Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pinhole Sex

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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Alternative Photography

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was enrolled in an alternative photography class at my local community college. The teacher is a South Vietnamese refugee named Brian Doan. For my tone death ears his strong accent can be difficult to understand, but his passion for for conceptual photography could not be more clear. I also wrote that he wanted us to exercise our creative muscles to make a photograph that is a reflection of us. Initially I thought of doing figurative studies of my wife. Abstract nudes. That was not enough for Brian. So, with nothing else coming to mind I threw myself, without clothes, into the photographs. Et voila here are two images of my wife and I. The exposures are about three minutes long give or take a second or two.
I've included a couple of photographs of the 4x5 pinhole camera I built. I followed the instructions from an article that another student in the class found in an online wood working magazine written by Christopher Schwarz. Because I don't have all the proper wood working tools I constructed the camera out of 1/2 inch plywood rather than, White Oak, the material the instructions called for. And even though my cuts were not perfect, I have been extremely pleased with the results. I've tested 6 minute exposures and there is not one ray of light leakage.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Altruistic Photography

Recently, I was viewing the work of the 50 winners of Critical 2009 and one image grabbed my eye. It was a photograph of a latex gloved hand holding some kind of a small animal. Because I am an animal lover the thumbnail piqued my curiosity and I opened up the work of Mary Shannon Johnstone, titled Breeding Ignorance. Her images were taken while she volunteered at an animal control facility in North Carolina. There she learned the cruel detail that for every 1 cat or dog that is sheltered 29 are euthanized because there are no places for them and nobody wants them. She also learned that many pet owners are opposed to sterilization and abortion of pet pregnancies. Inspired by her anger of their ignorance she demonstratively illustrated the fate of unwanted cats.
If you've read my previous posts you know that I am a lover of cats and seeing any cat suffer rips my heart out. What you don't know is that Sydney and I have started trapping feral cats, which we take to a local clinic to have spayed or neutered. After, we board them for a couple of days until they've recovered from their surgery then release them where we found them. It's a thankless job, and the cats we trap don't exactly appreciate our efforts. However, we've learned that what we're doing is humane, and now Mary Shannon Johnstone's photographs and words have motivated us to continue our efforts.
I do not have the stomach or courage to take the photographs that Mary Shannon Johnstone makes, but I am so pleased that she does. I hope that every potential cat owner sees her work and that it will hopefully enlighten more to the fate of unwanted pets and what results when pet owners are irresponsible and ignorant.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I am sure this is not unique, but since I am one writing this post I'll believe it is special to me. In the theaters now is the trailer for the movie Social Network directed by David Fincher. The first time I saw the trailer, it was the music that drew my attention. The tune was one I heard before, but not by the same musicians. Well tonight I finally discovered the name of tune I could not get out of my head was Creep. With a little research I learned the Scala and Kolacny Brothers are the Belgium ensemble that are covering Radiohead's 2003 song. It's one of those songs I will play over and over again until I am sick of it. I'd buy it off I-Tunes if it was available, but I checked and it is not. Perhaps after all the positive feedback it will be on the market, but until then I'll just have to listen to it over and over again via the You Tube video. Cheers