I have just finished watching Nymphomaniac: Vol. I, Lars von Trier’s movie which IMDB describes as “A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.” To illustrate the emerging sexuality of Jo, the main character, the writer and director von Trier has her recount two experiences from her pre-teens.
In one, she described the feeling she had when climbing ropes in a gym “with the rope between my legs, the sensation, we called it”. In the other, she described “playing frogs”, sliding clothed on her front over the tiles of a soaking wet bathroom floor with legs splayed.
Given his notoriety, I half expected von Trier to come up with something more sensationalist than this. After all I have grown up to be in many ways the complete opposite of a nymphomaniac but I share very similar childhood experiences with Jo, the ropes in the gym, (I assume we have all been there?) and I played frogs once, but perhaps more daringly, in the pouring rain in my back garden. The things we do when growing up. I just did not expect two of my experiences to be echoed in a Lars von Trier film.
“On the tiles (1997)”
The image is not me ‘playing frogs’ although it does have erotic undertones, which were not intended when I captured it on grainy underexposed film in Kentish Town in 1997. It’s completely unretouched, part of a series of images I chose to call ‘dirty film’. That title, some would suggest, does have something in common with Nymphomaniac: Vol. I, but that does von Trier a dis-service because his films are rather deeper than that.
Two days ago I visited sunny Whitstable, taking a few photos around town as an adjunct to my shoot with Sharon Smithers, the second in my Life, at Home project.. Sharon has been a life model for over 15 years now and it was instinctive for me to contact her about participating. It was a little annoying that both of the film cameras, 35mm and medium format, that I started with misbehaved. But never fear, I had a backup for each; I was never a boy scout but I fortunately was prepared!
Anyway, much more about Sharon will appear in due course over at the blog site when I have processed the images I capture on film.
In the meantime, here are some photos that I really do like that I took on my digital camera.. My thanks to Sharon for being such a relaxed and talented model. The final image pictures Sharon with her collection of Run for Life medals. If you would like to work with her, she can be contacted though her Facebook account https://www.facebook.com/sharon.smithers.3
I have this thing about people who take things at face value, politicians thrive at exploiting them, as do the tabloids. They are often intolerant of people who are different and ideas or art they perceive as a threat to them and their insular lives.
I have always admired artists who have the confidence to confront such people, to know they are going to draw simple judgement. They exploit them too – Madonna thumbs a lift naked by the highway for the benefit of her photographer is rather different to Tracy Emin dealing with her demons by spreading her legs in her self portrait sketches. But both are examples of creators with the self confidence to know that they are going to win over people, quite accepting that they will disgust many judgmental people.
People are not born with an aversion to creativity. Their views are the product of their childhood and the cause goes back generations. Slowly, as they discover that it is in fact they who are different, perhaps through their shocked reaction to people, art or events that other people not only accept, but appear to enjoy, some change. And their children, learning more from exposure to the world through their friends and the internet, change too.
There is only one person in this image. It is a construction from a previous shoot assembled in 2007. I should consider setting up shoots specifically to construct such images but this arose very much after the event, a benefit of a mischievous mind and interval shooting with a digital camera.
This image is in no small part exists because of people who once were judgmental of me. There – see how I turned out – you were right! (Not!)
Most of the people who created the person in me that makes these images are half a lifetime or more away now. They will probably never see my photos, and if they do it will all probably go way over their heads. So again they will actually be wrong.
My partner for over 26 years, my wife for almost 25, Mrs H. stands by me in this image from 1995 with a perfect expression to match mine, indifferent to the absence of clothing from the waste down, looking at the camera with confidence and at ease.
We did not discuss how we were going to pose, perhaps that helped. We just stood there and the self timer whirred and the shutter clicked, capturing the moment with no-fuss frankness.
At the time I worked in the City of London. My expanding portfolio of nude photography was still private although the internet was soon going to provide an anonymous way of sharing the art with others. In contrast to my own passion for photography of the nude, Shirley was then, and still is, ambivalent to nudity and the idea of being a model. It was something she was content to go along with but was not going out of her way to do. I eventually got the message!
I respect her for trusting me in the first place and for allowing me to share what we created together in the same way she respects my enthusiasm to work with those who are enthusiastic about collaborating with me.
I affectionately called this photo ‘cool couple’. And cool with each other.