The shredding of the vanities (1988, modified 2010, 2016)

The three photos that make up this artwork were taken by me of me on film in 1988, my first images with the more problematical subject matter of the erect penis. In 2010 I printed them, immediately shredding the prints as a symbol of rejection. I then photographed the result on a red background and published it on flickr with a somewhat vulgar title “Shredding the stiffies (1988 reprocessed 2010)” together with a five paragraph account of what was behind the image. It’s still there and public but you’ll need to be a member to see it; it was in colour and only shredded once so a broad mind and a sympathetic character helps too.

Today in 2016 I decided that that image was not sufficiently defaced to make the point I wanted to make, so I shredded the image again, this time in a different direction. Again I photographed the result and converted to monochrome and that is what you see here.

Three photos of an erect penis put through a shredder.

Those three photos were my first images attempting to deal with the problematical subject matter of the erect penis and render it in some way artfully. An alternative take is that it was my first attempt to address my insecurities head on.

When I photographed the original images, I know my intention and the way the light was used absolutely meant that I was trying to do something artistic. The shreddings years later are symbolic of the fact that that those original images did not really work as art, but nevertheless there was art in there somewhere. As in 2010 there is a desire to publish the images because they were so important in my personal development.

If my photostream were one of the new crop of art movies for general audiences that feature real sex then these images would be the ones that the director included because they were of vital relevance to the plot, but which tabloid film critics would tear to shreds. At the time they were taken these images were helpful in making me realise that perhaps the playing field was not as stacked against me as much as I had imagined.

While it’s always difficult subject matter, I can now look at a penis as just another thing which can be photographed beautifully in its own right. Equally it can be an important part of an emotional portrait of an individual. The dividing line from crude porn is however seldom straightforward and some will never see it.

Those words about the original image “trying to do something artistic” are important and as I state on my home page, I believe “there is nothing offensive about any aspect of the human body, especially when presented in a way that makes an artistic statement or conveys its beauty“.

Because the originals were an important development in my photography, I still regard them as art. Creating them was an erotic experience with artistic intent. The end result that you see here is I think a development of that original flawed art and I believe carries a rather more profound artistic statement.

But maybe, perhaps, it was the performance of shredding the photos that was the real art?

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