Intimate Portraits

year: 1989     models: anonymous

Portraits focus on face, especially the eyes, as the most individual (and communicative?) aspect of the human body. But this is mere convention. Every part of the human body is unique, potentially worthy of examination and aesthetic appreciation.

Second to the face, the next most publicly displayed part of the human anatomy are the hands. They are continually ‘on show’, gesturing, carving shapes in the air, often to emphasize speech – indeed, in sign language, as a substitute for speech. If examined closely surely the hands and fingers are as personal and individual as the face.

What about the least public part of the male human body, the penis? Though seldom displayed in public as if it was a source of shame, any man will confirm that the this organ is central to his sense of identify. A man’s relationship with his penis can be the source of pride, embarrassment, pleasure. An aroused penis can lead to orgasmic ecstasy – or be used as a path to seduction, or a weapon of aggression.

These Intimate Portraits juxtapose these two parts of the male anatomy, the hands and penis. They examine the uniqueness of the subjects’ most private anatomical parts alongside their second-most ‘public’. This might suggest a masturbatory association, but my interpretation is otherwise. Using Kodak vericolor film as if it was regular negative film creates an alienating effect. Skin tones turn bluish white, the veins beneath often showing eerily through. Where there is a concentration of blood the colour turns towards dull red. Far from suggesting eroticism these images expose instead as sense of fragile male intimacy and vulnerability.