skin then scan at extremely high resolution so that it abstracts completely you could then title it in provocative ways to comment on the absurdity of censorship.
Bradbury, R. The Illustrated Man, (New York: Doubleday, 1951)
Berger, J. Ways Of Seeing, (London: Penguin Books, 1972)
Hammer M. The Naked Portrait, (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland Press, 2007)