Today – 8 March 2012 International Women’s Day – the Nude Photo Revolutionaries Calendar is being launched in homage to Egyptian atheist, student and blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy who posted a nude photo of herself, announcing the post on Twitter under the hashtag, #NudePhotoRevolutionary.
The calendar is the idea of campaigner Maryam Namazie to support Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and join her ‘screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy’.
I shot two exclusive portraits for it, so do your bit and buy a copy. If you like nude photography, life drawing, painting or believe it’s a woman’s right to wear or not wear what she wants, that her body belongs to herself, then at least Tweet, Facebook or blog it.
Full story at freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2012/03/08/nude-photo-revolutionary-calendar-is-here with links to buy or download.
Be a Nude Photo Revolutionary.
Although it’s an urban myth that there are hundreds of eskimo words for snow, in reality the Inuit having approximately the same number for it as the English language… and while it’s true that Turkish has more than one word for love: for love can be of one’s country, of God, of your parents, even coffee, they use a particular word to mean the love of that special one in your life.Whilst all this is true to fully see the richness, the inventiveness, the breadth and imagination of the human language we only have to think of the myriad names we give our sexual parts.
1976. Tom Robinson was yet to sing if you’re glad to be gay and Kenny Everett camped it up on TV without coming out. Being gay was criminal in Scotland and illegal under 21 in England. Queer bashing was common place (a worrying trend chav culture is bringing back).
Rod Stewart. Famous for marrying beautiful blondes, pissing it up, playing football, wearing tartan. The archetypical lad.
He writes ”The killing of Georgie Parts I & II”. What’s so unusual about this song (to this day) is unlike Robinson’s carrion call using gay as activist, or disco’s glamour (think Sylvester equating gay with camp and frivolity), here is a song where the fact that the protagonist is homosexual is incidental. Where the gay is un-sensationalised.
The lyrics are not about Georgie being queer. His sexuality is mentioned only in relation to the effect on his life story, and the story told because he has been murdered. His death is unrelated to being gay, he is killed by muggers for money, not hatred.
Something we might expect from Orphans and Vandals today but not Rod Stewart in 1976.
It is a threnody to a lost friend, his homosexuality is merely a matter of fact, an everyday occurrence, far less unusual than death from violent robbery. Looking at our TV today, violent robbery predominates popular shows and yet a gay character still accrues column inches.
Quite remarkable that a straight man, a “lad” should write such lyrics and never ask for any gayness in it’s content to be made a song and dance over. It’s sometimes mistaken as an anthem against homophobia (the only mention is Georgie’s father). Mojo magazine asked him why he wrote a song with a gay theme, note rather than a song about a pal’s murder. “That was a true story about a gay friend of The Faces. He was especially close to me and Mac. But he was shot or knifed, I can’t remember which. That was a song I wrote totally on me own over the chord of open E.”
Mojo still obsess and asks about writing a song with gay content, Stewart said, “It’s probably because I was surrounded by gay people at that stage. I had a gay PR man, a gay manager. Everyone around me was gay. I don’t know whether that prompted me into it or not. I think it was a brave step, but it wasn’t a risk.”
Something in this song makes me tear up every time I hear it. On a side note it’s rather amusing and ironic that Rod himself appears to completely camp it up during the video.
There is that running joke said whenever someone introduces themselves with “I’m a nude photographer” but whenever I meet someone who does art nudes I find myself prone to ask “Would you pose nude?”.
(By the way I don’t take art nudes – I take photographs of naked people). Terry Richardson perhaps a little too famously, Helmut Newton yes, that’s about all I can think of. There are of course quite a few women photographers who have appeared nude, the majority of which has migrated from modeling to directing.
“What’s wrong with being on the other side of the camera?” asks Betty Schaefer of Joe Gillis in “Sunset Boulevard”.
It’s occurred to me that you shouldn’t ask others to do what you’re not willing to do oneself. The aforementioned
two ducked the issue slightly by doing a self-portrait: where one is in control of the environment and perhaps more crucially of the choice and production of the released image. To truly go the other side of the camera means being a model for another photographer.
Pau Ros is one half of Completely Naked, a naked performance troupe who recently staged their action #8 in Portugal. Publicity material was needed as part of the run up to the event. It seemed only fair that I should put myself where others tread on my behalf. To be shot naked where I had no jurisdiction over the final image.
To be honest I had posed for them before as a “moral experiment” to put myself on the far side of the lens but didn’t propagate the fact. Which on reflection seems only half the process. The other is a willing public dissemination; releasing the nudity.
The curious can see more from the shoot by repeatedly reloading the event page and the truly adventurous can view the material from the public intervention action #7 I first participated in at the Elephant and Castle. Those familiar with my work may recognise a few faces (or other parts).
180 Magazine covers art and fashion photography, the current issue features a selection of my work along with a brief interview. I would naturally be delighted by such attention but extra pleasure comes from being included alongside Dido Fontana and Alva Bernadine. Good company indeed.
Two artists exploring notions of time and exposure to reveal different concerns in choosing to be seen naked. An aspect of nude portraiture that interests me is the relationship between the voyeur and the model, or in more plain speak the watcher and the watched. In art nudes reference is occasionally made to the artist and the muse, but it is an invisible relationship. The presence of the photographer hidden, masked by “the eye of the camera”. A sterile eye. The defining terms of the art nude, or figurenude to use a self-declared title (although it exists on Wikipedia the OED does not include it) forbid eye contact – www.figurenude.com states “Eye contact and a smile is NOT a figurenude”.
Ruth Bernhard, acknowledged as an early pioneer in nude photography said “I never have made a nude where there is a facial expression. When the model and the photographer look at each other, it’s very different than seeing a shape that is strong all on it own, without a facial expression.”
The body isolated as object, presented in a vacuum , as if there is no relationship between photographer and model. The anomaly here is that none of these definitions allow any viewer other than the originating artist. But these are works of “art” made to be presented publicly, created for an audience. An invisible audience, at no point is a relationship between the voyeur and the naked person admitted. This strikes me as strange, in denial. During the decision process in becoming an art model the thought that they will be viewed naked by strangers must occur to them, their body scrutinised, and if the image is popular or distributed through the rapid transport of the internet, very likely seen by friends, relatives and colleagues.
The work of Andrea Fam and Vanessa Ban directly acknowledges that there is a relationship between model and viewer (not body and camera). The subjects are invited to take a nude self portrait on a slow shutter speed allowing them to move therefore blurring any recognisable definition.
…a photographic experiment was conducted whereby the photographer is removed from scene, leaving only the camera and the subject. The naked subject stands before the camera with a shutter speed of 25 seconds. The lengthy shutter speed acts as the choice of manipulation for the subject. The elimination of the photographer passes the power of manipulation over to the subject, who is then able to show the viewer their perspective on their body…
Jemima Stehli does not directly refer to the unseen audience but utilises the presence of the capturer to make comment on the subject-object relationship. In part putting the overwhelming male art industry “on the spot” and making overt reference to the guilt of looking at someone nude. It is this guilt or admittance that the human body is attractive to us is ways different from a pot or vase that the figurenude seems to mask.
…By using the power of a body stripped bare to agitate and fluster, Stehli denies her subject control of his own image, while simultaneously relinquishing her own control by asking him to decide on the moment of representation. Her exhibitionism creates a complicated web of subject-object relationships, as the man is forced to objectify himself while in the process of projecting his own gaze alternately at the artist and her camera, and hence also at the viewer. Ultimately Stehli undermines the position of the privileged, removed voyeur, and its effects are visceral.
With thanks to The artist and his model
Rong-Wrong is new literary periodical being published out of Amsterdam, the premier issue should roll of the presses come May.
Named in honour of Marcel Duchamp’s short-lived magazine, it is concerned with the “poeticisation of phenomenology”, a lovely phrase, or in more everyday language – the essential meaning of something. As Roger-Pol Droit asks, “How are things?”.
For my particular thing I was asked to contribute a subjective view of the pocket.
Further information and where to obtain a copy will be announced on their website:
Although it has absolutely nothing to do with my article what so ever, I would like to end with something from my favourite poet, Anne Baker.
An Englishman’s home
Piles of stone
Big front door
This property ladder
Couldn’t be madder
I read that in some Kenyan state
a pocket in your trousers
Sometimes you can be struck by a thought that with development could turn out to be a good idea. Lacking in time, money, expertise or just general impetus to make it reality, such whimsies would normally turn fallow. A blog allows harbour to these half baked ideas (see Ironic Sans).
Here’s one – Pantone Ice Cream.
Create various flavours. Package them in beautifully minimal pots bearing only the colour and number of the resultant mix: Designer ice cream.
So this post isn’t a complete waste of space here’s a recipe for my favourite flavour, have trust, it is delicious – Basil Ice Cream. Actually frozen yoghurt, but those familiar enough with making custard based mixtures can adapt.
Empty a large pot of greek style yoghurt (sheep’s milk preferably) into a clean tea towel, tie the towel up into a bundle (I use a hair band but an elastic one should do), and hang up in the fridge so the liquid drips out. Or allow place the tea towel in a pan allowing enough room beneath the cloth for the drained whey. Basically get a bit Heath Robinson so you can strain the stuff in the fridge.
In a pan dissolve 150 grams white sugar in 140 grams water over a medium heat, allow to cool. (Probably doesn’t have to be that percise, basically 5oz each sugar and water.)
Pull the leaves off a very large bunch of basil (or two regular bunches) and pop into a blender, add the cooled sugar syrup, and whizz till bright emerald green. Chill. (Ice cream works best if all the ingredients are as cold as possible before the churning stage)
Pour the basil syrup and drained yoghurt into your ice cream maker according to recommended procedure. But I haven’t got an ice cream maker you say. Hunt down an ice cream football maker, or use the technique my gran did: pour into a tupperware tub with a lid and place in the freezer, take it out every 15 to 30 minutes and give it a stir round with a fork, until frozen enough to start eating.
Don’t tell your friends what the flavour is, enigmatically state Pantone 346, see if they can guess.
If you really can’t be bothered with the whole ice cream thing I reckon you could create an awesome cocktail, adding some ice and vodka and the blender stage. Maybe some lime juice.
Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren 1946 – 2010
Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him and so should you.
I have never cared about a ‘celebratory’ death before, for someone I have never met, but with the news of Malcolm McLaren’s death I unexpectedly feel a sense of loss, emotion at his passing. Without hyperbole I can say that this blog would not exist were it not for the phenomenon that he and Johnny Rotten hurled at Britain in the hot summer of ’76.
The minute my best friend played me ‘Anarchy in the UK’ my life changed forever. No exaggeration. And not just in spirit: my career has been peppered with people who one way or another were influenced, employed, nurtured or infuriated by him. No point in listing names or events for this post is for Malcolm alone.
Be childish. Be irresponsible. Be disrespectful. Be everything this society hates.
Malcolm McLaren, fuck forever.
Without a camera I should have been writing, instead I have been thinking about not having a camera, and what having one means in terms of art.
I came across this quote
why do we talk of ‘taking’ a photograph rather than ‘making’ a photograph
in the flickr stream of the-g-uk. In itself a good question, and the best answer I could give myself is a word that keeps appearing in these posts – intention. I had wanted to lead onto another quote I saw regarding the mild controversy and debate surrounding Esquire magazines ‘moto’, but I failed to bookmark the web page containing it and instead merely made a mental note, a much more fallible approach to documentation.
First the quote out-of-context and paraphrased
it depends on wether you think photography is merely the art of pressing the shutter at the right moment, or wether the photographer’s preparation and intent count for anything
That word again, intent, which divides snapshots from photographs: it isn’t the act of clicking at the correct time but in deciding that there should be a button press. In setting out to create the image the shutter release is simply one mechanical part along the path from mental concept, through stages of organisation and decision, leading to the resolution of a final image.
The photo that accompanies this post sits on the borderline for me, in that there was no intent to take it, but there was a deliberate act in taking the camera with me that day, in seeing the potential of the cropped or framed image. Abstract painters don’t have this issue, pigment can lead to more pigment that completes a painting, whereas authors can not apply words they like the sound of to create a narrative; photography sits betwixt the two. Charles Harbutt in his essay ‘I don’t take pictures; pictures take me’ says this
Photography is not art; it is something totally new in human experience, something people have not been able to do before the last century or so. Photography is not art because the basic impulse of the photographer is diametrically opposed to the basic impulse of the artist at least in one large respect. The artist tries to bring into existence something new that never had concrete existence before. The photographer tries to bring into existence something new that preserves something that already has concrete existence but will cease to exist in just that way in the next moment or day or year…
Before returning to motos, a more personal aside. In the last couple of years I have radically reworked my view on photography and instead of mocking what is seen as an oriental approach is taking snapshots, namely always having people in front of landmarks, I now mainly eschew the landscape photo and instead focus upon the person.
Harbutt’s quote works particularly well for landscape but could be recontextualised for portraiture, in that the photographer is not trying to capture how the sitter appeared at that moment but how it felt to be in their presence.
The portrait photographer’s skill lies not in capturing the magic moment, but in making the subject feel relaxed, comfortable enough that they act without preconception and in doing so reveal a part their un-staged self.
Which would be a good way of looking at motos, a horrible compoundment of motion and photo. Debate arose surrounding the use of a RedOne video camera by Chase Davis when he shot a cover for Esquire magazine. In essence he filmed Megan Fox and then ran the footage through video editing software and chose a frame as the final ‘photograph’, thus by-passing the ‘decisive moment’ that marks a great photographer. Up till now at least.
The camera is just a tool, a stage, that sits between the interaction of the photographer and photographee. (And the possibility of motos in a world of plasma screens opens up new aesthetics, moving us one step closer to Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age).
But tools are decisions and therefore integral to the creative process, here’s two quotes from the sidebar of tokyocamerastyle.com, a blog documenting urbanites and their vintage cameras
I don’t think about what camera I should use that much. I just pick up the one that looks nicest on the day
If you want to change your photographs, you need to change cameras. Changing cameras means that your photographs will change. A really good camera has something I suppose you might describe as its own distinctive aura.
There exists on the internet sites that document work that will never be made, but not because of financial hurdles or practical difficulties: the intention is to never make it.
Intention is often quoted as the rationale behind modern art, an approach stretched to the limit in conceptual art; wherein the art lies in it’s own mobius like documentation of the concept itself without recourse to production. The movement born as a reaction against the commodification of high priced art works. Not all web sites reach for these lofty ideals, www.unphotographable.com avoids having to mourn missed opportunities by describing in words what the camera has missed.
It could be that some imagery remains sharper when played out only in the mind. That in the act of envisioning it, it is created, bringing it to life in some incantation of a magic realism ritual. A criticism leveled at the film or television adaptations of novels is that the directors imagine certain aspects inaccurately, breaking our personal cinema.
Consider these a script or instructions for watching/producing an art video. It is a collaboration between us.
#1 Desire path
An ariel camera points straight down on a patch of grass, roughly the area you and a lover would utilise in having a picnic. The grass is a deep verdant green with wide blades, it’s grown to a length where light footfall will cause some strands to topple, the thickness of the leaf causing it to bruise and bend instead of snap, unable to sustain it’s own height. Definition and contrast is good, showing clearly the swirled patina caused by unchecked growth, you know that the blades will be slightly sticky should you puck one to make a whistle between your thumbs, and a faint moistness will linger near the soil from the dew, it’s lushness never fully allowing the sun to penetrate and dry out the ground.
A man steps into view bottom of screen and moves in a slight concave path towards the top. Perhaps he is wearing some form of canvas hat so that no personal features can be discerned. He is, as seen from above, essentially a head and shoulders with brown lace-up boots jutting back and forth as he walks. Behind him he leaves a slight trail causes by the disturbance in the weave of the damp grass.
A short period of time passes. He re-emerges at the same point and begins an arc upwards again, traveling at his chosen pace. The same interludes lasts until he appears again. You begin to anticipate his arrival and your eyes wait at the beginning of his previous paths. You notice what seems to be a thin cord tied to perhaps his belt loop. A modern nylon cord, thin and strong, it’s pulled quite taut, the far end vertically midpoint off screen.
Realisation dawns that it has been anchored into the soil or to a post, and by walking with the twine kept free of slack the man is able to traverse the ground in a consistent circle. He continues his episodic traversing across the screen, swathing a more and more defined path behind him. Perhaps the interaction between the rope and his movement is stronger, instead of assisting in traveling through a perfect arc it is forcing him into making this repetitious circular journey.
The grass in his wake is flattened now. He continues making revolutions at a set pace. You can sense how the smell of the scene will have changed as his regular steps have crushed the fallen grass, releasing a chloroform odour. With the change in fragrance the emerald green turns darker, starting to mush. In the cinematography of our mind the man’s cyclic trek can watched as both endless, boring his way into the dirt itself, the lighting perfect, our virtual sun not changing angle in the sky, keeping the shadows in an eternal day as he continues his pilgrimage; and overlaid with a series of cross fade fast forwards of the green turning almost dark blue before it starts breaking into streaks of brown.
The gradual process of cutting a canyon through eons is re-enacted by our mental visual trickery, we ourselves escaping what in real time could only seem as a sentence handed down, a duty, or punishment, wearing the vegetation into mire. Till a perfect circular ribbon of mud is coursed through the grass. Maybe the decent into sludge is colouring our perception and we are not watching a regression but a quest, an odyssey, to return the turf to a primal form.
#2 Vapour Trail
The sky overhead is a perfect blue. If prompted to name the colour you would compare it the shade of a 1950’s dress, strong but not to a Mediterranean depth of hue. It is cloudless, unblemished. No foliage interrupts your vision. It is not a screen but the vista, it encompasses all, your entire view.
A plane comes into sight, transcribing an up-tilted path across the sky. It’s momentum slow, graceful, fluid. The movement seemingly in harmony with the blue backdrop. You watch it drawing an airbrush line of cotton-wool white. Till the perfectly straight man-made line has bisected the sky.
The angled vapour trail, as if a celestial brush tip has bleached the colour from the sky hovers above you. No breeze discernible. There is no movement, all has become a still life before you. As you become conscious of time passing, that you have been watching without focus or purpose, the far end of the trail begins to softly fade, ever so gently. With a patience bordering on the devotional the white evenly blends out to the blue.
Till only the untouched sky is left again. Maybe a popular song can be heard in the background.
I recently learnt that three of my tiny fictions are to be published in web lit-zine, this should enthuse me to put fingers to keyboard and yet I find myself unable to tear my enthusiasm away from the Holga. I feel I am somehow cheating, that writing is facing the creative rock wall – the proverbial white sheet. While photography has that little leg-up, pointing the camera at something that is in itself already visually arresting.
I justify it with a modern art rationale – it’s the intention that makes the art, not the form. The reasoning that setting up a photograph is akin to writing out a scene. An internal bickering forever in the back of the mind. Guilty feelings that it is laziness stopping anything new being written. Having spent the weekend fooling around with a new ring flash and some hundreds and thousands this snippet I read recently throws a different light on such musings…
“Writers always envy artists, would trade places with them in a moment if they could. The painter’s life seems less ascetic, less monkish, less hunched. Instead of the austere mess of the desk there is the chaos of the studio: dirty coffee cups, paint-smudged cassette decks, drawings of the artist’s girlfriend, naked, on the walls… In the age of the computer the writer’s office or study will increasingly resemble the customer service desk of an ailing small business. The artist’s studio, though, is still what it has always been: an erotic space. For the writer the artist’s studio is, essentially a place where women undress.” Apparently quoted from ‘Out of Sheer Rage’ by Geoff Dyer.
Hard to argue with that isn’t it. Although I know I need to devote some time to my chosen partner writing, the mistress of photography still lures me: the shots failed from the Holga and a digital image has been resorted to, temporarily. It irks me that it doesn’t resemble that in my mind’s eye, and I am keen to reshoot.
(This paragraph will only of interest to those Googling Holga, diopters and ring flashes. The Holga normally suffers from under-exposure, but it seems that a ring flash throws out a lot more light that it’s built-in version, and combined with a close-up lens the glare bleaches everything out. Film rated at 100ASA is massively over-exposed. A test roll is needed pulling 50ASA stock back a stop). After I’ve put pen to paper of course.
I found both the quote and the marvelous picture of George Dyer, boyfriend of British painter Francis Bacon (shot in his Reece Mews Studio by an uncredited photographer in 1964), on the excellent ‘Sympathy for the art gallery’. Given that Dyer senior was gay I suspect that Geoff and George aren’t related, but it is serendipitous that their pairing should illustrate so aptly why I find myself drawn to photographic portraiture when I know I should be honing my writing.
A beautiful ceramic dildo. I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, and having not seen it turn up elsewhere in the blogsphere decided the time is right. It’s was created by furniture and lighting designer Davy Grosemans at Das Ding and the design studio Oooms.
For me the first thing to discuss is the quality, Das Ding (apart from having a logo like a butt plug) are high-end award winning product designers, it’s manufactured by the European Ceramic Work Centre – a centre of excellence for artists to explore work in ceramics. Neither of these companies are normally involved in the sex trade. Oooms, who make a very droll memory stick from real sticks have produced a great range of dildos and exciters before, so it could be argued they have a touch of under the counter about them.
It’s a sumptuous object or at least looks it (I can’t afford one at the moment to vouch for this) and seems very well designed, I’m presuming the cork allows it to be filled with warm water on a winters evening. It’s certainly not under the counter in sensibilities, and in fact the description on the Ooom site suggests that it would be a talking point if you left it out on the mantlepiece. Exactly. It is not an object made to be hidden away and yet it is unlikely many people will display it as they would any other piece of Delftblue pottery. For the simple reason it’s used to masturbate with when not being admired.
Bringing us to the second topic – self-pleasure – one assumes practically everybody does it and yet there is very little public acknowledgment of the practice. (Girls are way ahead on this one with their Anne Summers parties, but I’m thinking of a more general public admittance). One can buy sex toys as a couple and mention you watch ‘porn for couples’ but nobody really admits to ‘spending a few quite moments with oneself’.
For instance on Amazon there are book reviews by customers, and furthermore there are erotica books whose only purpose to aid a little nighttime under-the-duvet relief, but are there many reviews of these titles by people using their real names? No, not really, although they are a few brave types who have – I salute you! Obviously one is using euphemisms here, after all we’re talking about, not writing filth. Although a review of ”…made me cum in buckets really quickly” may be accurate, a simple “very effective” will suffice. It’s the admittance, or rather the public lack of, that I find intriguing, not being explicit about it, after all it is a matter that occurs in private much like visiting the toilet. Now with the latter subject some people show no hesitation or restraint in discussing the finer points, something I’ve never quite understood.
Before reaching closure with my final aside I should put my money where my mouth is. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Wicked Words’ short stories from Black Lace, let’s just say it doesn’t matter too much that the stories are short.
When I originally saw the Milkmaid with it’s connotations of admittance and display, it led me to thinking about literature, which prides itself in tackling taboos and thorny subjects head-on. And yet there is very little mention of masturbation in books outside of erotica. I don’t mean descriptive passages, just a character during the course of a novel indulging in some self relief. Authors will go to great lengths describing the preparation of a breakfast meal, or the choosing of a jacket, but very rarely will a protagonist masturbate to relieve stress for instance, which could show a side to their character as much as other plot devices. When it comes to sex writers show no abounds, but it’s always sex between two or more.
I’ve been trying to think of books where masturbation is used within the plot, and so far I’ve come up with ‘The Illuminatus Trilogy’ by Robert Shea and Robert Anton and Geoff Ryman’s ‘253’. There must be more? For instance ‘The colour of memory’, an excellent tale of friendship amongst ennui by Geoff Dyer features plenty of aimless drug smoking, staring out of windows and general realistic trivia of modern life yet no-one has a wank in it. A friend mentioned that they thought Madame Bovary might have masturbated but alas I haven’t read it.
Is it because masturbation is seen as a sign of failure? Not managing to have sex with someone, and having to do it on your own. I’m married and enjoy sex as often as I can but every now and then a bit of self pleasure brings it’s own rewards, a lie-in with a hangover is vastly improved with a wank, being stuck on your own in hotel room can always be enlivened with some self indulgence, and if you’re on the continent you might even find a television program you don‘t get at home to inspire you.
Its seems very odd to me that something so enjoyable so be seen as failure, even the new trendy sex shops play to the couples angle, I have only seen the marvelous Coco de Mer suggest solo pleasure with a series of fantastic adverts showing people’s facial expression during a petit mort. I would love to photograph a series of portraits like these, the mask drops away, but I will be very surprised if any of my friends would volunteer.
So…note to self, need to make sure any future stories I write allow for non-gratuitous masturbation within plot lines or character development, and to photograph my own orgasm portrait – a self-portrait perhaps, would anyone agree to photograph me at the point of release? (discreetly under the covers of course).
It’s a bit of a shame that www.beautifulagony.net isn’t simply a gallery of faces enlarging full-screen into a truly beautiful celebrations of the self, shining through in that single second of ecstasy, and instead delves into videos and ‘confessions’ becoming something much more voyeuristic. Any brave souls out there who fancy exchanging camera duties? And if you know of a novel that features masturbation do leave a note…
Ian Dury sang ‘Sex and drugs and rock n roll’ but as one approaches a certain age, it’s best to admit when one’s ability to rock n roll is past it’s prime, and it’s time to pick a new adage. Plus, I’ve really been dying to typeset the phrase ‘Reading and Fucking’.
They are two noble pursuits but aren’t always seen hand in hand with the respect they deserve. Dirty stories I believe is the phrase, rather than erotica. Actually I think I prefer dirty stories, and will leave erotica to label photography, where there is a more of a divide between art and commerce.
Aside from bedtime, or is it bedside stories, what really started my thought juices flowing was actual writing about sex. Too rarely authors delve into this topic, which seems strange given it’s such a huge motivation in our culture. There are plenty of novels analysing greed or jealously as the driving force in a quest for power or glory, but very little on how the need, relief and act of sex can affect the consequences of human intercourse. Or maybe I’m reading the wrong books.
I write about sex and death.
What else is there.
It is very hard to write about the act of sex without lapsing into descriptive prose and there by ending up in different waters. All my life I wanted to write but never did anything about it, in particular putting pen to paper. Events conspired and finally culminated in my starting, and I should give kudos to the three books that gave me the kicks I needed. And fittingly two of them are largely about sex.
Nic Kelman’s ‘Girls’ is rare in that it explores sex from the middle aged male psyche, alongside the lies that are generated in it’s admiration of the female teen. He writes on this subject with a brutal ardour rarely shown in public. Dangerous ground to tread these days where Woolworths can not sell a child’s bed called ‘Lolita’. As if the very word itself could cause a visitor to misbehave even without being aware of the name of the bed. (Lolita being another exception that springs to mind, in that it’s not written from the perspective of a woman in the call girl trade, look at all the other books that Amazon recommends if you follow the previous link).
Kelman’s writing excited me in hopefully the way he intended, making me think there are still things to be written and said on this subject. These short parables speak volumes and he deserves to be much more widely read. Any male starting to lose their hair would be wise to look between it’s sheets. He writes without judgement about his characters, and the second book that inspired me brings sympathy to it’s dissection of life’s fuck ups and losers…
Ewan Morrison’s ‘The last book you read’ adds a twist of addiction here and there to it’s tales of sex and life. His writes with a quiet understanding of people unable to bring their lives under control, without moral overtones. When I read this I knew what I wanted to write about, it unlocked the voice inside me. I would like to call him a hardcore Nick Hornby but I’m worried that doesn’t convey how brilliantly insightful he is.
Both these books contain exceptional writing about fucking.
A little divergence here, for I feel it only fair to pay homage to the eureka book, the one where closing the final page you say to yourself “I’m going to write stories, no more excuses”. My gratitude for this goes to Simon Van Booy’s ‘The secret lives of people in love’, and in particular the story ‘Little birds’. Beautiful writing. It has prostitutes in it too, but no sex.
Luckily for me it seems that I am not the only one with a healthy interest in all of this. Bookkake publish classics of erotica, and I am delighted that they too take great pride in calling them dirty books. Not satisfied with bringing us great writing on fucking, they also ruminate on these two subjects via their blog. The Monday morning dirty poem has brought a hithero unknown joy to the start of my working week. I’m finding myself liking poetry more and more.
Another blog worthy of note is Violet Blue who apart from having an unfeasible name is a technology columnist, podcaster of naughty stories on iTunes and a writer on open source sex at tinynibbles. She’s a busy girl and turns up all over the place, but be warned, her blog can be visually ‘rich’.
I would have liked to give a honourary mention to ‘In bed with’, the compendium of short stories featuring Fay Weldon and Ali Smith amongst others, but the fact that none of them would own up to whose story was whose implies that they see them as smut not literature. Cowards. Mind you I had to stop reading ‘Swung’ by Ewan Morrison while I was sunbathing on the beach. Next on my reading list is ‘Wetlands’, I got a copy as a Valentine’s present from my wife. And who said romance is dead.
I’ve started thinking of taking photographs about sex. Not of sex. About. But I’ll come back to that.
The visual depiction of sex is another area thwart with uneasy public consumption. Fine art has long been bed partners with sex and in particular the nude. As a primer, before I dig myself a hole defining erotica or porn, literature or dirty stories, art or filth, I think most people would agree that National Art Galleries are places of refinement and culture. Have a look at this oil painting done in 1867 by Gustave Courbet, hung in the Musée d’ Orsay.
Mathilde Madden and Kristina Lloyd both write erotica and therefore have a vested interest on what goes on the cover (as well in between). They publish another splendid blog worth reading called Erotica Cover Watch, recently they have started a debate on why, given a large market share are female readers, only women appear on erotic book covers. They also have Man Candy Monday, soon it’s going to be dangerous to start the working week…
Bearing in mind Mr Corbet’s portrait the divide between erotica and porn gets even trickier when art crosses over into photography. I was recently involved in an incident where it was proposed that someone I know sit for a topless portrait in oils, which was deemed alright, while being photographed for a study was not. (As it turned out they were horrified by having a portrait done in general, let alone bare breasted). Photographs being deemed reality I suppose, it raised an interesting question, which would you be more comfortable with; a topless photograph of you hanging on the wall or an intricate and detailed painting of your open crotch?
Males can play this game too, a photo of your arse and balls from behind or a realistic painting of your cock, it works slightly differently for men, and they are prone to cheat here. Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wouldn’t be filmed naked in ‘Women in love’ until they had “warmed up”, not wanting to be seen at their ‘realistic’ size. A friend of mine has a fantastic painting of an enlarged close-up of his anus hanging in the living room. Aesthetically very enjoyable as an abstract painting. Does the subject matter affect ones viewing? Does the oil paint neutralise it?
I have had to rewrite the next paragraphs a few times as I found myself slipping into arguments about erotica versus porn, and from there wether porno is bad or immoral. I want to side step here (but not avoid) and instead name check some photographers who have been an inspiration and caused some enjoyment on a wet Sunday afternoon.
The keyword here is I guess intent, and it is the argument often used in differentiating porn from erotica, especially in the photographic realm. Without the veneer of oil and strokes, sorry, the veneer of oil paint brush strokes, erotic photography is left far more naked to accusations of pornography than fine art. Intent is the defense. But why am I saying defense? I like erotic photography.
What is surprising to a number of people is the amount of women taking erotic photos. Often of themselves. One could talk about women photographers such as Ellen Von Unwerth who publish work in a male market place and therefore could be said to gain financial reward from it. But there are a great many female photographers on Flickr creating imagery solely for their own amusement, pleasure and interest.
To me the really surprising factor is why people, including friends of mine, find it so out of the ordinary that women are taking erotic photos too. Last time I checked half the people fucking were female.
I’ve started thinking of taking photographs about sex. Here are some of the people on Flickr whose work I greatly admire, they are funny, witty, clever pictures, and yes, sometimes sexy too. And if you are reading this at work on a Monday morning just tell everybody it’s art, literature and culture. Because it is.
This one’s a chap but he’s fantastic and fits right in to the general mood
Words are my thing. I write tiny fiction. Words start on a completely blank canvas.
The words became unlocked one weekend coming across old digital holiday snaps. I started writing. Later I came across some older photographs still, these ones shot on slide film. I had forgotten all about the grain, the glow, the mystery. I wanted to take pictures again.
I brought a Holga and said hello to expectation, to chemicals, to imagining how they might develop, because after all, there’s every chance they might not. I like the delay, the wait, the disappointments, the accidents, the surprises. The reflection of life’s dirt and glory.
When I write I don’t think about the paper size, or the length of words, I think about the tale. It’s plastic simplicity brings me that constraint, that lack of measurement. You point, you click, you hope they come out.
If you want, you can look through the view finder, but it wont show you the crop. If you desire a tighter zoom then you step forward, get closer, upfront and personal.
A camera as simple as a pencil. With options removed, left focusing on what there is to say. The story.
My laptop is a giant radio plugged into the sky.
Once upon a time I thought of my computer as a tool, now it’s a conduit bringing to me wonderful things people have made.
Late night working has meant headphones. A midnight trip to 8tracks.com and a roving finger led to listening to the soupy twist mixtape, amongst which tunes I heard Slow Club for the first time. Like discovering music all over again, remember that feeling when hearing a song just put a big stupid smile on your face; made you feel great; like aural sunshine: Slow Club.
For a nu-folk related group it’s a playful name with it’s allusions to traditional values, there is of course a real slow movement, expanding now on it’s original theme of self cooked organic food. I was first made aware of slowness and in particular the way technology has encroached in our lives with it’s demands of increasing response time, via the “Speed” Doors of Perception conference. Making time for oneself has been something I’ve been grappling with ever since, and more in earnest during the last year. There is an irony given this post was triggered by working well into the night.
Here’s three tips from me for dabbling in slowness:
1. Go out for a weekend without your mobile phone. Experiencing only what is around you.
2. Go on holiday without a camera. Experience the vacation only as now moments, without focusing on representing the past in the future.
3. Walk home one evening instead of using your usual mode of transport.
In spirit of giving something back I’ve added a mixtape that doesn’t stray too far from the nufolk / electrofolk / folktronica path
One of the songer songwriters I featured is Amy Crawford, I’ve singled her out first of all because I think she too is great – I have a thing about a sort of mythical Warren Beatty, Carol King lives next door, I left my mirror shades in my jean jacket under the palms by the pool Los Angeles – and I think she might too. Have a listen and see if you agree.
And the second reason is to point out that not only can you listen to her at the equally-splendid-for-discovering-new-music site thesixtyone, Amy has very kindly allowed us to download most of her tracks for nothing. Spread the word, share the love. www.thesixtyone.com/amycrawfordmusic
All this folksy vibe, slowness and making music brings us to etsy.com. A site I’ve been aware of awhile now for it’s great Flash interfaces but recently ‘re-discovered’ in it’s true context – a market place for people who make things, by hand. A great time sink and a fabulous present source, from twee as fuck to trendy than thou.
The level of service you get from buying things direct from those who create them is unprecedented, and I like the connection I get knowing that the objects I buy have been created for me, by someone, not just produce waiting on a shelf for anyone.
So here’s a big shout out to some recent purchases for wedding anniversary presents: Yoko’s “weird” craft knitting (a minnie bow ) from etsy (who shipped abroad by request), and some delightful handmade retro-styled lingerie from emmajaneclothing.com (lace is thirteen years and when Emma Jane became aware of the reason behind the sale she added lace, gratis, to the second pair), see what I mean by service.
And finally, for my present I got brought a ninja bunny hat. OK, it is a mass produced product, slightly against the grain of this post, but it can’t really be that mass produced given it takes a certain sort of person to want to wear one. Luckily for my wife, I am that kind of person. Fantastic for cycling, you can even pop your bike lights into the ears between rides, and get this – they pop a squeaky thing into one of the ears – Bunny Wearz you rock! (This post would have had some photos of the things I brought but I’ve chosen the slow route of wet photography so have to wait to finish the roll and get them developed.)
My laptop is a giant antennae plugged into the sky. Isn’t the internet great?
My mask arrived today.
Dressing up is very much a part of childhood, but as we become adults the term migrates from fantasy to represent sophistication. We dress to impress the world, showing our internal view of ourselves, not seeing this as “dressing-up” but as an outer skin of our taste and personality.
We don’t dress in adulthood to present a make-believe version of ourselves. Not in the context of pleasure anyway; the suit or office uniform has a large part in role playing – we are assured by the doctor’s white coat, the mechanics overalls. I have friends in the security and legal professions whose workaday appearance will instill immediate confidence but whose after-hours behaviour belies their trade.
I not sure where this mask fetish has crept up from, the first perceivable surfacing was performing in You Me Bum Bum Train where the originators dress as a matador and majorette; even though they don’t actually appear in the show. Then The Incredibles was on television, Soni aged three popped round to show off his Buzz Lightyear costume, and by New Year’s Eve there were actual people wearing masks on the underground – I was jealous.
So I brought a mask. It’s fun. I’ve overheard the phrase ‘mid-life crisis’ in the household, who knows. There is a Kate Moss quote that goes “My mum used to say to me, ‘you can’t have fun all the time,’ and I used to say, ‘why not?’. Why the fuck can’t I have fun all the time?”.
She goes on to spoil it with moral overtones, but yeah… why the fuck can’t you have fun all the time?
Finally ticked something on the list that I have been meaning to do for years – took a panetonne round to the ambulance depot two streets away. The medics spend their Christmas sitting there with only the telly for entertainment, waiting to be called out to bandage up someone whose sliced a limb off with their new electric carver while tackling the turkey after a tad too much vino.
And I wonder in a future world after some impending apocalypse, will archeologists reconstruct these songs, peering along the tiny variations in the valley’s journey carved through vinyl. And as the Rosetta Stone was studied will the plastic reveal nuances of a strum, a phrase, a chord.
an earlier post whittered on about collective false nostalgia, concluding that every thirty years the childhoods of our parents are reinvented, and drawing on the skylon restaurant as an example. to discover weeks later that a campaign exists to rebuild the original skylon; sixty years on.
an amusing follow-up post… but on reflection surely this is an exercise in nostalgia alone, a hawking back, an implication that things were better ‘then’. the original skylon was built for the festival of britian, and politics may have led to it‘s downfall, but it has gone. an aside here, alexandra palace, another exhibition space has been destroyed then rebuilt a number a times, a testament to it‘s popularity in the lives of londoners.
london contains some great modern landmarks: the wobbly bridge; the gerkhin; the london eye, all of which serving as popular desintations and meeting points. admittedly access to the gerkin’s restaurant is limited, and dining there expensive, but the view from the bar is stunning.
we should be looking to the future, and if we are to have a new skylon, shouldn’t it be just that – a new skylon – not a replica, a facsimile.
the raising of funds would be better used for the commission of a new skylon, open to up and coming young architects, a structure in tune with modern britain, not a monument to 50‘s futurism, with it‘s retro stylings and symbolism.
better still a landmark that engages, or even encourages public participation. a proposal: a skylonesque structure utilising the technology behind the stunning dexia bank in brussels. visitors able to programme their own (vetted) displays, a cafe, night time synchronised concerts, merchandising possibilities to offset costs… bringing st james park alive in the evenings: one of the suggested locations.
[1.] in ‘101 experiments in the philosophy of everyday life’, the author roger-pol droit instructs us, in exercise number 59, to “get used to eating something you don’t like”. often we see our tastes as a badge of personality; stating that you don’t like something is said with a certain hint of pride. implying there is a ‘rightness’ in not enjoying it, where surely it is a restraint in experiencing the whole of the world.
[2.] jeffery steingarten recalls in his introduction to “the man who ate everything” his decision to overcome all food aversions when being appointed restaurant critic for vogue magazine. in particular kimchi. his methodology is based upon upon the notion “most babies will accept nearly anything after eight or ten tries”. there is no scientific research quoted for this assumption, but it offers an in-built limit to learning to love a hated taste, 10 attempts a reachable goal.
[3.] three detested drinks in 1999: gin; campari; martini
[4.] the negroni
campari, a particular brand of a drink known as ‘bitters’
gin, the best should be used here, ‘hendricks’ is recommended
red martini, a type of vermouth (noilly prat could be subsituted)
served in an old fashioned glass, that’s a tumbler not an antique
over ice, garnished with a twist of orange peel
the majority of cocktails resemble a liquid bag of sweets. this is not the case here. alluding sophistication with it’s rich red limpidity. created in 1919 at caffè giacosa, florence, when count camillo negroni requested the barman fosco scarselli add gin to his ‘americano’, a popular cocktail of the time.
[5.] nominate a disliked beverage or food stuff. experience liberation.
lunched with raconteur and artist michael atavar, who has been exploring the publication and distribution of books via e-casting, new media and social networking models. he has been in discussion with several companies over his forthcoming book, and proposed some intriguing ideas. a follow-up email included a link to www.futureofthebook.org, this article is particularly thought-provoking
twitter’s 140 character limit creates interesting boundaries on what could work: microfiction and poetry, tutorials, without slipping into thought-of-the-day affirmations.
dxn magazine is a free publication featuring short stories and non-fiction, it uses myspace as it’s only point of contact
futureofthebook mentions www.dailylit.com, a site where for $3.68 the book of your choice is sent in bite sized installments by email and rss. including iphones. michael proposed publishing microfiction as mobile txts for 20p a punt. the advent of the iphone and increasing popularity of smart phones with their larger and anti-aliased screens makes this a viable idea.
is 20p a good target price? how would you choose a story given the challenge to precis microfiction without revealing the content? is a subscription service a better model? would having the “editions” archived in a personalised rss feed make the perception of a “real” publication more tangible?
should i ever emigrate, before i leave, i will burn compact discs filled with the recordings of chatter from mini cab controllers.
then, as i lie, wherever it is, on a hot barmy rooftop, or with the open windows carrying in the scent of exotic flora, the roll call of familiar street names can transport me back.
roads reminiscences of friends, first date cul de sacs, the avenue of a short-let flat, parks and lanes.
picking up at murray street…
regular at tufnell park…
camden square, need to ring the bell…
maiden lane… ”
London. June 22. Three in the afternoon. Bright sunshine. The sound of hoovering comes from the open window.
Do they love christmas that much? That she looks depressed every time he starts to take it down, then they laugh as she says ‘I cant help it, you know I just love Christmas’, it’s become their little joke.
Do they just not care? More important things to do. Only put it up for the kids, they are the ones who liked it. Christmas is all commercial now, doesn’t mean anything. Save all the effort of having to put it up again in December.
The city’s enigmas.
19 St Peter Street, Winchester36 Willow Street, Oswestry, Shropshire80 High Street South, Dunstable, Bedfordshire
do you think it signifies anything, that the most universally recognised hand gesture is that of wanting a cigarette lit?