Barbie Revisited

Bill Jay has some interesting observations in the end notes to the latest Lenswork. I don’t usually buy the magazine, because I don’t like large format snobs. The majority of large format photographers come off as die-hard modernists who don’t have a clue about what photography can really do, instead clinging to notions like “essence” and “emotional tonality”. I never have been into the still-life thing. I like my life to move, and I really only bought the magazine because of Bill Jay’s writing. I like it. Here’s his jab at the po-mo crowd:

The continuing saga of Barbie pix. A federal judge recently (August 2001) decided that photographer Tom Forsythe can, indeed, take naked Barbie pictures in spite of Mattel’s objections.

It was not only the nakedness that Mattel found “disturbing” but also the fact that Forsythe photographed Barbie in a blender and frying in a wok.

I have some suggestions for his creations: dunk Barbie in a bath of urine (Serrano); slice her head in two and arrange the two halves to kiss each other (Witkin); ram her breast into a meat grinder (Krims); cut off the limbs for rearrangement (Belmer).

Now we’re getting somewhere . . . Or maybe not. Forsythe has more noble ambitions than disturbance. He is attempting to make people think about how Barbie’s image has distorted children’s concepts of beauty. I can go along with that, although it makes me think that Mattel is delighted to have found a new market for flagging sales: art photographers

Of course, this issue of Lenswork has pointless photographs of flowers in vases, all nicely muted soft focus, and a bunch of stuff with toy cars and trash photographed in still life tableau. Yawn. I know I’ve gotten bad when I start buying photo magazines for the articles, instead of the pictures. Not much interests me in what I see on the shelves these days. I know there is a lot of good work going on out there, it just doesn’t seem to fit the critically hyped trends.