Monday, 17 January 2011

Kerned to f***

The London Short Film Festival, which recently closed for another year, featured a retrospective evening dedicated to Richard Kern, Submit to Me Now. In the mid- to late-1980s, Kern was a leading figure in the Cinema of Trangression movement and since then he's, well, a pornographer. His Wikipedia entry doesn't mention this - though it does note, childishly, he is 'mainly known for his photographs of naked women'. As the LSFF programme puts it, 'he travels the world in search of girls-next-door who can be gently persuaded to get naked. All in the name of art.'

Kern's own website notes his work for Vice and GQ, while putting his photographs of young women in such categories as WC, couples and beds. The women tend to be unmade-up, sullen and young-looking, photographed - in the non-pornographic material - brushing their teeth or eating breakfast. The porno shoots are porno.

Many of Kern's pictures have been published in handsome collections by Taschen, including Action and Model Release. Publisher Benedict Taschen acknowledged to me in an interview more than 10 years ago this relationship works both ways, not least making Kern's work acceptable.

At the time, the popularity of such books - Roy Stuart is another in the Taschen stable - could in part be attributed to the wider accessibility of pornography on the internet. Since then, Kern's pared-down, porno aesthetic has invaded the everyday, in ads for American Apparel, for instance, the work of fellow photographer Todd Hido (#3946, pictured) or the mainstream acceptance - in Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience (2009) - of porn star Sasha Grey (also a face of American Apparel, I think).

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