It's rare when art and pornography work well as an ensemble. I am sure there have been directors of pornography that were good at creating visually stimulating-no pun intended-work. But one does not usually view pornography for art's sake. I think I either read or heard that the average length of time one views pornography at a sitting is around 7 minutes. My experience is closer to 3. That does not give one too much time to appreciate the presentation. Of course there have been some very talented fine-art photographers who have explored pornography and its world: Larry Sultan's ironic and satiric images in his ouevre The Valley sardonically examined the blandness behind the scenes of the porn industry. Terry Richardson's raunchy fashion work illustrates that glamour and porn rub more than just elbows. Robert Mapplethorpe's extremely controversial yet beautifully photographed hardcore X portfolio shocked even the art world and raised the question: where is the line drawn between art and obscenity? Timothy Greenfield-Sanders larger than life clad and unclad diptychs of porn stars reveal the ordinariness of the industry's celebrities. Pornography is a billion dollar recession immune industry. It's everywhere, and as much as we try to avoid it we still cannot avoid clicking that link. So, it is only natural that art explores it. Yet, where does the artist find himself within his work? And how do we know the work is art? Is our judgement tainted by our excitement?
Last week in my alternative photography class, where I had least expected it, I saw a collage of imagery that was pornographic, artfully done, and, I am bit embarrassed to admit, arousing. Pinned to the wall amongst all the other pinhole images of my other classmates were about twenty prints of women in the middle of intense sex; however, all that was visible in the photographs were their heads. It was evident these women were in the midst of copulation by the intensity and lust of their expressions. They were all attractive and young, and my first guess was-- the author of these photographs must have been a woman to have been able access such emotions, or these images were outtakes from a set photographer on a porn video shoot. The number and uniqueness of the work was so completely different than those of my other classmate, including mine, that I thought this presentation was from another class, a different project. Mixed within the erotic head shots were images of splattered red on black. Initially I had no idea what these photographs meant other than to give the viewer a break from sex. I felt like a voyeur viewing this work.
Our assignment for this project was to build a pinhole camera-see my previous post-then make a photograph. Most of the class photographed something simple; the challenge of making a proper exposure with a unconventional camera was creative enough. Yet, Shinichi Ishikawa took it much further, much further. He downloaded clips from the Internet, found then froze the frames that suited his objective, then he photographed them with his pinhole camera. With a combination of cardboard and "a lot" black gaffers tape he rigged a pinhole lens to his Hasselblad . He set brightness to the max, turned off the energy saving mode, and shot Polaroids of his monitor to check his exposures. He opted for positive film to capture his images, because he wanted true colors and he believed "using positive film would give his project a positive interpretation." He aimed a red laser pointer at his pinhole rig to make the splattered red on black images. These photographs he explained represented the girls' climaxes.
Shin's project is conceptually brilliant, and I believe will one day be exhibited in a museum. I look forward to viewing more of his work, and he has inspired me push my own envelop further. Finally, I admired Sin's pinhole images for much longer than 3 minutes. Perhaps that's what separates art from pornography: art of pornography arouses long after the climax.