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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Michael Rosen Captures the Human Behind the Fetish in "Contact Sheet Sexual Portraits"

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2011 at 11:00 AM

  • Michael Rosen
  • Crissy
You have to go to only a few exhibits of fetish photography or flip through a few collections to figure out that most of it is basically Playboy for art snobs. And if that weren't bad enough, the majority of such shoots barely have the eroticism or edginess of a decent Cosmo shoot. Over and over, anonymous-looking models pose stiffly in expensive latex and neatly knotted ropework, looking as engaged as someone re-reading last year's gossip magazines in a  dentist's waiting room.

What we love about photographer Michael Rosen's work is the lack of anonymity. Not just in the sense that many people in his photos might very well be our friends and acquaintances -- we've seen photographers who can transform old friends into complete strangers. What's extraordinary about Rosen's work is that even when depicting the most kinky and radical sexualities, his camera is trained on the person, not the fetish. Perhaps even more than the sadomasochism, it's the unpoised emotional intimacy of his portraits that keeps them out of glossies like Cosmo. He demonstrates this in "Contact Sheet Sexual Portraits," which opens Friday at the Center for Sex and Culture.

(Warning/promise: The images in the rest of this post are probably NSFW.)

  • Michael Rosen
  • Natasha

"Contact Sheet Sexual Portraits," a project that Rosen started in the 1970s, explores human sensuality in a different way than the kinky portraits he's known for. Each portrait in the series is a collage of 36 images of a single woman, framed and formatted like a contact sheet made from a roll of 35mm film. The Center for Sex and Culture shows 36 of the collages starting Friday. 

The concept is deceptively simple, but Rosen's "Contact Sheets" beautifully underscore how one-dimensionally our culture's images of sexuality typically are. If we can be said to fetishize anything, it's the small details that make one body different from another: the wrinkles, scars, moles, scratches, freckles, stretch marks, odd bulges, and discolorations that our bodies acquire as the inevitable consequence of being living organisms. They are the most private, most personal aspects of eroticism, and are erased from mainstream and alternative pictures with equal vigor.

  • Michael Rosen
  • grrl Mel

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Chris Hall


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