Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Stacy Kranitz: Sex and Drugs and The Frankfurt School





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It's conference season in the UK and the lookalike leaders of the lookalike parties are all standing up and presenting their best faces to the world; they're faces that have been focus-grouped to the point where all personality, individuality and vestiges of what it means to be an eating, spitting, shitting human being have been blurred out. Everything they do or say is because someone, somewhere has told them that this is what someone, somewhere wants to hear.

Focus-grouping for politicians is a bit like photo-shopping for slebs, retouching people until they all look the same, so the freckles and spots and wrinkles (the bits that make people look interesting and beautiful) all go away.

I sometimes get the feeling that a similar thing happens in photography, that people make work that they only pretend to engage with, work that they really don't have a passion for and that doesn't connect with the world outside the photo bubble. It might hit the spot in parts of that little bubble world, but essentially its work that is a bit dull and boring, work that's no fun; no fun to make, no fun to view, no fun to talk about.

Which can't be said about Stacy Kranitz. She has a new book out published by Straylight Press called From The Study on Post-Pubescent Manhood. It's a modest book published in modest numbers, and should be seen as a stepping stone to future publications. But buy it all the same because the work is so full-on

What is great about the work though, is how it was made and how Kranitz talks about it. One of the pleasures I have in writing for the BJP is that I get to interview consistently fascinating and committed photographers who are stretching photography in so many ways, people who are happy to give their time to talk about work that I would so love to be able to make.

Kranitz is one of those people. I interviewed her last week for the BJP's November youth culture edition and was bowled over by the combination of energy and erudition that she has when she talks about her work;  with some heavy drinking, a bunch of disaffected boys without shirts and a whole bunch of drugs thrown in for good measure it's Sex and Drugs and the Frankfurt School.

Kranitz describes herself as an experiential, performative photographer; seeking  a new methodology in photo-making - one that at the moment involves all the sex and drugs and the Frankfurt School. But she ties this in with some the anthropological/photographic writings of people like Katherine Stewart, Michael Taussig and James Agee, all of whom share the idea that to make serious work you have to be part of what you are photographing, and (in Stewart's case) that a closely analytical way of working may be counter-productive in understanding the chaos and ephemera of another culture.

So Kranitz goes into a scenario in full method style (and it might not always be that healthy mentally or physically. Do not try this at home and if you do, don't tell your parents unless they're as understanding as Kranitz's). The pictures at the top are from her Nazi re-enactor series, a series where she takes the role of her hero/anti-hero Leni Riefenstahl. It's Nikki S.Lee with Nazi nobs on, but strangely the pictures with Kranitz/Riefenstahl are mixed with straight portraits and action shots, very good portraits and action shots but not on the same level as the Riefenstahl role pictures.

For the Post-Pubescent pictures, she basically became part of the Skatopia community (a libertarian skateboarding farm)  with its ritualised violence and bedlam of skating, music and drugs. Anyway, I still have to try and write all this up into a more coherent form so that's about all I will say for now.

Because at the end of the day, as Kranitz says, "I struggle to know what the fuck I'm doing."




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