Since I started shooting in color in 2007, after many years as a devote black and white photographer, I have been learning about color and its affect on the “read” of the image. Once I found RED, however, it changed my life. [If you feel I am prone to exaggeration I credit it to my growing passion for opera.] RED conjures passion, depression, elation, energy, viscera, and the most powerful of all emotions – love. Remarkably, it can be both attractive and repulsive – sometimes at the same time.
Recently I invited two very dear and close friends to see my new work in my studio. I have shared my work with them periodically for many years, so they are quite familiar with my images. These are a few of what we looked at:
In just a couple of minutes one said that she saw them as pornographic and the other quickly agreed. After I regained my composure, this led to a fascinating conversation. To me these images are not overtly or even covertly sexual [well, maybe a TAD seductive] but this was a reaction I felt I needed to pay attention to. As I have said many times I do not work with an idea or an image in mind but prefer to rely on my intuition. When I am shooting I am exploring the subject in front of me by studying the forms – lines, shapes and tones. I don’t intend for the images to have a specific meaning but rather I see them as open to interpretation by the individual viewer.
I determined that three common ingredients had to be present in the images for them to be considered pornographic to my friends; 1. a face 2. a breast 3. the color RED. 1. The face identifies the figure as an individual as opposed to an anonymous model, opening the doors for a sense of vulnerability. 2. Since a breast is something that is usually hidden, seeing one adds to the idea of a person exposed. 3. But the RED is the essential ingredient in these particular images to evoke those strong feelings.
The different uses of RED-
A little about RED – RED, a primary color (along with green and blue,) symbolized nobility and wealth during the Renaissance; became the color of revolution in Russia, China and Vietnam; and is often used in flags to illustrate power. Because it is the color of blood it is also associated with bravery, sacrifice, and danger. It conjures feelings of passion, anger, love, joy and sexuality [my friends’ reactions.]
Without a face, as in 01-07-19-679, the sense of vulnerability is lost, but the RED empowers the form with a life force.
As I see it, a sense of depression is elicited in Untitled #4-24-12-012, as the RED hand reaches up from hell to pull the psyche down. (Obviously you may have different reaction, but if you see this as pornographic I might suggest medication and/or therapy).
Untitled #09-04-13-287 is Oedipus, the tragic Greek figure, who pokes out his eyes after killing his father and marrying his mother [the “Cliff Notes” version of the tale, if you want more detail click here for the Wikipedia version. /en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oedipus]
I would love to hear your thoughts and continue this discussion. Do you see the above images as pornographic? Yes? No? Controversy has been my life-long companion (not by choice) and I am no stranger to censorship, criticism and all the other stuff that goes along with being an artist, so please be honest…