Tired of the Fear

I have been working on a new project for months now. I am only really getting started, because I want to take my time finding the right visual language, but also want to make sure the images I create provoke thought. I don’t want them to be provocative without reason, I am too old for that.

The new project deals with religious iconography, but uses the language of beauty and fashion. I don’t do that casually, I believe that models have become our modern-day angels in terms of the visual language. I do not men that as a compliment. They are unattainably perfect creatures that serve to remind us that we are not “good enough” in the eyes of ourselves. The use of fashion models, dancers, and character actors in my work serves another purpose: it questions the viewer, and demands attention. Yet no product or service is being sold, and so the plasticity of the image requires attention beyond the immediate medial digestion system.

I have created about fourteen images so far, and have many more planned. Not all will see the light of day, because as I refine the purpose of the project, and get more comfortable in this visual language, some of the images will simply seem out of place. There will be many images that are simply beautiful… I could never just make message-pictures, that’s not my style… but certainly the project will have some key pieces that set the mood for the series.

Here are two images that I am willing to show right now.

I presented the series for the first time today at a photographic art masterclass in Paris, at the École Nationale Supériore des Beaux-Arts no less, one of the most acclaimed art schools in our time. Although the work was well-received, I was shocked by the childlike expression of fear over possibly angering religious fundamentalists. I will admit that the bulk of the work is provocative, it was created with the purpose of questioning our respect for religious imagery while using the baroque language of art to echo back a contemporary theme. But I was shocked and dismayed to find such timidity amongst fellow artists. Especially the older, more successful ones that were leading the class were mostly worried about the response amongst the ultra-religious.

How much longer must we all live in fear? Why do we – as enlightened people – fear the thuggish religious so much that we are willing to forego our rights simply to appease them? How long are we willing to let mullahs, rabbis, and the Holy Sea dictate to us what is acceptable when they contribute nothing to the progress of society?

Leave me your thoughts, or better yet just write to me at info@roth-photo.com and I will discuss it, though I may not answer right away.

3 comments

  1. elettracavendish said:
    2012/11/25
    23:44

    Mesmerizing and thought provoking.

  2. lookaphotoblog said:
    2012/11/25
    23:47

    That second photo grew on me quite a bit in the few meager seconds I spent looking at it. A very intriguing take on martyrdom.

  3. Paul Sullivan said:
    2012/11/26
    00:22

    I’m surprised at the response you report. To my mind this sort of ‘anti-religious’ imagery, whether it’s a stencil by Banksy or a fine art piece, is fairly mainstream by now, certainly in art circles. Anyway striking images – technical perfection, great to see you engaging with these themes so boldly. Congrats.

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