From the Artist’s Studio: Seeing the Body

From the studio:

The Nike ads got me thinking about photographs of parts of bodies. They belong to a long photography tradition tht includes both the work of Edward Weston and Ruth Bernhard . Usually, it’s work that reflects the photographer’s vision exclusively (working with shapes, working sculpturally) rather than portraying the model. It’s almost always depersonalizing.

Ruth Bernhard told me that removing the faces allowed her to create the sculptured images that she wanted. She did like my work, and I am a major fan of her work, but they are the antithesis of each other.

What strikes me about the Nike images is that the photos are depersonalized; it’s the words that are personal. We find the real people in the words, not in the images. This is different from most partial-body photography because words are rarely there.

Early in my work on Familiar Men, I began to see what I call “extracts” inside the photos. They were sections of the complete images that worked for me independently as art. I didn’t expect to use them in the book, but as the project developed and my collaborators and I realized the complexity of masculinity, they became an important part of expressing that vision.

extract of arm from portrait “extracts” of Art’s arm and Joe’s chest extract of chest from portrait

But, in my work, the “extracts” are always shown with the portraits nearby. It’s the relationship between the images that is important. The whole model is always in the picture.

portrait Art and Joe portrait