"When Sex a Gogo was published in 1969, Sanne Sannes had recently been killed in a car accident, at the age of 30. He had recently been responsible for a notable work in the Dutch beeldroman (photonovel) tradition, Oog om Oog (Eye for Eye). Sex a Gogo was much more light hearted, a Pop art sexual manual, complete with psychedelic collaging and cartoon speech balloons, much influenced by the many 'underground' magazines that were such a feature of 1960s culture. The book's montages were devised by its designer Walter Steevensz, who took over the project when Sannes died, and it is his vision as much as the photographer's that is evidenced in this typically 1960s comedy of sexual mores. Yet however comical, Sex a Gogo never allows us to forget about its erotic intentions."--Parr & Badger, The Photobook, A History, Vol. I
Books of Nudes by Alessandro Bertolotti (5B4)
OK…let’s balance out this month’s war and misery and slip into something a little more comfortable…NUDITY!
For all of us who just love anthologies of books, there is a great new one from Abrams called Books of Nudes by Alessandro Bertolotti. Bertolotti, according to the flap copy, has one of the largest collections of erotic books and photographs in Europe. Who his American equivalent would be, I do not know but Bertolotti has brought together more than 160 books and divides them into thematic sections under chapter headings like: Pictorialism, Glamour, European Avant-Garde, Nazism, Gay Pride and others.
I find nudity in photography to be a fascinating subject for what it attempts to be and at times how it tries to deny what it actually is. Many a book or magazine has been sold simply because they contain nudes and thousands of those same publications would go to great lengths to deny any sexual component to their content. In the introduction to Books of Nudes, Jean-Claude Lemagny writes: “First, let us remind ourselves calmly that eroticism is not an aesthetic value. The quality of space, of the graphic line, and of light are all aesthetic values, but sexuality is not. The touch, the desire, and the warmth of the body are sexual values, not aesthetic ones. Yet these two fields, although radically separate in the world of the mind, are intimately linked in reality, a paradox that is evident in every ‘nude’ in history. Beauty and desire combine in a sensuality that belongs to both, even though for obvious reasons it should not.”
The book’s design is almost a spitting image of Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s accomplished two-volume photo-book history but with fewer lengthy essays. Each chapter starts with a short socio-cultural essay that places the groupings into perspective with their appearance in history. The illustrations are presented as images of book covers and as interior spreads of open books. The printing was done in France and it looks great.
Since this volume is so specific to a particular subject, the examples often fall far outside of the expected and known. That being said, one criticism that I have of this collection is that it seems to be a rather narrow and timid view of the nude in photography especially in relation to recent publications. There isn’t a single title featured that was published between 1995 and 2002. The two entries that end the book are Bill Henson’s Lux Et Nox and Bettina Rheims’ Morceaux Choisis, both published in 2002. Even Parr and Badger included the likes of Terry Richardson and Hiromix as contemporary examples of interesting photo book making. I would think that no matter what you think of their photography, a Richard Kern or a Roy Stuart deserve a place somewhere in this mix. I might be criticized for calling for the inclusion of explicitness or vulgarity but it is an aspect of ‘the nude’ that is suspiciously absent from this book.
The flap copy mentions that Bertolotti has amassed his collection from over thirty years of collecting yet he is only 47. I guess that fact that he started collecting at such a young age makes him fairly typical of any other 16 year old male with an interest in nudity. I wonder if his first book acquired at that age made it into this volume.
Photographers included: Berenice Abbott, Nobuyoshi Araki, Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Hans Bellmer, Karl Blossfelt, Bill Brandt, Brassai, Alexey Brodovitch, Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, Larry Clark, Lucien Clergue, Imogen Cunningham, Andre de Dienes, Walker Evans, Andreas Feininger, Lee Friedlander, Arnold Genthe, David Hamilton, Sam Haskins, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Bill Henson, Horst Paul Horst, Frank Horvat, George Hurrell, Andre Kertesz, Herbert List, Robert Mapplethorpe, Steven Meisel, Duane Michals, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Helmut Newton, George Platt Lynes, John Rawlings, Man Ray, Bettina Rheims, Herb Ritts, Jan Saudek, Jeanloup Sieff, Edward Steichen, Bert Stern, Alfred Stieglitz, Jock Sturges, Bruce Weber, Minor White, Joel-Peter Witkin and others.
Diana Blok and Marlo Broekmans formed a unique photographic duo who developed into a well known body of work called Invisible Forces. They collaborated as a single artist from 1978 thru 1981. Historically it is the only example we know of two women photographers,with both their signatures on all prints.
"I have been watching a new passion, a rather unique and rarely published vision that can be found in the work of various artists spread over the Western hemisphere and who most probably never heard of each other(he mentions Robert Mappelthorpe, George Dureau, Dieter Appelt, Luis Caballero amoung others). Yet their concern, their reason to create seems to be fueled by the same source: the notion that every human must die and the capablity to come to terms with this shock or to disarm it temporarily thru the most savage passions and sufferings, which is nothing less than trying to live the extremes".