Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In which after a lengthy interlude, pun meets cliché

Watching the Olympics is a good time killer.

Curling is my favorite event. It has been for twenty years, so don’t give me that Johnny-come-lately crap. The strategy, the geometry and physics, the frantic sweeping in front of a slow-moving missile so that it hits its mark with astounding force and amazing accuracy, or a miniscule mistake overshoots with a surprising amount of momentum, it is a beautiful sport.

Still, after sitting there on the couch for an hour or so I get fidgety. I should be doing something more productive. But I really enjoy curling! The conflict becomes externalized in the form of itchy skin. I start to work on my right shin, scratching away at the dead skin, the flakes sprinkling onto the leather couch. “Careful,” I tell myself, “you don’t want to have bloody legs for the next photo session.” I try to curtail the impulse, but the next thing I know, I’m scratching at my beard, and then my eye starts to want in on the action. Then my scalp starts to crawl a bit. “Damn dry skin.” Yet I do not fetch the moisturizer at the commercial break for an idea interrupts: I should photograph myself reenacting the itches.

So much for TV. It’s back to the dungeon with me.

The ambivalence with the leg photos from yesterday lingers, and I’m not quite sure how to overcome the compositional dilemma. And until I do, viewers will be spared that ashiness as I explore other aspects of my physique.

But what part of my body should I photograph?

After the “Nude vs Naked” assignment, a student from the class, Harpreet Khara, provided me with a short history on what those two supposedly contrary terms have come to mean in the context of art. He then mentioned that cultural differences must enter into the discussion as well, and offered this:

I consider the landscape of the face, physiognomy if you will. The eyes as windows to the soul & past/present; the fact my model let me into their personal space.....I can feel the aura hear their breath, that moment is intimate, nude and pure. I see nudity in the face far more than in the body.

Harpreet does take a lot of portraits. As any poker player worth his/her salt can tell you, the subtleties of expressions and features are a worthy study. Yet, try as I may, I am only able to pick up the grosser tells, which may be a personality flaw more than a lack of powers of observation. Watch a couple farmers talking and you’ll get an idea of just how important eye contact is compared to the texture of the dirt or gravel at their feet. Face-to-face is more reserved for confrontation.

It is not surprising then, after looking at the ground so much, that I would photograph my feet and legs. It was easy. And compared to the photos of my chest and neck, the places on my body where my age readily shows, my lower extremities were a walk in the park. 

I believe I am going to leave my ass and genitalia out of this current assignment, which I am sure is a relief to some, but which leaves me with more of my legs, my back, and my head and face. My back remains rather youthful, despite some aches and pains that would be difficult to portray in a photograph. And aside from the continued loss of hair, my legs still have a contour. That leaves my head and face, my gray hair and drooping eyelids.

I have to say that I am not fond of getting my picture taken any more than I am keen to stand in front of a mirror. While brushing my teeth, I pace from room to room; and, going by feel, I shave in the shower. That reluctance eased up somewhat while working on my “Made Self” series of photos last autumn. I “made” myself use the mirror to do that study, and I have to admit, I am quite fond of those photos; yet, if anything, that success presented a new stumbling block for me when it came to this class, and in particular this new assignment. How could I possibly capture the same level of emotional intensity of the “Made Self” portraits with only my unstaged body?

The itching and twitching would have to become performance.

As I wrote the above sentence, I had an idea. Imagine I went out to one of the several assisted living complexes in our area, found a common area where residents gathered, and photographed them as they sat scratching and picking and dozing, get action shots, if you will, and then came back home and positioned myself as they were, took a photo of that and then presented the work as diptychs.

Ain’t gonna happen. I’d rather assume the fetal position, a photo of which I also will resist.

And a glamour shot.

1 comment:

Crash said...

You have shown more different looks through the years than a chameleon. The first one here is Robert de Niro, a little.