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Straulino creates highly produced pictures of women; his style is dramatic and striking. In many of these pictures the models are painted with brightly colored make up or paint. For example, in the cover photograph, the model is painted in bright red with plenty of texture. Her blue eyes gaze out impassively. In other pictures, models faces are in gold, and in one she shows a breast painted silver. In other images he has a nude model contrasted against rough sand, a blonde model with her head surrounded by thin copper wire, and the corner of a lip in extreme close up. Often the faces are in shade or are obscured by other objects, as well as being painted. These images are astonishing in their ability to bring out textures and contrasts in color. They will fit well in high fashion magazines.
Of course, even if Straulino is successfully in his technique and manages to make very stylish arresting pictures, we can still ask if they are successful in other ways, or if they are problematic in other ways. The quality of images is fairly even -- although some of them, such as a viscous golden liquid (honey?) dripping down a model's breasts, seem a little clichéd. We can ask if these pictures are objectivizing or fetishistic, or whether they portray women in their full humanity. The answer is clearly that Straulino is interested in iconography and graphics more than human beings. His models are all gorgeously beautiful with the fierce look of top models. Some of these pictures, with their emphasis on open mouths or sticky liquid on lips, may borrow too much from pornographic imagery. Yet these are not necessarily dehumanizing pictures: one might see them as a radical approach to conventional fashion photography. There are even themes connecting the images: he is certainly interested in masks and one might see him as posing the question whether all model photography is just about the surface mask. However, the title of the book, Playtime, highlights the fact that the main force behind these images is a playful experimentation rather than an attempt to convey some message. At their most successful, these images are almost abstract, celebrating textures and colors. Straulino's work is engaging -- occasionally stunning. While Playtime may not be a work for posterity, it is a work for now, and Straulino is a photographer to keep an eye out for.
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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