Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#26 – Art Nude – “Tyra Storm”

I lucky to be able to book a slot with Tyra Storm recently.  An experienced art nude model, Tyra was easily able to produce poses that are classical in origin.  Whilst this means that they are often viewed with a male gaze, the images are still striking beautiful to look at.

Tyra is very easy to work with – she concentrates fully on her work and makes the art of posing look very easy. By working with shear fabrics, we were able to introduce an element of implied nude to the images. By obscuring or semi-obscuring parts of her body, Tyra was able to create images that are both classy an artistic.  The appeal of these images would not be limited to just the male viewer. The implied nature of nudity in some of these images creates beautiful, non-sexualised images that celebrate the human body.

I decided on colour edits for the majority of these images.  This is down to the colour palette we used in the studio.  Converting all images to monochrome would lose the vibrancy of the shear fabrics.

 

 

We also found time during the shoot to create 2 powerful images for my current body of work on body parts.

 

I have shot Tyra many times and she never disappoints.  I look forward to more shoots with her in the future.

Contextual Research, Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#25 – Art Nude – “Kristina”

My casting calls for people to take part in my work have been extremely successful.  I was very fortunate to have Kristina apply to take part.  When I asked why she decided to take part in my project, she told me about a boudoir shoot she had been bought as a present.  When she received the photographs after the shoot, Kristina was shocked.  She had been photoshopped so much that she did not recognise the person in the images as herself.  This had been done without her prior knowledge or agreement.  She then went on to say that my work speaks for itself and she could see that was not my style.

This was her first time being involved in an art nude shoot. Yet, Kristina is very confident and happy in her skin and that shone through the entire shoot. She was very easy to work with and was a pleasure to have in the studio.

The photographs speak for themselves.  Kristina is a beautiful woman who loves her body.  I was struggling whilst editing to understand why anyone would have wanted to photoshop stretch marks or or features off her body.  That is who she is and she accepts everything as part of her life story, so why shouldn’t the photographer?  In the case that Kristina told me about, I believe that the photographer was too emotionally involved in the images to objectively edit them. No doubt, the photographer felt that they had to edit the images as it was expected and what they would normally do.  This assumption led to a client feeling betrayed. This happens all the time in the media and in particular in the modelling world.  The following video shows an example of what happens in the advertising world.

Video 1: YouTube. 2012

I appreciate that altering photographs has been around since the invention of the camera.  I do photoshop some images to enhance a story or to change the model into a mythical or fantastical creature.  These are deliberate and very obvious manipulations. What I do not do is remove stretch marks or scars from skin.  I do not smooth out bits or liquify parts to make them appear longer and thinner.

A photographer who photoshops a client’s images without prior agreement is effectively saying that the body of the client is flawed in some way.  This is so insulting to the client.  The photograph no longer portrays the truth and we could argue that the photographer has crossed the line between ethics and aesthetics. In my practice, the model allows me to photograph them nude because they know that I have an ethical approach to the process.  I do not alter an image to alter the aesthetics.  As discussed in my blog post of 23 July 2017, I don’t alter the appearance of a person’s body.  I photograph from all angles to produce images that show bodies as they truly are and in their full glory. All bodies are beautiful and I would not consider my work ethical if I altered the body to produce, what you be, an aesthetic that I deemed beautiful. As I previously stated, I believe it is my responsibility and privilege to capture and share the many types of beauty that exist in this world.

I am grateful to Kristina for coming to my shoot and sharing her story with me.  It has helped me to understand my viewpoint in this project.

 

VIDEO SOURCE

YouTube. (2017). Body Evolution – Model Before and After. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17j5QzF3kqE [Accessed 31 July. 2017].

Contextual Research, Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoots Mod3#19-24 – Body Parts

As the body part project is gathering pace, I have been fortunate enough to photograph some amazing people. By just photographing parts of their bodies, there is much left to the imagination of the viewer.  In a sense, the parts of the body that are missing are just as important to the story.

Each body part has its own story to tell.  We wonder where the feet or legs may have taken the person.  We wonder what kind of work the hands have done. Who and what have they touched?

Other body parts tell different stories.  Scars and stretch marks tell of events past. Tattoos  give us an insight into the personality of the owner.  Do they hide behind the tattoo or do they wear their heart on their sleeve?

This project shows off parts of the naked body and highlights specific features to illustrate just how unique and special each body is.  During the shoots, the lighting set up has been a key feature in capturing the details.  I have set the lights so that shadows are cast to accentuate the lines and curves in the body.  The visible skin of the body is just part of the story.  I wanted to record effect the bones, muscles and ligaments have on the skin.  These create the most amazing areas of shadow and highlight in the image.

I have been using models of all ages, size, genders etc to emphasise that everybody has beautiful and unique features that we should celebrate. Below is a small selection of the images taken during these shoots.

 

Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#17 – Performance – “Laura”

I agreed to photograph a model to help her practice emoting in images.  I wanted to help her learn how to do this, as I have photographed lots of non-professional models and have been able to get them to portray many different emotions.

There are several tricks and techniques that we used during the session. Initially, the session was about getting Laura to relax. I took a few test shots to check that the lighting and camera settings were correct.  All the time, I chatted to Laura to help relax her.

Firstly I got Laura to loosen her face muscles by pulling faces and contorting her mouth.  Another experienced model, Tyra Storm, was on hand to offer suggestions and encouragement to Laura.

Laura has a lovely natural smile which she is often reluctant to use in photographs. A smile is the most recognised emotion from a distance. A true smile is symmetrical. It forms evenly across the face and disappears gradually. It rarely takes more than a couple of seconds in reality, but for photographing a smile, the model needs to exaggerate the gesture and hold it for longer than normal. The face muscles can be tired after this.

If the smile is asymmetrical and one side of the mouth is raised, the emotion shown is contempt. This is why it is important to practice the difference between the gestures.

Getting Laura to emote sadness was harder.  By getting her to keep her eyes open for a long time without blinking, they began to water.  Getting her to then look down to one side, the emotion was strengthened.

Laura emotes anger really well.  We practiced with different mouth position and degrees of how open and exaggerated her mouth was.  This gave us a range of expressions, all of which could be used in images.

Getting Laura to open her eyes wide and stare directly into camera, gave us emotions of fear and surprise.  Playing with head tilt and looking away from camera, allowed Laura to demonstrate doubt and thoughtfulness in her expressions.

Of course, many amateur photographers think that getting the models to ‘say cheese’ will get them to smile.  In actual fact, it looks unflattering and unnatural as their mouth clenches as they say ‘cheese’.

To give emotion behind the eyes, Tyra Storm encouraged Laura to think about different events from her life and imagined events. Tyra Storm also encouraged Laura to use her hands in different ways in her poses to add to the emotions.  All the time this was going on I kept shooting so that Laura could see the effect these things were having on her expressions.

Modeling is about using basic acting skills to produce emotions on demand. The session was great fun and I was grateful for Tyra’s help as well as Laura’s enthusiasm for trying all the different suggestions we gave her to try.

The faces of Laura
Figure 1: Sutherst. The many faces of Laura. 2017

 

Contextual Research, Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#16 – Location Shoot – “Johnny”

Photographing on location offers different challenges to photographing in the studio.  the lighting needs careful consideration and cannot be controlled in the same way.  Photographing on location requires the photographer to be a problem solver as no matter what the natural light was doing outside that day, we are need to figure it out and produce high-quality images no matter what.

Working with Johnny on location took some planning.  Initially, I found a location that I thought would work for the performance strand of my work.  I researched the location and had decided on various themes and ideas for the shoot.

The location chosen was Guys Cliffe House in Warwickshire. The location was available as a location share for photography group (Shoot Me Now) that we both belong to.  Owned by the Freemasons, and undergoing ongoing preservation by the Friends of Guys Cliffe, this old, historical partial ruin location has many things to offer as a location shoot.

Johnny came very well prepared with a selection of outfits for the shoot.  We decided to shoot in 3 – a black and white combination of jeans, shirt, boots, and corset; a formal suit and tie (although we did pair this with silver glitter stilettos); and a black combination of hotpants, corset, knee high boots, feathers, latex cuffs, pearls and a mask.

I took plenty of props along for the shoot –

  • Vintage Cronica 8 Camera
  • Vintage Kodak Retinette camera in a carry case
  • 2 different pairs of antique opera glasses
  • Various Venetian masks including the Plague Doctor mask
  • Rabbit and pig masks
  • Silver glitter stilettos

For each photograph, the background and composition were important.  The background needed to have interesting colour and textures that would complement and not detract from Johnny.  Whilst the natural light at each location was a factor, I chose to use a directional flash with honeycomb grid to give a dramatic feel to the images.  The honeycomb grid creates a narrow beam of light that stops only falls on the object or model you are pointing it at and the light does not spill everywhere. Grids are ideal for dramatic lighting setups and give a more contrasty image.  The grids also enabled me to  highlight the Johnny and his features,  providing a degree of separation between him and the background. The grid allowed me to introduce an element of lighting control into my images.

Each composition was carefully considered and intended to create narrative in the image.  Working together, Johnny and I decided on the specific poses for each shot, making the best use of the scene and props. For this shoot, I intended to stand back more from the images than I normally do.   The downside of this is that the images can give the impression that, as the photographer,  I am absent from the performing in front of the lens. I was shooting a wider image to include the amazing location, but don’t see as much of myself in the images as I would like. The module leader has suggested that I use something like a pocket mirror to reflect back on me and include me more in the final images.

 

Figures 1 and 2: Sutherst. 2017

Post processing was minimal except for a couple of images where I decided to affect the feel of the image by treating the images.  One comment that I received about them was that these images looked like I had tried to mask errors with the post processing treatment and that this was emphasised when a group of treated and untreated images were shown together. I hadn’t considered that this could be the viewer’s interpretation of these images.  The rabbit image (figure 2) was treated to see how far I could push it – the original image (figure 1) is fine as it is, but I wanted it to have an older feel to it.  The other treated image (figure 4) was shot in bright sunlight, so the treatment helped the original image (figure 3).

Figures 3 and 4: Sutherst. 2017

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Figure 5: Warhol. Man with Rabbit Mask. c. 1979

The rabbit images in figures 6 and 7 are my response to Warhol’s use of a rabbit mask (figure 15), in which he produced an image that is both whimsical and intriguing. The image is not a representation of a true character. Instead it is simulation, a hyperreal image where truth and fiction are blurred. This image interests me in relation to my own work as it demonstrates a performance and ambiguity in the meaning of the image. Warhol’s image uses a dark background for this black and white image. Warhol has used less contrast and so details on not is clearly defined in the mask that is worn. There is an element of blurring out the detail in his image, which adds to the ambiguity. There is nothing around the subject to give context or meaning as to why the mask is being worn.  I set out to produce images that lead the viewer to question the intent and meaning of each image.  The pig mask image in figure 8, is a variant on this.

Figures 6 and 7: Sutherst. 2017

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Figure 8: Sutherst. 2017

The images involving the Venetian masks were shot in caves beneath the house carved into the rock. I chose the plague doctor mask for figures 9 and 10 as the long nose seemed fitting.  It added an air of sinisterness to the scene. I am particularly pleased with figure 10 as the pose and lighting make this a strong image.  This is enhanced by the composition and placement of Johnny in the frame.

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Figure 9: Sutherst. 2017
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Figure 10: Sutherst. 2017

Figure 11 was challenging.  This was shot in the pitch black cellar using a light from my iPhone to illuminate Johnny sufficiently for my camera to focus and take the shot.  Trial and error resulted in the composition below.  Johnny is wearing a spiky studded Venetian eye mask to make him appear threatening.  The caves and cellars at Guys Cliffe are reportedly haunted and this was the inspiration behind this image.

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Figure 11: Sutherst. 2017

Johnny enjoys challenging perceptions and the norm by dressing and posing in such a way that makes the viewer question what they are looking at.  Even other participants at the location share made comments about his appearance.  This is great.  My aim is always to have viewer engagement through oddness in the images.

Heels for men is not a new concept. Louis XIV is said to have worn four-inch heels made by Nicholas Lestage in the 1660s. “For a great king, he was rather diminutively proportioned at only 5ft 4in (1.63m).  He supplemented his stature by a further 4in (10cm) with heels, often elaborately decorated with depictions of battle scenes.”(BBC News, 2013).  However, Johnny’s wearing of heels does generate conversation and discussion amongst the viewers of the images. Figure 12 is an example of the images produced on the day.

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Figure 12: Sutherst. 2017
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Figure 13: Sutherst. 2017
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Figure 14: Sutherst. 2017

Challenging the perception of the norm was further explored by the final costume.  Johnny is wearing a Venetian mask that is extremely masculine and has a sinister feel to it.  I was attracted to this aspect of the mask when I found this in a mask shop Venice.

This outfit did create a few comments on the day of the shoot and continues to do so when the images are viewed.

A viewer of the images (a good friend of mine) commented that in some of the images, especially figure 3, the outfit looks almost blasphemous.  Johnny and I felt that at times too on the shoot. For this reason, we decided it would not be appropriate for us to shoot any images in the Masonic rooms.  So we chose outdoor locations on the site, where the outfit would be fitting.

In figure 14, Johnny looks like the keeper of protector of the building.  The scale of the ruins is impressive, with only a small amount shown in this image.  The edit was chosen specifically so that the viewer would be unsure when this image was shot.  The monochrome tones also allowed me to increase the clarity to its maximum and also to increase the contrast in the image so that the image had added impact.

I appreciate that the images we shot at this location shoot are not to everyone’s taste and that there are many differing opinions about the work.  Personally, I am pleased with the overall results and can’t wait to edit the rest.

 

 

REFERENCES

BBC News. (2017). Why did men stop wearing high heels? – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21151350 [Accessed 26 July 2017].

 

IMAGE SOURCES

Figure 5: WARHOL, Andy. c. 1979. Man with Rabbit Mask. Fulcrumgallery.com [online]. Available at: http://www.fulcrumgallery.com/Andy-Warhol/Man-with-Rabbit-Mask-c-1979_839763.htm [accessed 26 July 2017].

Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#18 – Body Parts – “Beverley”

Nicola (model name Beverley) is another friend who has modelled for me on several occasions.  She is a hobbyist model who states on her model page “Categorically no full nudity and it takes a lot of trust in the photographer for me to be comfortable with lingerie.” (Purpleport.com, 2017).  So I was honoured and thrilled that she entrusted me with a shoot for my body part project.  I was also thrilled when she posted one of the art nude poses we took during an impromptu shoot.

FullSizeRender
Figure 1:Instagram. 2017

 

Some of the body shape images we produced are shown below in figure 2. Other images which show more nudity will be used in the project anonymously as I would like to protect Nicola’s identity in those images due to her model statement above.

Figure 2: Sutherst. 2017

Nicola advocates loving and owning your own body for all it’s flaws. As a child she was teased for her nose amongst other things.  I think her nose is amazing and should be celebrated.  It is part of what makes Nicola so special.  I am truly grateful for the images she helped me to create.  Nicola was able to produce some amazing shapes which make for really interesting images. Thanks Nicola 🙂 !

 

REFERENCES

Purpleport.com. (2017). Beverley, a Wells, Wells, Somerset BA5, UK based 5’3″ 26yr old Female model. / Portfolio hosting and networking for models, photographers and related creatives / PurplePort. [online] Available at: http://purpleport.com/portfolio/beverley/ [Accessed 26 July 2017].

IMAGE SOURCE

Figure 1: Instagram. (2017). Instagram post by Nikki Pillinger • Jul 26, 2017 at 5:13pm UTC. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BXBIo9qlDo6/?taken-by=beverley_modellingandponies&hl=en [Accessed 26 July 2017].

 

Contextual Research, Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#15 – Body Parts – “Tony”

As I have developed the body parts project, I have sought to explore subjects that normally wouldn’t be given a voice in photographic images, like an older man’s body. Tony volunteered to take part in the project.  As ex-military man, Tony had been involved with amateur productions for over 40 years.  One day, whilst on a train to York with his wife, Tony announced that he was going to give up his Civil Servant job and become an actor. He is now in his 60s and keeps very busy with his acting career, special effects business and film production.

As a society, we are obsessed with youth.  John Coplans challenged this with his photographs of his own naked, ageing body. His photographs questioned and challenged the taboo of age.

 

“The principal thing is the question of how our culture views age: that old is ugly. Just think of Rodin, how he dealt with people of all ages. I have the feeling that I’m alive, I have a body. I’m seventy years old, and generally the bodies of seventy-year old men look somewhat like my body. It’s a neglected subject matter…So, I’m using my body and saying, even though it’s a seventy year old body, I can make it interesting. This keeps me alive and gives me vitality. It’s a kind of process of energizing myself by my belief that the classical tradition of art that we’ve inhereted from the Greeks is a load of bullshit.”

– (Coplans in Warren, 2005: 329)

 

Like Coplans, I wanted to capture the true beauty of an ageing body and present the photographs in a way that would subvert the traditions of Western Art that only shows the nude figure as youthful. The lighting set up was again key to achieving this.  As in other shoots for this project, post processing for each image has been completed in a consistent way to maximise the impact.  I have applied a Lightroom preset called ‘Inky’ to each image. The images have then been edited to increase clarity and hence increase texture and definition in the resultant images.  The images were also converted to monochrome so that the focus is not distracted by colours and the viewer concentrates on the content of the image.

Some of the amazing body part images we captured during the shoot are shown below.

The images, like Coplans, have been shot without revealing the face. This is to emphasise that the aging body is shared by everyone and it is not distinctly linked to one individual. We all shared the aging genes, so the images are representative of man as a whole.

 

“I got the idea that my body was everybody’s body.  Like my genes were the genes of the whole human race, shared with them…My photographs became faceless and timeless and about the whole of human beings. It’s not (just) about the exterior. It’s also about the generic past of making and what we share together.”

– (Coplans in Warren, 2005: 329)

 

Tony wanted to be involved in the project to help me and had contacted me via Facebook to volunteer his help.  His offer of help was just that.  He had no hidden agenda other than to help another person develop and achieve their potential. I hadn’t met him before the shoot, but am extremely grateful for his involvement as I believe we have captured stunning images. Thank you Tony :).

 

REFERENCES

Warren, L. (2005). Encyclopedia of twentieth-century photography. New York: Routledge.

Contextual Research, Coursework, Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Publication Number Two

After I had the TWENTYSIX BUS STOPS project printed by Blurb, I decided to get the Performance project printed as well.

 

Whilst it is relatively simple to produce these photobooks via Blurb, it does feel a little impersonal to me when I compiled the Performance book.  Yes, I did complete the layout and choose the text etc., but I did not physically put the images into the books. The Performance project is one that I am personally involved in and that is why I think I feel like I do about it.

The photobook has a definite gallery feel about it.  The grey pages at the front and the grey text are in keeping with how I presented my portfolio at the end of the last module.

I have used a sans serif font to improve the readability of the text in my portfolio.   The only text contained in my portfolio is the title of each image. I have used faded grey for the text instead of black so it does not distract away from the image.

The images are untitled to preserve some ambiguity in the interpretation of their narrative.  My inspiration for this was Cindy Sherman, who left many of her images  untitled and open to the viewer’s interpretation. Performance means different things to different people, so this strategy works well in my body of work.

I do feel that in the photobook some of the performance aspect has been lost.  The smaller scale will make the images more intimate than they were initially intended to be.

More experiments and trials beckon…

Contextual Research, Project Development, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#14 – Art Nude – “Didi”

Ever since I saw Leonard Nimoy’s series ‘The Full Body Project‘ I have wanted to be in a situation where a larger lady would feel comfortable enough with me to let me photograph her naked.  I remember the first time I saw the images.  The ladies had cellulite, stretchmarks and fat rolls in the photographs. Nimoy had not photoshopped anything away from the women, rather he chose to show all of their bodies in their glory. As a larger lady myself, it was a revelation to see these beautiful and bold women. And I so wanted to be able to photograph like that.  Didi enabled me to do this.

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Figure 1: Leonard Nimoy. The Full Body Project: 273-59. 2007
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Figure 1: Leonard Nimoy. The Full Body Project: Three Graces. 2007

Leonard Nimoy’s models were all artistes from a burlesque group in San Francisco called the Fat Bottom Revue.  When the photographs were first published, many people clicked past them and overlooked the message that Nimoy was trying to send out with his version of Helmut Newton’s image ‘Here They Come’.  As a columnist for the Guardian, Lindy West (West: 2105) recalled “It was the first time in my life – I realise in retrospect – that I’d seen bodies like mine honoured instead of lampooned, presented with dignity instead of scorn, displayed as objects of beauty instead of as punchlines.”  She goes on to state “looking at Nimoy’s photographs was my very first exposure to the concept that my body was just as deserving of autonomy and respect as any thin body. Not only that, but my bigness is powerful.” Nimoy’s work went someway to challenge the women portrayed as merely objects in Newton’s work and to make us all proud of who were are, no matter what our size.

Didi is also a burlesque dancer. She asked me to do an art nude and body part shoot with her.  I did not realise until after the shoot, that it was her first time doing this kind of shoot.  In the past, she has come across discrimination because of her size, with male photographers on group shoots often favouring the more slender models.  I don’t understand this.  During the shoot with Didi, I was struck at how incredibly beautiful she is on both the inside and outside.  She looked joyous throughout the shoot and positively shines in the images. She is comfortable in her own skin, whilst many more slender models are not.  This is evident in the images below.

Didi is really keen to challenge the plus size stereotypes, so came fully prepared to the shoot with a mood board of ideas that she wanted to try out.  This meant that the shoot was incredibly productive for both of us. Didi has already had amazing feedback when she shared them in a female modeling group.

Didi was keen to use a few props to enhance and accentuate her body.  The beads and shear fabric complimented her really well and enabled me to capture some truly beautiful images.

As often happens in my shoots (and Didi’s too), we soon descended into hysterical laughter.  Before we knew it several hours had passed by.

In the past, Didi has had images taken by photographers that have been cropped to make them ‘more flattering’.  I find this disturbing to be honest.  Who should decide what a person deems to be flattering or not about their body.  Surely it is the person’s choice, not the photographer’s?  For this reason, I don’t smooth down parts of the body when processing the images.  I don’t photoshop bits out (or in).  I photograph the person from angles they want to be shot at.  I don’t only shoot them from a flattering angle.  I show bodies as they truly are.  I don’t apologise for this.  Bodies are beautiful from all angles but we have been trained by the media to think otherwise.  Didi is beautiful from all angles.  As a photographer, I believe it is my responsibility and privilege to capture and share the many types of beauty that exist in this world.

The stunning body part images that we captured in this shoot are shown below.

I can honestly say that this shoot was one of the most uplifting experiences I have had during this MA course. I felt that the shoot was liberating for both of us and I am truly touched that Didi trusted me to do this shoot for her.

 

REFERENCES

West, L. (2015). Leonard Nimoy’s photographs of fat, naked women changed my life. [online] the Guardian. Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/leonard-nimoy-full-body-project [Accessed 23 July 2017].

 

IMAGE SOURCES

Figure 1: Nimoy, L. From Rmichelson.com. (2017). 273-59 ∙ The Full Body Project ∙ R. MICHELSON GALLERIES. [online] Available at:http://www.rmichelson.com/artists/leonard-nimoy/the-full-body-project/zz273-59/ [Accessed 23 July 2017].

Figure 2: Nimoy, L. From Rmichelson.com. (2017). Three Graces | 609935 ∙ The Full Body Project ∙ R. MICHELSON GALLERIES. [online] Available at: http://www.rmichelson.com/artists/leonard-nimoy/the-full-body-project/zz303/ [Accessed 23 July 2017].

Contextual Research, Coursework, Surfaces and Strategies

Surfaces and Strategies – Considering Other Photographers and their Photobooks – Rankin and the Male Nude

“Male Nudes. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? It’s definitely intriguing. This is not the smooth , rolling landscape of the female body – this is a much bigger challenge – the awkward, jutting affront of the male. According to Rankin, ‘the female forms much more beautiful to photograph, which I think has something to do with the history of images. But also, women haven’t got a dangly cock and bollocks between their legs’.”

– (Rankin, 2001: no number on page)

 

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Figure 1: Rankin. Anthony Agbaje. 2000

Rankin’s body of work ‘Male Nudes’ was produced to raise awareness of Cancer Research’s Everyman Campaign for testicular and prostrate cancer.

Rankin’s work challenges our societies distaste and general non-acceptance of the naked male form being displayed.  The campaign aimed to break down a fundamental lack of awareness of male cancers and to encourage men to be more self-aware.

But how much has society changed since Rankin’s involvement with the campaign in 2001?  By my reckoning, not much.  Apart from the front cover, the remaining images in Rankin’s body of work are not available via a Google image search.  Instead, the search yields various female nudes. Rankin’s aim was to “offer a commentary on the disparity between the prevalence of naked women and the almost total absence of naked men in popular culture. Without expecting to be able to substantially alter the imbalance, Male Nudes goes far in explaining why we shun the male form in the mainstream media : it’s too unruly, too frank, too disturbing.”(Rankin, 2001: back cover)

So, Rankin gets it.  This imbalance isn’t going to change overnight and we have to keep plugging away at it.  The images in this photobook are humorous and yet sensitive.  The images are funny and sexy at the same time.  The image shot with the angel wings (in figure 2 below) is audacious and theatrical.  The scratch-off panel (which is really there) adds humour to the image.  The viewer wants to rub off the panel, but daren’t for fear of what might lie underneath.  The engagement with the image is increased as what isn’t revealed in an image is just as important as what is.

The models he used responded to an anonymous advertisement in the London Time Out Magazine. Men were offered the chance to present their suggestions for shoots.  Rankin then photographed the most interesting ideas.

Figure 2: Rankin. 2001

The images in figure 2 are photographs I took of various pages in the book to show the kind of images Rankin took and included. The images offer us a glimpse of the thoughts of the men and of the humour injected by Rankin’s practice.

The video below shows the photobook.  You will notice that I skip over a page and do not show one image.  This is because the image shows a naked toddler and I did not want this on my blog.  There are several reasons really, the main one being that as a teacher it would not be acceptable to my employer for this image to be published on my blog.

 

 

Rankin has presented the images in different formats throughout the book.  Some are stand-alone images alongside a blank white page, whilst others are side by side. There are images that spread over 2 pages or 1.5 pages.  Rankin has included both black and white as well as colour images.

The book has a gallery feel to it.  The white pages are very reminiscent of that. The stand-alone images have an impact.  Within the book, there is really no other image that they could have been paired with.  The white page opposite gives you time to digest the image and gives space to be able to appreciate the humour and message of the image.

The paired images compliment each other and are not as strong as the single images in my opinion.  They work well as a pair though.

The images spread over the 2 pages vary in their success for me.  The least successful one for me is the hotdog image.  The gutter over the book spine makes it difficult for the full effect of the image to be appreciated.

Looking through the book, it did occur to me that Rankin may have varied his use of pages in this way to suit the format in which he shot the images.  He has printed to the edge of each page and his images are presented in 3 formats – landscape over 2 pages, portrait on one page and square over 1.5 or 1.3 pages.  It does add interest to the viewer of the book, but I am not a fan of printing over the gutter.

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Figure 3: Rankin. 2001

The blue pages at either end of the book symbolise the male form.  I do find it tricky though to read the pale blue text on the white pages (figure 3).  This is not text you could read in a dark room. The text has a small font size which only adds to the difficulty in reading it.

Each image is credited in the back of the book, with the person’s name and a short bio about them and why they took part in the project.  This is well done.  I am particularly interested in the shoot dates and the locations of the shoots.  If find this information is often lacking in photobooks.

Overall, this is a successful photobook in my opinion.  Whilst it hasn’t dramatically changed the world in terms of the consumer being subjected to images of the male nude alongside the female nude, it has raised awareness of the disparity.

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Figure 4: Rankin. 2001

As a society, we understand and can comprehend an image of a female nude. It makes sense to use, even if that sense is defined in terms of the model’s size and shape.  The male nude is still alien to us.  We do not see the naked male form reproduced around us and this needs to change.  I think Rankin’s book has opened the eyes of the viewer to this and should leave us asking ‘why is one form of nudity more acceptable than the other?’.

 

 

REFERENCES

Rankin, T. (2001). Male nudes. London: Vision On.

 

IMAGES SOURCES

Figure 1: Amazon.co.uk. (2017). [online] Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rankin-Male-Nudes/dp/1903399130 [Accessed 17 July 2017].

Figure 2: Rankin, T. (2001). Male nudes. London: Vision On.

Figure 3: Rankin, T. (2001). Male nudes. London: Vision On.

Figure 4: Rankin, T. (2001). Male nudes. London: Vision On.