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Monday, 5 October 2009

Spiritual America

“Terrie, Brooke Shields' mother recognizes what this picture could possibly suggest, (not about Brooke, but about her). In a word: "pimp". When the picture was taken, Brooke was ten years old but Gary Gross made her head up to look like an older woman. Then he went to the trouble of oiling her body to heighten and refract the presence of her "he-she" adolescence. Now we've got a body with two different sexes, maybe more, and a head that looks like it's got a different birthday.”

That's what Richard Prince wrote about the Brooke Shields he 'borrowed' from Gary Gross - but isn't it a bit like picture-trafficking isn't it? Once Prince has made the picture his own, doesn't Richard Prince become the new pimp?

And if Richard Prince is a pimp, is anyone who takes pictures a pimp - or are we just taking it all a bit too seriously and treating pictures as some kind of fetish with a soul of its own. I suppose these are all the questions Prince is posing by taking the picture in the first place.

At the same time, there's the big stereotype (sometimes true, normally not) of primitive people believing in the camera stealing one's soul, but don't nearly all of us who "witter on about photography" (Tim Hetherington's words) do the same. Don't we all have a little bit of the primitive in us. And if we are, perhaps we should drop the bullshit a little and start saying things are what they are - so if a Richard Prince takes a Gross Gary Gross picture, the pimped picture by Gary Gross becomes the pimped picture by Richard Prince. And nothing more.

But where does that leave the rest of us. Via Susana Raab's blog, this review touches on our propensity to bullshit, to frame our "...modest, if persistent, achievement under crushing layers of grandiloquent ­hokum."

Oh dear, he could be talking about me. Or you?


Stan B. said...

Yes, we do "witter on" don't we? Was reflecting on this just yesterday- who are we to criticize? And yet, this is just the virtual equivalent of office water cooler chatter, a mutual exchange of ideas and opinions- less anyone take themselves tooooo seriously.

Funny how Mr. Prince can be so honestly insightful about other people's work, but as for his own- perhaps, because so very little of it is actually... his own.

His image pimping reminded me of Dana Popa, whose revealing Not Natasha in Lens Culture, features photographs of women who have been traded from pimp to pimp in the Eastern European sex slave industry.

colin pantall said...

Hi Stan - who are we to criticize? Who are we not to criticize - I think the wittering on comment might be about the fact that we aren't really savage enough - it should be anyways. Anyway, I'll take photography over video anyday of the week, which is what it was really all about.

The picture itself doesn't remind me of Popa's work, which is very different in a valuable kind of way, but thematically there's a link for sure.