Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Paul Kooiker's Sunday meets Bill Brandt's Perspective of Nudes

Joerg Coberg's review of Paul Kooiker's Sunday, which he accurately describes as "photographs of a nude woman, balancing precariously on a wooden table in a rather unattractive backyard of sorts," makes a number of interesting points:
  1.  "I’m not the biggest fan of dragging out obligatory and thus tiresome references, but there is a big echo of Hans Bellmer and his photographs of self-assembled and rather strange looking dolls. ... That’s the problem with references, they don’t necessarily always teach you quite as much as you think. Which is why I’m going to throw in yet another, very different one: Irving Penn’s Nudes."
  2. "The book of course needs to be seen against the background of photography over the past, let’s say 100 years, with elements of the photographic nude, images of the human body, imaging the human body (in photography almost inevitably men taking photographs of naked women), sexuality, voyeurism thrown into the mix. It’s not obvious where Sunday fits in there. If it was obvious, the book would merely be illustrating a concept (maybe it is, and I am now embellishing?). So I’m not entirely sure what to make of the book, which is good: I’ll have to come back to it."

(Snarky editorial comment: Don't leaf through my photobooks while holding a cigar, like the guy responsible for the video of Kooiker's book did for the first 30 seconds!)

On viewing Sunday, I reacted very much like Coberg. I had a strong and immediate sense of Kooiker's work as part of the ongoing and interconnected stream of photographers who have trained their cameras on nude females. Unlike Coberg, however, my association was neither with Bellmer nor Penn. Rather, Bill Brandt's classic Perspective of Nudes came to my mind. Like Brandt, the bodies in Kooiker's nudes are overexposed, whited out and typically distorted in form. Unlike Brandt's, however, they are in color. My point in raising yet another link is not to argue that one association is better than the other, but to reinforce Coberg's basic point: this is a work firmly embedded in the rich history of photography. There are lots 'echos' here and, as a result, as Coberg so elequently says ... "I’m not entirely sure what to make of the book, which is good: I’ll have to come back to it." As my shelves groan with the weight of more and more photobooks, that's precisely my criteria .... does the book literally demand that you return to it. In this case, the answer is a full throated yes.

Highly recommended.


1 comment:

  1. A new book is finally out!

    BRANDT NUDES, published by Thames & Hudson 2012 - available at www.billbrandt.com (£45)