I woke today, cough still rattling my body every two minutes and discovered quite an extra-ordinary critique in my inbox. The critique is by ~BlackHaloAngel
and it is on this little photo:
Click on the thumbnail to read the full critique because it is well worth it and really started my brain working. An hour after waking up, I had written this which discusses 'why shoot nudes', 'why shoot self-portraits' (which is not a question she asked but I think my response turned into this) and my beliefs on framing and posing, all this prompted by one person's response to my image. Discussion and debate is what drives art. Don't be afraid of it. I love seeing people respond to my images in a way which shows they have really been prompted to think, as she clearly had been. Art inspires artistic debate and this is a fantastic thing. With ~BlackHaloAngel
's permission, I am posting my response here for you to read and respond to.
I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed the writing of it.
PS. I've also made the image downloadable, just this once.
Thank you for taking the time to think so completely about my image like this and I'm delighted that it prompted all these thoughts and questions from you.
I'll try to respond to some of what you asked. The first (and most interesting to me) is the 'why be naked' question.
I don't shoot nudes often. I used to. There is one photo in particular in my gallery which I look at and go 'gosh, the nudity in this photo just plain confuses me and gets in the way of the concept' so it is definitely an issue, this 'If Its Naked, Its Art' thing which many people do. I don't think I ever set out to shoot a 'pretty, art nude image' but sometimes I end up with one. This particular week, I was photographing a concept where I was covered with toys (naked but with everything hidden and I looked like a toy myself) but it wasn't working. When trying to make it work, I dropped the toys at one point for a focus shot and saw this image.
Why I photographed it is because I love the way my skin blends into the wall and the way the wall dominates the image, because it is vulnerable and because I found it pretty. When it comes down to the 'why shoot nudes' thing, this is an answer which comes back a lot: people who like to photograph the human form do so because they find it a beautiful, intriguing and mysterious thing, a thing to be investigated because it raises questions. Personally, I photograph nude self-portraits because it is my own body and I am intrigued by it. It is an ever changing thing thing and my relationship with it is changing. This photo is the product of where my brain and body were at that moment: after a week of being sick, barely eating, very weak and being looked after by my boyfriend, fed like a child because I couldn't seem to get motivated to do it myself. This is where this photo comes from. A photo captures one moment in your life and naked, scrawny, vulnerable but returning to reality and coming back to being in possession of my body was how that moment seemed. Naked suited the moment and I found it a beautiful image.
Of course, no one can know all that by looking at a single image but I'm shooting an entire year worth of self-portraits so a sense of personal truth is important for me and my regular watchers are aware that I have been very sick for a week. I have watchers who will see this in the context of a year's worth of self-portraits. It is a series that they are following and I think they will appreciate this moment in the context of the year.
Okay, I want to address the pose and the framing because I do give every pose a lot of thought. I was a model for a long time so I know all the poses and most of them bore me. What I often do (and what I did for this shot) is to dance very slowly until I find a moment I want to capture and then hold it. (I was shooting on an eighth of a second so I had to hold moments artificially.) I do this to create spontaneity and a sense that the pose is moving from somewhere and going somewhere. It also creates more unusual and creative poses, I find. Cropping off one arm and leaving all that empty space (and I own two copies of that book, I'm pretty sure) won't be to everyone's taste but I enjoy it and I think it is what makes this image different to other images: it is almost an incidental nude, as if I was photographing the wall and the naked person just slipped (partly) into the frame. I believe off-centre framing and strangely cropped people (I love cutting someone's face in half in photos) creates compositional tension and I love it and will continue experiment and play with it for many years, I've no doubt.
Thank you for prompting all of that and I hope I have answered most or all of your questions. If you don't mind, I may make this a journal post with a link to your critique but let me know if you mind this. I think my watcher's will enjoy the debate. Thanks.