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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Panayiotis Lamprou's Portrait of his British Wife

So the National Portrait Gallery has its portrait prize shortlist up and Panayiotis Lamprou's portrait of his wife with no knickers on is the one that catches the eye - mainly because only a detail is shown, and then you have to click on the image to get the full image in all its shocking glory. That extra clicking seems to add a dimension to the picture, to give it some weird peepshow feel, almost like one of those old pens with a picture of a girl in a bikini on, but when you turn the pen upside down, hey presto, the bikini disappears.

 The Guardian has a short commentary. Especially interesting are the  Guardian comments. These muse on the Bristishness of the artist's wife, the omelette pan to her side, the tip of her pelvis, the shape of her genitals and the fact that she is shaven, and what will happen when her children see it - the last point I'm not sure I get because I'm presuming she's not going to be teaching her children about the the shamefulness and disgrace of nudity - it might be something a bit more relaxed and healthy than that. I'm with the Get over it school of thought - it's not porn (but once it might have been) and it's not that good a picture. Or is it? I'm not sure anymore.

And then is she really British? British? And if not, why is he putting that into the title (and wouldn't English work better)?

Full list of the Shortlisted Portraits are here. I fancy the Jeffrey Stockbridge twins, which reminds me of oh-so-many-things, but especially Roger Ballen's Dresie and Casie.

This is what the Guardian site has above the Lamprou Portrait.

Warning: clicking on the picture reveals the full image, which is explicit and may offend

All this somehow reminds me of this story where amother of boys complained about a topless sunbather.

She had initially asked the woman, an assistant in a fashion store, to cover herself up as her ample breasts and the act of rubbing cream on her body had "troubled her sons aged 14 and 12."


Darrell Eager said...

I think it's a very nice portrait.

colin pantall said...

Yay! Thanks for the opinion Darrell. You're the only one who has one - and I agree with you I think.

Stan B. said...

OK, OK- jeez, Colin, ya really know how to shame a guy...

Tell ya the truth, when I woke up and first gazed upon it with my aging, unfocused eyes, first thing I saw was... penis! It's another one of those transsexual gotcha pictures- nothing new there. Now I didn't see anyone comment likewise, so I called the wife over and asked, "What's the first thing ya see?" "Penis," she exclaimed. Of course, closer inspection reveals otherwise, and not in the most particularly attractive floral arrangement.

But even without the extra added extra, it's still a pretty decent portrait. And I don't know what the competition looks like, but with all the commotion and questioning of ethics and aesthetics its "aroused," I hope it wins something.

colin pantall said...

Thanks a million for the comment, Stan - I never saw ghd picture that way but it's interesting how people see it - a touch of the Dijkstra New Mothers perhaps.

The question of whether it inspires debate is interesting, Stan. The picture has got more comments on general sites like the Guardian than photography blogs - loads of people look (hey, you want traffic on your site, stick a picture of someone naked up) but keep their comments to themself - a case of being a bit too cagey in case they say the 'wrong thing'. The photography world is very conservative and conformist.

Jose Guilis said...

I love the picture. And the title. And the implications.

As an alien (i.e. non English citizen) I admit I find it difficult to understand why the wife in question should be described as English instead of British.

Still her gaze, her attitude, the colours, teh summer languor... it all somehow makes me evoke happy moments.

And as most nudes, at least for me it doesn't have any sexual/porn implications.

colin pantall said...

Jose - the idea is that she's not British in the first place, so the photographer is being sarcastic by calling her British - but then he could double up on the sarcasm if he called her English, because the Celtic fringes have a certain passion that the stereotypical English man or woman does not - stiff upper lip, lie back and think of England and all that.

But maybe she is British after all.

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting portrait, not sure if worthy of the National Portrait Gallery. I'm more interested in the sort of omelette she had.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting to compare the image on the photographers own site which is underexposed and so technically this ain't great and I can imagine there are many more worthy winners. Its been tweaked back into a more saturated look with the Taylor Wessing 'cold' preset applied.

The photographer admits its a snapshot and so the it begs questions of the value the Taylor Wessing judges place on photographic skills and talent. A look at other parts of the photographers site reveals that he has not found himself as a photographer as his material is random and enhanced by Diane Arbus type photoshop negative edges.

In a very competitive world it strikes me that this is an attempt to shock a la Damien Hirst in order to take a step up.Premeditated I'd say or you would protect your wifes modesty.

Gareth Williams said...

Why "British"?

Perhaps to explain to perplexed foreigners why she has shaved her fanny but not put her makeup on or brushed her hair?

Nice picture though.

RobG said...

She looks like she thought she was wearing underwear at the time. Goodness me, how embarrassing! Especially when hubby decides to plaster your rather ample pudenda all over the Internet.

Mark Page said...

It's an OK picture of a girl sat in the sun with her fanny out. I don't get it. I'm tempted to say Emperors new knickers.....

Sophia Wallace said...

If we couldn't see her vagina, would this picture have won an award? More to the point, if the subject wasn't identified as the wife of the photographer, would we view her morality in a different way? What if she was described as a hook-up, a sex-worker, an ex? The accolades for this photo seem to ride on the notion that this photo is subversive and honest, yet there is nothing unusual about seeing a woman's body for the pleasure of the anonymous viewer, who is presumed to be male. While the intention in taking the photo was not that, it nevertheless ended up in the public space and fitting nicely into a long history of men painting and photographing women who are in various relation to them but almost always in unequal states of undress and physical vulnerability. The male photographer/painter almost never risks anything in comparison. Simply described as his wife, it's telling that she does not get the benefit of a name. No, her personhood is identified only in relationship him. It is her morality that is on the line, but the reason we respect her is because she is 'his' wife and therefore not a whore for showing her vagina. This is tiresome.