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Looking For MayaReview - Looking For Maya
by JD Fleishman, Black Alex, Lauri Bortz
Abaton Books, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Aug 18th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 34)

Looking for Maya is an odd little collection of photographs by J.D. Fleishman accompanied by prose and poetry by other authors -- a chapter from Privilege by Black Alex, an interview with Maya by Lauri Bertz, and a poem by Jeff Burns titled "make my hands smell like melville."  Since there are no permission or copyright notices for the text, it seems quite possible that it was all in fact written by Fleishman, and this suspicion is bolstered with the description of Fleishman in the accompanying information as a "conceptual artist."  Ultimately, it doesn't make much difference who wrote them, especially because the text is unimpressive.

The theme of this work is prostitution.  Fleishman spent two years following the operations of "an elite New York City massage parlor" according to the publicity information.  The twenty photos show women, naked or partially clothed, in color and black and white.  Most of them are blurred or out of focus, and we see few faces -- in the one picture where a face is clearly visible, there is a black rectangle blocking out the eyes, and presumably this is part of the intended artistic effect.  The only picture that shows a full face is in a mirror, of a blond woman putting on make-up.  There are several pictures of women's behinds, some of women nude under long coats, and a couple of women talking on the phone.

The publicity release claims that Fleishman was recording "the true intimacies in the life of a working girl" but if that was the intent, then the work does not succeed.  One of the central reasons for its failure is that it leaves the women anonymous and completely unidentified -- the photos are not intimate or revealing, except in showing some exposed skin.  They provide no real insight into the emotional life of the women, nor their working conditions, or their interactions with their clients.  The text might aim to perform this function, but its far too short and rudimentary in its descriptive qualities to achieve anything but give the reader a perfunctory glimpse of this world.

The photographs themselves are moderately interesting aesthetically, but none is particularly striking, and there's not much unity in the artistic style.  For a collection of twenty pictures, an artist has to have some clear and remarkable approach to make her work stand out, and this work does not have this.

The production quality is quite high given the small size of the booklet.

 

Link: See some of the text and photographs reproduced in The Brooklyn Rail.

 

© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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