Words on Photographs

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PHANTASTIC PORTRAITS (mid 1970s) were mostly seated portraits of young women exposing just a hint of panty. The effort was to express in a single image the dynamic of show and see.

Here is the somewhat ponderous text introducing the final set of 4x6 images written at the time of completion:

I am fascinated by the problem of boundaries. I love sex and I am obsessed with making photographs. After looking at these photographs you may want to rearrange the verbs in the preceding sentence in any way that seems appropriate. I start with the substantive problem. How does one live with sexual phantasies that contradict one's progressive ideas about sexual relations? Must intellect or desire be repressed, or must one live with hypocrisy? Is it possible to exploit phantasies of desire while moving toward a mutuality of sexual relations? How does one make a whole out of inconsistent partial identities?

I move then to the formal problem. What is the artistic status of photographs which offend, arouse, or both? Put another way, is there a middle position between art and pornography independent of the transformation of the latter into the former worked by history? The formal problem has a second dimension. Is it possible to move from low-brow to high-brow in the making of pictures without a degeneration into pure formalism? I have chosen as the vehicle for exploring these problems a set of reciprocal phantasies which may be labeled the voyeur-exhibitionist set; the desire to see/expose that which is generally hidden. In these pictures, photographer and subject confront each other in full recognition of their reciprocal desires. They attempt to exploit or indulge these reciprocal phantasies while retaining the whole person identities which transcend particular desire. I have selected portraiture as the modality for this exploration because it presents peculiar opportunity for tension. Many ordinary people have sat for portraits and many ordinary photographers have taken them. In these pictures I explore the secret desires of the parties to this situation. Only a few of the set were reprinted as 6x9s and appeared in the 1980 show. The refuse items stayed in a box for many years and often suffered for it. I have revived and imperfectly restored a few of these for the digital archive and they are included here.

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