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Nudes and Portraits is a
collection of 120 black and white photographs of mostly naked women. It is
squarely in a tradition of artistic erotic photography, very different from
contemporary pornography, and reminiscent of an earlier era when this kind of
work signified a manly sophistication. Yet photographer Thye (whose first name
is spelled "Gordon" on the front cover and "Gorden" on the
title page and the back cover) was born in Germany in 1972, so it seems that he
is too young to be bringing back the 1960s. These photographs were taken
between 1997 and 2002, and they feature beautiful young models. They are
attractive images and the technical quality of the processing is pleasing, but
on the whole it is a conceptually dull collection with a few striking moments.
To give a few examples, starting
from the bottom. "Grapes," from 1998, shows the torso of a nude
woman, her head out of the frame, leaning back on a paint-spattered sheet. Her
nipples are erect and she has a lovely body. But on her lap, covering her
pubic area, is a large bunch of black grapes. It is impossible to tell if this
is some sort of visual pun, substituting the grapes for the pubic hair, or a
joke about the fruit of the womb, but whatever the intent, the effect is
comical at best. (Another indication that Thye likes puns is in
"Table-leg," from 2001, which is an almost-silhouette of a single
woman's leg barefoot on a table.) Another low point is "Leona VI,"
from 1999. The blonde model stands in what seems like a slightly too large
white bra and what white panties with a shirt half-off, against another, or
possibly the same, paint-spattered dark sheet. Her make-up has been carefully
applied and her hair has been deliberately arranged to look disheveled. She
stares at the camera with a slight pout, looking serious and trying to look
sultry. It has the feel of an accomplished glamour shot, achieving cliché and
suggesting that the photographer is best suited to working for an underwear
There are some highlight though.
"Mareen" from 1997 is just a close-up of the model's face. She has
strong features and she is wearing quite reflective lipstick. The photograph
has is slightly over exposed, making the model appear ghostly. She looks
directly into the lens at the viewer, and she catches your attention. Because
the photograph is so close, the small lines around her eyelids are visible and
give away a sign that she has human frailty underneath the beauty, which is
more unusual than one might expect.
A series of five images that are
successful has the title "Opposite light," from 1999. A young nude
model poses against a white background, under-lit and so almost in silhouette.
She stands in various poses, facing the camera or with her back turned, and
head tilted upwards. In the largest of the five pictures, she faces the camera
with her arms slightly spread out to her sides, her fingers splayed, and her
legs are spread, in a possibly aggressive pose. Her body is almost completely
in shadow, but the sides of her breasts catch the light. It is a fantastic
picture, eerie and almost giving the model an alien quality, yet also highly
erotic and challenging. It more of Thye's photographs had this quality, Nudes
and Portraits would be a remarkable collection. It shows that he is
capable of going beyond standard methods of portraying nude women, but
unfortunately in most of these images, he plays it safe.
© 2005 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island.
He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.