Representations of love and intimacy in art are multitudinous. They range from the virtual to the visceral, and from the ancient to the hyper-contemporary. At PHOTOFAIRS | San Francisco, a recent iteration of the international art fair dedicated to photography, many participating creators showed work approaching love and romance from unconventional, unexpected perspectives.
Kate Stone & Hannah Schneider at Rubber Factory
Friends and collaborators Kate Stone & Hannah Schneider explore the complexities of memory-making in their series How We End, which is also a book. Working together over three years, Stone writing and Schneider visualizing, the duo compiled a combined mythology of their breakups from the perspective of a single narrator. "Nothing in the pictures is anything personal from either of our lives. It's all sourced from the internet. It's all public imagery. But it's all become very personal to us," Stone tells Creators.
"Hannah would write a story and send it to me and I would make the image to go along with it," Stone continues. "The images are supposed to be the set where the breakup took place. The overarching concept of the book is the idea that when you tell a story, especially a really personal one, you're inherently fabricating certain things. It's never going to be completely accurate. Their side of the story might be completely different, so the images kind of reflect that in the way that they're fragmented and distorted and have gaps, like your memory has gaps."
Shen Wei at Flowers Gallery
Peach Tree, 2016, Courtesy Shen Wei, Flowers Gallery, London & New York
Love and sensuality transcend human experience in the dramatic chiaroscuro portrait Peach Tree by Shen Wei. The peach tree represents love and seduction in Chinese culture, and the "interplay of positive and negative elements also articulates oppositional emotional states of fear, attraction, joy, loneliness, and absence," Flowers Gallery explains in a statement.
In an earlier series, Wei turns the camera on himself. Glance (left) and Flowers (right), 2004, Shen Wei, Flowers Gallery, London & New York. Image by the author.
Bruce Gilden at Magnum Photos
Simon, a portrait of a Columbian mortician, proves that elegance and romance aren't just for the young or the immaculately composed. The striking image is a departure from Bruce Gilden's normally grating portraiture. "It's Bruce's wife's favorite photo. They have it in their house and she kisses it every day," Magnum Photos representative Chelsea Jacob says. Noting a tiny loose thread on the subject's bright red tie, she adds, "He looks put-together, but he's not."
Julie Blackmon at Robert Mann
Peggy's Beauty Shop, 2015, Julie Blackmon, Robert Mann Gallery, New York. Image by the author.
Being tethered to conventional beauty standards is a bummer, but the imagery in Peggy's Beauty Shop by Julie Blackmon of Robert Mann marks a move towards the brighter side of vanity: self-love and acceptance, as evidenced by a radiant woman reclining outside of the beauty shop.
Steven Klein at Camera Work
Disconcerting scenes of self-care are on display in the Valley of the Dolls series by Steven Klein of Camera Work. The images may actually be a critique of beauty standards imposed by the entertainment industry, as indicated by their subjects' robotically stiff poses and the series' titular reference to this vapid, pill-popping hell of a reality.
Mona Kuhn at Flowers Gallery
Who says you can't get naked with your friends and enjoy a nice book? The (possibly temporary) platonic loveliness makes poetry of the human form in this image from the Poem series by Mona Kuhn of Flowers Gallery. Its lounging, sundrenched figures speak more to sensuality than sexuality.
Ryan McGinley at Ratio 3
"He hired a group of models and they made a road trip across the country. They met with several animal handlers, and they just kind of let the animals do what they wanted," Ratio 3 gallery representative Susan Sherrick tells The Creators Project, describing Ryan McGinley's Lying Lamb. The beastial images are certainly subversive, but they also suggest that animals make great cuddle buddies.
Photofairs comes to Shanghai in September 2017. Get the details here.