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September 20, 2010 5:41 AM   Subscribe

The National Portrait Gallery's Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize shortlist for 2010 has been announced. Among the entries, and causing a small ripple of controversy, is Panayiotis Lamprou's Portrait of My British Wife, which is reopening up where mainstream sensibilities of the border between art of and voyeurism lie. The photo features Lamprou's wife Christina looking directly at the camera. Wearing no knickers. [Links are SFW. NSFW links appropriately flagged on the pages themselves]

In fact, this year the shortlisted entries are considerably edgier compared with 2008 and 2009. The four photographs on the 2010 shortlist are:

- David Chancellor's Huntress with Buck, featuring a 14 year old girl and her freshly killed buck
- Panayiotis Lamprou's Portrait of My British Wife
- Jeffrey Stockbridge's Tic Tac and Tootsie, 20 yr old twin drug addicts
- Abbie Trayler-Smith for Untitled 2 from the series Childhood Obesity

Apparently, the judges selected 60 portraits for the exhibition from nearly 6,000 submissions entered by 2,401 photographers from around the world. If you're interested, the exhibition runs from November to February in London. Details here.
posted by MuffinMan (72 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Panayiotis' wife is a meaty woman.

Aside from the exposed vulva, this is not a particularly memorable digital image.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:03 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


dare I say it.. eponysterical fpp
posted by The Lady is a designer at 6:05 AM on September 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Average photographs of unpleasant subjects.
posted by tommasz at 6:06 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


She is staring at the camera with a gaze that is difficult to read, wearing a short dress – or long T-shirt – and nothing underneath. Her legs are apart and her vagina is visible beneath the skirt.

No. Not her vagina, her vulva.
posted by nickyskye at 6:13 AM on September 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


There was probably a NSFW link buried in there somewhere, but I didn't see it. The Lamprou image can be seen here (again, NSFW).
posted by Forktine at 6:16 AM on September 20, 2010


Followed by Panayiotis's candid action shot: Portrait of My British Wife Learning About My Greek Wife.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:18 AM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you're an Artist, your completely unremarkable photo of your bottomless wife is Art. If you're just Some Guy, your completely unremarkable photo of your bottomless wife is Pornography.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:19 AM on September 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Ah, so it was taken in Greece. Are we sure that wasn't just a badly-packed kebab?
posted by mippy at 6:23 AM on September 20, 2010


I just entered the entire contents of hornyupskirts.com. Wish me luck!
posted by Trochanter at 6:31 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're an Artist, your completely unremarkable photo of your bottomless wife is Art. If you're just Some Guy, your completely unremarkable photo of your bottomless wife is Pornography.

Just out of curiosity, is there any contemporary art that people on MetaFilter will actually like?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:32 AM on September 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


A better question is: Is there any contemporary art worth liking?
posted by sciurus at 6:34 AM on September 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


At the risk of being terribly straightforward, I actually think it's quite a cool picture. I mean, I probably wouldn't hang it over the fireplace or anything, but there's a certain enigmatic something about it (as well as the certain obvious something about it).
posted by rhymer at 6:39 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


(I am of course referring to the knickerless wife).
posted by rhymer at 6:44 AM on September 20, 2010


Just out of curiosity, is there any contemporary art that people on MetaFilter will actually like?

I liked it, and not just for the nsfw part. I like the composition and the way she is looking directly at the camera. I'm not a photographer, but there's something that separates good photos from bad, and aside from the poon this photo would never be mistaken for one of those "girlfriend upskirt" photos people were joking about above.
posted by Forktine at 6:44 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like it--the composition, the colors, the way the shadows wrap her body. I like the moment of nudity. It is natural and refreshing.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:53 AM on September 20, 2010


Is there any contemporary art worth liking?

No. It's all shit. Everything's shit. There isn't a single piece of art made in the last 50 years, maybe the last hundred, maybe not for the last two hundred, with any true, authentic, artistic value thank you Hilton Kramer.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:53 AM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Most of us have seen female genitalia before. Sorry for not being shocked.
posted by jonmc at 6:58 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


No. It's all shit. Everything's shit. Yeah. Except for Star Wars.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:01 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there any contemporary art worth liking?

Loretta Lux
Cy Twombly
Joseph Cornell
Kiki Smith
Gerhard Richter
Andres Serrano
Jeff Wall
Wolfgang Tillmans
posted by shakespeherian at 7:04 AM on September 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Most of us have seen female genitalia before. Sorry for not being shocked.

Most of us haven't seen much female genitalia before outside of the porno/titillation wrapper. It may be that the most shocking thing here is that we're being asked to shift our viewpoint.
posted by taz at 7:06 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's the look of a woman who just enjoyed a nice paella.
posted by swift at 7:06 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, come to think of it, Star Wars is shit too.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:06 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not necessarily falling on the side of Panayiotis' photo being High Art, but I think we need to be reminded here that a 640 pixel-wide web version of these photos is often not doing them justice - mostly in terms of the impact of presentation, but also colour accuracy, tonal gradation and exposure.

In meaningful art, context is everything.

Also, I'm not sure I'd look upon these photos as the pinnacle of technically-perfect, immaculately-composed, perfectly-lit imagery, though some or all of them were likely taken with a medium-format digital back designed to be printed at 8' x 8' and hung on a gallery wall. We're cherry-picking here, and it's not fair. Clearly there's a theme here that has been consciously selected by people whose idea of art is whatever flitters through the Now, but nevertheless there has been thought put into this. I guarantee those that are comparing that photo to upskirt.com wouldn't be so quick to do so if it were presented in the aforementioned format next to its similarly-displayed peers.

The idea with Panayiotis' photo (and the others) is to take us out of our comfort zone and think about what a portrait should be - I think that's likely the overarching theme in these selections. That's something you don't get just by looking at a .jpg on the internet, and not how these selections were ever meant to be displayed.

I don't believe that these photos should just stand on their own in the same way that a random 15-minute clip from a film shouldn't stand on its own. The photos and the selections were made within a very specific context and thus should only really be considered within that sphere.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


A better question is: Is there any contemporary art worth liking?

"Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art." -Tom Stoppard
posted by notion at 7:13 AM on September 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I watched "Exit Through the Gift Shop" on the weekend, and I think it might end up colouring my thinking on these sorts of things for the rest of my life. Like "Idiocracy" has.
posted by Trochanter at 7:19 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And another thing. She may be well lit. The photo may be well composed. But there's no freaking way she would have made the short list if her goods weren't hanging out.
posted by Trochanter at 7:28 AM on September 20, 2010


Might be my monitor but I seem to detect a bit of overexposure.
posted by hal9k at 7:36 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


But there's no freaking way she would have made the short list if her goods weren't hanging out.

This is a bit like saying 'It may have good linear perspective and a decent color palette, but there's no way people would make such a big deal out of that Carvaggio if it was a painting of a soccer ball.'
posted by shakespeherian at 7:38 AM on September 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


"If you look real close...right there...that's art!"
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:47 AM on September 20, 2010


The 'Portrait of my British Wife' is classic First Year Art School stuff.
Liked the dead deer on horseback pic. though, best of a mediocre bunch.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 8:15 AM on September 20, 2010


Is there any contemporary art worth liking?

Jonathan Borofsky
posted by chavenet at 8:17 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most of us haven't seen much female genitalia before outside of the porno/titillation wrapper.

What? I would guess the women on Metafilter see female genitalia pretty often outside of porn contexts. And I would guess most straight men have seen their SO naked outside of titillation contexts too.
posted by kmz at 8:20 AM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sometimes these threads remind me of the bit in Terry Pratchett's "Thief of Time" where the Auditors of Reality disassemble a painting into neat piles of component molecules looking for a particle of Art.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:22 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait now we're complaining about nude photography? Is this real life?
posted by nathancaswell at 8:25 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And another thing. She may be well lit. The photo may be well composed. But there's no freaking way she would have made the short list if her goods weren't hanging out.

What makes you say this? I've been to two or three Taylor-Wessing exhibitions and, if the photo is cut from the hemline down, it wouldn't look out of place in there.

I once was taken to a strip club (as in, a pound in a pot joint near Clerkenwell) and I saw less fanny there than I did at the swimming pool I go to, where women cheerfully shower and walk around nude. It was unexpected for the first visit, then one quickly gets used to it. I do wonder whether male changing rooms are as uninhibited.
posted by mippy at 8:25 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art." -Tom Stoppard

Will all due respect, skill can be acquired and with time will come, Imagination is something a whole lot more fragile and unpredictable and abstract.

That being said Edison's formula of 99% perspiration (1% inspiration) still applies.
posted by Skygazer at 8:27 AM on September 20, 2010


I like Lamprou's photo. The play of light, the complexity of the expression on her face, the whole totality of it. It's entirely balanced and beautiful.
posted by Skygazer at 8:30 AM on September 20, 2010


This is a bit like saying 'It may have good linear perspective and a decent color palette, but there's no way people would make such a big deal out of that Carvaggio if it was a painting of a soccer ball.'

I guess it's a bit like saying that. But of course, Caravaggio would have worked for months to achieve his results regardless of his subject matter. Censor the willy out of 'Amor Vincit Omnia' and you're still left with an impressive work. Do you claim that's true of 'Portrait of my British Wife'?
posted by Trochanter at 8:43 AM on September 20, 2010


""Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art." -Tom Stoppard"

What gives us the dreadful film version of Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom?
posted by klangklangston at 8:50 AM on September 20, 2010


The only thing noteworthy about any of this -- tepidly interesting photograph out of a trite little gallery put on by a forgettable organisation and reported on by a boorish rag merely hoping to pump its page views -- is that the writer and editorial staff don't know a vagina from a vulva.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2010


Censor the willy out of 'Amor Vincit Omnia' and you're still left with an impressive work. Do you claim that's true of 'Portrait of my British Wife'?

The whole point of the photograph is the confrontation of the viewer's expectations and comfortability, an implicit discussion of the functioning of intimacy in the photographic arts, the ways in which the viewer stands in for the artist and the artist stands in for the viewer, the dialog between subject, object, artist and audience. The frankness is surprising, and arresting, and engages the viewer in a wrestling with her own preconceptions of what art is, and how we perceive the photographic image, of what we do when playfulness is turned into seriousness, when someone deliberately and intentionally selects a private moment for public display. So, yeah, if we cut off the bottom of the photo, it wouldn't have the same impact, because that's the fucking point.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:01 AM on September 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


The fucking point is he's being outrageous for the fucking sake of being fucking outrageous in order to manipulate the fucking jury of a fucking portrait contest. That's the fucking point.
posted by Trochanter at 9:06 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The "Skill without imagination..." quote is from a character in a Tom Stoppard play (Donner in Artist Descending a Staircase). It's not necessarily Tom Stoppard's own view.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:06 AM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


It might be surprising and arresting and engaging if it hadn't already been done, to death and better.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:08 AM on September 20, 2010


The fucking point is he's being outrageous for the fucking sake of being fucking outrageous in order to manipulate the fucking jury of a fucking portrait contest. That's the fucking point.

Uh huh.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:11 AM on September 20, 2010


taz: Most of us haven't seen much female genitalia before outside of the porno/titillation wrapper. It may be that the most shocking thing here is that we're being asked to shift our viewpoint.

I think most of us have seen it, you know, in person.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:19 AM on September 20, 2010


The fucking point is [...] manipulate the fucking jury [...] . That's the fucking point.

Even if that were all there were to the work: so?

Isn't a big part of the point of art that it can manipulate the viewer in interesting ways?
posted by freebird at 9:25 AM on September 20, 2010


I don't know, I was struck by how decidedly unerotic the photograph is. The color motif and the light are actually pretty nice. He may have been going for shock value, then discovered the photograph was better than he thought it would be. I hope.

Seconding the notion that the online representations can't possibly be doing the originals justice. I hope.

I like the one of the hunting girl - it's a contemporary representation of the theme of Diana.
posted by Xoebe at 9:29 AM on September 20, 2010


Is there any contemporary art worth liking?

I do ask that if I am to engage in this sort of discussion, that people bother themselves with just a few seconds of self-education before launching into total dismissal mode. In this instance, as an example, "contemporary art" is a specific phrase, and is primarily used to describe art produced since World War II. Obviously, that covers an awful lot of ground.

So what are you asking about? Is there anything in the past 70 years worth looking at? Yes, there is. Quite a lot.

Or do you mean contemporary to mean something even more recent? It would help to know precisely what you're dismissing. How about the past 10 years? Have you looked into the Superflat movement? You might like the work of Tatsuyuki Tanaka, or Yoshitomo Nara. Or how about the South African movement called Superstroke? Conrad Bo produces some pretty bol work.

VJ Art, maybe? Or the return of Classical Realism? Peter Bougie might be to your tastes.

Is so hard to tell, or to offer suggestions, as you offer no sense of your own taste, or what you think art should be, or shouldn't be. Nothing but a quippy dismissal. And so be it. Art is easy to score points against when you know nothing about it and have no intelligent commentary to offer. It's all nonsense, easily laughed off. In your ignorance, you have shown yourself better than the thing you haven't bothered to learn about. Enjoy the riches that this will bring.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on September 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


tepidly interesting photograph out of a trite little gallery

I'm not sure the National Portrait Gallery is particularly trite or little.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:30 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


YHBT, Astro Zombie.
posted by sciurus at 9:44 AM on September 20, 2010


Is there any contemporary art worth liking?

I think people ask this but mean something else. They mean "is there any contemporary art that everyone agrees is good?"

And while the answer to the first question is a solid "yes", the answer to the second is probably a solid "no". This is not about the state of "art" so much as the state of who gets to experience and criticize it. "Art" is no longer constrained to elite and academic circles; the opinion of the masses is no longer considered irrelevant; the role of "Art" is now blurred to include "entertainment", "political and cultural critique", pure intellectual endeavor, emotional catharsis, and a thousand other things.

So of course for any piece of "Art" there will likely be people who hate it as well as love it. There will valid observations that it is total contrived crap as well as that it is a deep and richly valuable contribution to human discourse. Some will say it bores them, some will say it's fun. All these things can be true.

So can we just drop the whole "what is Art?" and "all contemporary Art is crap!" stuff?
posted by freebird at 9:50 AM on September 20, 2010


I don't know what I like, but I know what art is. That's art.
posted by acheekymonkey at 9:53 AM on September 20, 2010


YHBT, Astro Zombie.

Trolling is a art.
posted by Trochanter at 10:05 AM on September 20, 2010


The only thing noteworthy about any of this -- tepidly interesting photograph out of a trite little gallery put on by a forgettable organisation and reported on by a boorish rag merely hoping to pump its page views -- is that the writer and editorial staff don't know a vagina from a vulva.

Or perhaps they do but are writing to an audience not expected to know what a vulva is. It's much like using the word "stomach" when one means "belly".
posted by acb at 10:46 AM on September 20, 2010


"That's not art, it's a vulva!"
posted by idiopath at 11:11 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am made of meat. I don't know about the rest of you.
posted by jessamyn at 11:27 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some of us are plants!
posted by kmz at 11:30 AM on September 20, 2010


Liked the dead deer on horseback pic. though, best of a mediocre bunch.
They don't call her Josie Slaughter for nothin'
posted by Abiezer at 11:32 AM on September 20, 2010


I liked the portraits. Arguing about "art" is about as tedious as arguing about religion or politics.
posted by maxwelton at 11:33 AM on September 20, 2010


I am made of meat. I don't know about the rest of you.

I don't know about that. Living, breathing flesh is not "meat" in my book.

Meat's that stuff in the refrigerator thats been drained of blood, sliced into portions, cut into servings, chopped and ground and marinated and ready to be salted spiced and generally prepared for consumption. Spiritless, unvital, silent, transitional matter re-entering the cycle of nature. That's meat.

No one alive is meat. When one dies they'll be "meat" for a very short while, but ultimately they'll be broken down to carbon, protein, some trace minerals (Iron, zonc potassium, nitrogen), dust and dirt. And until that time I'm not meat, and I'm not giving death an inch...
posted by Skygazer at 11:46 AM on September 20, 2010


...for if I do, he'll take a mile
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:51 AM on September 20, 2010


The whole point of the photograph is the confrontation of the viewer's expectations and comfortability, an implicit discussion of the functioning of intimacy in the photographic arts

Art sure was more fun when it wasn't all about art.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:27 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I seen her ladyparts.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 12:37 PM on September 20, 2010


I am made of meat. I don't know about the rest of you.

There's a wonderful portrait by Stanley Spencer, of his wife, juxtaposed with a rib of beef. I'll see if I can find it. It's hard to be blase about this image because there is so much going on in one specific area of it.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:41 PM on September 20, 2010


Leg of lamb, sorry.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:49 PM on September 20, 2010


Or perhaps they do but are writing to an audience not expected to know what a vulva is.

Acb, then maybe it's about damn time the audience figured it out.
posted by lydhre at 1:25 PM on September 20, 2010


“Any photographer who says he’s not a voyeur is either stupid or a liar.”

- Helmut Newton
posted by splatta at 3:01 PM on September 20, 2010


The photo, good or bad, worthy or not, is remarkable to me not because of the lighting, the composition, the model`s enigmatic expression or her nudity, nor the fact that the photo has been shortlisted for such a public distinction.

I was shocked by the photo because her snatch is so huge.
posted by dopaminer at 8:40 PM on September 20, 2010


We don't say every thought we have, dopaminer.
posted by klangklangston at 9:03 PM on September 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Does anyone else have odd speculations about why the photographer named the pic Portrait of my British Wife?

The photograph is haunting. Her enigmatic look is Mona Lisa. Her body language is odalisque.

I do love many of the photographers' works linked in the post, now that I went through the links more thoroughly. Thanks, er, MuffinMan.
posted by nickyskye at 8:24 AM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait now we're complaining about nude photography? Is this real life?

Apparently you didn't get the memo. You have to shit on no less than 15 works of art and/or bands by the end of the year in order to have a shot at making the cabal.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:30 PM on September 22, 2010


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