Untitled Nude, 1995
I’ll begin tonight’s posting by saying that I’ve been profiled on the blog of photographer Chris Henry. I’d made a comment on Chris’ blog, and after he saw my work, he asked if I’d be willing to answer some questions about my photos to appear in the profile. I agreed.
You can see the profile on Chris’ blog by clicking here, and I’ll say thank you to Chris again for featuring me.
One of the questions that I was asked dealt with the things that have influenced me and my photography. As I wrote, no art is created in a vacuum. All artists are influenced by the world around them, whether they know it or not. I answered that some of the influences on me have ranged from ancient Egyptian pre-dynastic sculpture to a painting by the French master Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
I’ve decided to illustrate those two things here today. First, let’s start with the Egyptian sculpture. I don’t know how much I’ve written about this before, but I earned the degree of Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) in ancient Egyptian studies from the Yale University Graduate School in 1985. (Yes, I am perfectly serious.) Art was important to know, and as part of my comprehensive exams, I was given about 30 or 40 photographs of ancient Egyptian objects and had to put them in chronological order. (As with many things, it’s not that difficult if you know it.)
Even before going for that degree, I spent lots of time in the Egyptian collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum – two of the best Egyptological collections in the world. The times spent there must have left an impression on me. Fast forward to 1995 in Woodstock, NY, when I was doing my second ever nude photo shoot. I asked the standing model to raise her arms over her head as seen in the photo at the top. I don’t know how much later it was, but at some point I had realized that I had seen that pose somewhere before. Then I remembered: it was from a pre-dysnastic “Birdwoman” figure that I had seen in one of the museums. You can see the photo of one here that I made last year in the Brooklyn Museum.
So, while I had not consciously tried to replicate that pose, it was there in my head somewhere and just came out.
Nude, Maine, 2003
The same can be said for this photo here, made of model Hope Hoffman on a trip to Maine in 2003. I saw an overturned canoe at the location and I thought Hope would look good on it with her back facing me – but ah, what to do with her arm? I asked her to stretch it out on her right leg in a languid manner. Again, I did not have anything specific in mind to copy, but some time later, I realized that the positioning of that arm was taken from Ingres’ 1814 painting, La Grande Odalisque, as was the pose in general.
So, there you have it. I’m sure there have been plenty of other photos of mine that have been influenced by other works of art. I guess the sources of those influences are still waiting to be discovered.
"La Grande Odalisque" by Ingres