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Monday, 8 April 2013

Leo Maguire's Dogging Tales

Leo Maguire's ( ex-Newport student, made the fabulous Gypsy Blood - see an interview here) latest film, 
Dogging Tales, showed on Channel 4 in the UK last week.

For those of you unfamiliar with what dogging is, it is basically having sex (or watching people have sex ) in the woods at night.

I was expecting something really sensationalist and lurid, but that's not what Maguire showed. Instead we saw a series of vaguely unattractive men saying how dogging was like real-life porn, and a series of women with confidence issues and a variety of histories saying how dogging has improved their confidence.

So there was a degree of subtlety to it, and the animal masks that were used to disguise people's identities were funny/strange and connected to the nightime wildlife footage that was liberally banded through the documentary - I did get the feeling at times that Maguire might not have got all the footage he wanted, but hey, it was the most tweeted Channel 4 programme of the year and got all the old dogging jokes flowing - who are the dogger neighbours, the dogger colleagues, the dogger photographers? But most of all, you got the feeling that dogging is something you really don't want to do unless you are the woman who liked getting fucked by as many men as quickly as possible. But I guess there aren't too many of those around. This was apparent from the attempts of 'Dogging Terry' (pictured above) and his girlfriend, Sarah's attempt to get into dogging. it was all fine until the reality of Terry watching somebody else touching Sarah got too much and he said "I'm really not comfortable with this" and ended the affair.The bathos of both the dogging footgage and  the people interviewed was overwhelming.

Maguire's film got me thinking of a couple of photography dogger projects. The first one is The Park by Kohei Yoshiyuki, which is a series of dogging pictures. But because it is in Japan, it comes with a whole different series of connotations and we somehow take it more seriously than dogging (which has a Carry On/Donald McGill seaside postcard association). The more exotic, the more we believe in our fictions.

That taking something seriously due to cultural presumptions reminds me of an overnight train trip I once took in India from Varanasi to Chennai. There was a Japanese woman on the train singing songs all the way down (to keep her mind off the freezing cold I think) and we were wondering at the high, spiritual nature of them - and then she started on Give me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam... and the illusion was blown. It's kind of the same with Kohei Yoshiyuki - the scales have fallen off my eyes. He's a dogger with a camera. You Dirty Old Man!

The other projects it reminds me of are Scott Sothern's Lowlife and Nocturnal Submissions, the latter a series of anecdotes about Scott visiting low-rent prostitutes in the 80s. It's fascinating but, like the dogging, leaves one more than a little bit grubby with a very organic description of the sexual process that has a little bit of exploitation thrown in for good measure. The representation of women's bodies is also interesting, in that they are not titillating or idealised. Everything is as it is, so to speak.

That reminds me of a piece on Rachel Whiteread in the weekend's paper in which she describes how her mother "...was involved in a famous feminist exhibition at the ICA called Women's Images of Men."

And that got me to thinking about what women photographers represent men. And I came up with Sally Mann's amazing pictures of her husband. And that was about it. So who else?


Rob Ball said...

Agreed. I was a little disappointed with Dogging Tales....kinda what I expected (minus the animal masks).

How about Merry Alpern? http://www.rogallery.com/Alpern_Merry/alpern-biography.html


andrewpfrost said...

Jen Davis has a project where she is photographing men.

also, Dru Donovan has her project Lifting Water--but it's very specific about her experience dealing with the physical disability and death of a close friend...

I feel like there should be more, but I'm hard pressed to come up with them.

colin pantall said...

Thanks Rob. I was a little disappointed essentially because I wanted something super-lurid - but it stuck with me and had personality so well done there. Merry Alpern fits right in with the voyeuristic/surveillance theme.

When does your term end by the way?

And thanks Andrew - Jen Davis's work reminds a bit of Amy Elkins, but is quite idealised. Nothing wrong with that. Good suggestions, but it does seem that there should be more, you're right...