Boring sex

“Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex its surprising textures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac elements. Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood. If you nourished your sexual life with all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality, you would be the most potent human being in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity, passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all of the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.”

– Anaïs Nin, The Diary Of Anais Nin, Volume 3; 1939-1944

_U1J8346 reworked_web_sRGB

An image from my Hopper’s Americans series. For more information please visit my website at www.roth-photo.com, and for sales please contact my gallery Camera Work in Berlin.

That rare moment

“What could be more interesting, or in the end, more ecstatic, than in those rare moments when you see another person look at something you’ve made, and realize that they got it exactly, that your heart jumped to their heart with nothing in between.”

Robert Motherwell

_MG_9456 print_web_sRGB

“Hanako awakes from her nap” – an image from my Photographic Novel “Hanjo.” For more information please visit my website.

Photography is not that easy

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do” said Edgar Degas.

Degas’ insight is just as easily applicable to photography. Cameras have become ubiquitous over the last few years, as have endless little applications or plug-ins that make it easy to create images that look like expired polaroids, or older Medium Format cameras with light leaks, or any other myriad of effects that became highly fashionable on the social networks. People with creative streaks thought the leap to fine art was a few clicks away, and the visual social media platforms – from Instangram to Tumblr – began filling with artsy Hipstamatic photos.

But as much as I like to complain about some of the extremely wanky conceptual photography that I’ve seen in art schools and even on the walls of certain galleries at Paris Photo or MIA Milan Image Art Fair, I must point out that the fine art photo world still places a premium on craft. The images that truly succeed are executed with very high skill, and must deliver context (and concept!) while still being well shot. Planning an image, shooting it, and then processing it in the dark room or retouching it digitally requires attention to detail.

At this point I’d love the show you some of my new work, which I’m pretty proud of, but I am holding back until I premiere the project in the appropriate environment. I’m proud of the images, and what my team has been able to put together.

Soon.  In the mean time, here is a new version of an image I’ve shown before.  🙂

Darkened_2012 07 17 DARK Brun Gun 13100_filter2_cool color implementation_web_sRGB

Brunhilde beobachtet Günther, an image from my new Series “The Sacred and the Profane”.

A story to guide you

Several photographers have asked me for advice recently. I’m always slightly leery of giving advice, because I don’t believe my images succeed from technique. I’m proud of the work I do, it’s technically fine, but my work lives from the stories I tell. And I think that’s an element that is missing too often. To me it’s painfully obvious when I look at the websites of those asking me for help. There are photographers all over the world that are attempting fine art nude work, or fashion photography, and the answer is simple: the greatest pictures from either genre are filled with narrative and emotion. Yet those same shooters asking for advice obsess endlessly about camera gear, light placement, and posing. It never occurs to them to share a story with their model, or to guide the team by describing a mood or a moment.

Two weeks ago a photographer said “well, I’m not like you, I can’t afford to tell stories.” Bullshit.

I want to post the following pictures to make a point: there is no budget for story. That’s not how it works. Contrary to the process of my public work, I still “work out” creatively by shooting on location with available light (rather than building sets and using multiple strobe heads). For this shoot, I told the model about the story of Hanjo. The geisha Hanako goes insane from loneliness while waiting for her lover Yoshio to return. I told her to envision the morning of his departure, the hour right after he left. The physical desire, the loneliness, the hope.

You don’t need money to tell a great story … but it does require a great model.

Natsuki 2

Natsuki 3

Natsuki 1

“So build yourself as beautiful as you want your world to be. Wrap yourself in light then give yourself away with your heart, your brush, your march, your art, your poetry, your play. And for every day you paint the war, take a week and paint the beauty, the color, the shape of the landscape you’re marching towards. Everyone knows what you’re against; show them what you’re for.”

Andrea Gibson, “Evolution”

Go and tell stories my friends.

The Forest Project

For some time now, I have been creating a series of images in my studio called the Forest Project. It is a large set in my studio. I am about to pause the project for an indeterminate amount of time. I need to focus on other work, but I also must retrench, I need to rethink the project. I know where I want it go… but until now I have been unable to articulate it, and so it was difficult to communicate to my team what I want to achieve.

The goal is to show strong women, who would challenge the perceptions and self-confidence of men. Beautiful, but hardly available. Not desirable in the conventional ways of modern fashion photography, yet clearly from that universe. Every project I find myself playing with that language more and more. The Witch – the way we see her in the last 150 years – is a German bourgeois concept, the perception of the liberated woman in nature. Nothing is a greater threat than a woman that does not need to rely on a man. These supposedly feral women created a social discomfort – they are free to make their own decisions. It is a continuation of a theme begun as far back as folk tales about the women of the Blocksberg, the Walpurgisnacht, and their contemporaries from other cultures… the Baba Yega for instance.

“To diminish the worth of women, men had to diminish the worth of the moon. They had to drive a wedge between human beings and the trees and the beasts and the waters, because trees and beasts and waters are as loyal to the moon as to the sun. They had to drive a wedge between thought and feeling…At first they used Apollo as the wedge, and the abstract logic of Apollo made a mighty wedge, indeed, but Apollo the artist maintained a love for women, not the open, unrestrained lust that Pan has, but a controlled longing that undermined the patriarchal ambition. When Christ came along, Christ, who slept with no female…Christ, who played no musical instrument, recited no poetry, and never kicked up his heels by moonlight, this Christ was the perfect wedge. Christianity is merely a system for turning priestesses into handmaidens, queens into concubines, and goddesses into muses.”

– Tom Robbins

 

For what it’s worth…

For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

Eric Roth from his screen play for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

72 Objects

This is one of the many great pieces that Marina Abramovic has created. In 1974, seventy-two objects (including a gun and a bullet) were laid out on a table for the spectators to use on the artist in any way they chose to use them.

tumblr_miuk3l7abh1qe31lco1_1280

“Abramovic is no stranger to giving much of herself to her work, to her spectators and to performance art as a whole, sometimes even putting her body in extreme danger.” 

In the course of the performance, Abramovic’s shirt was ripped off and a rose stuck into her chest by its thorns. Despite a signed document releasing the public of any accountability in the event of injury, the performance was cut short when police were called because a loaded gun was aimed at her head.

tumblr_miuk3l7abh1qe31lco3_1280

tumblr_miuk3l7abh1qe31lco4_1280

tumblr_miuk3l7abh1qe31lco5_1280

“The experience I learned was that…if you leave the decision to the public, you can be killed… I felt really violated; they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.” —M. A.

tumblr_miuk3l7abh1qe31lco2_500

…now think about how people conduct themselves when they have the anonymity of the internet to shield them from interaction with the other person, and from facing actual personal repercussions.

Pretty is not enough

This project I’m shooting goes deeper into me than I thought, and I am grateful for the guidance and friends I have, now that I know how to approach it. There are decisions that come from a part of the soul that is both unknowable and scary. It’s like an Area 51 that is completely off limits to me, yet some of my most important choices are made there. I see how others approach the style or the subject matter, and I know they are failing.

Both my Hopper project and the Hanjo stories are reflections of how I felt at the time. One was a melancholy reflection of what might come next and what has been, and the other was a meditation on love lost in light of doing the right thing. I am more confident in my images than ever, the new series is strong and committed. It is no longer a look back, it is time to make a mark, and to comment on the world that I see. Fear is not an option; my sons need to know that I did more than simply create pretty pictures. There is more to art than technical execution and decorative color schemes, and I’m seeing work in galleries these days that lack depth and courage. I will shoot for more; I promise.