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Richard Kern (1954 - )
ProfileRichard Kern (born: North Carolina, 1954) has lived and worked in New York City since 1979. In the eighties, he produced a series of short films that now are recognized as the central works of the movement now known as the Cinema of Transgression. In the 90ís he switched to fetish photography full time and occasionally directed music videos for bands like Sonic Youth and Marilyn Manson. Kern has published seven books and is a regular contributor to a variety of international publications.
Kern Noir: Photographs by Richard Kern - Richard Kern [Amazon.com]
This volume could also be called 'The Best of Richard Kern' as it presents a review of his work ranging from 1976 to 2001. Covering a wide range, we find bondage shots and girls with guns, as well as girls in the bedroom, bathroom and other scenarios, presenting an overview of Kern's interests and low-key fetish work.
Perhaps the strongest pictures are the close-up portrait shots, where the models reciprocate your gaze, as though daring you to enter their slightly dark and edgy world. In one shot, a small lizard crawls over a model's face, in the stark monochrome looking almost like a tribal tattoo. Most striking is the picture from 1993, simply titled 'Monica with Candle'. The model tilts her head backward and a lighted candle protrudes upright from her mouth. A very arresting picture the first time you see it (why that was not used on the cover is a mystery. Too provocative maybe?) Certainly a deeply erotic image.
Like all the best books of photography, this one starts well and gets better the more you look into it. A good one to keep on the bookshelf and delve into from time to time, and well worth buying.
Soft (2004) - Richard Kern
Soft (2004) - Richard Kern [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Richard Kern is smarter than the average pornographer. What other shutterbug for Penthouse and Juggs also makes videos for Sonic Youth and Marilyn Manson and exhibits his shots of naked friends in high-toned galleries? But these artfully artless photos mark a new breakthrough for Kern. Best known for very hard-edged pictures and films--his DVD retrospective is entitled The Hard Core Collection--he now shows us a far softer side, which turns out to be even more unsettlingly transgressive than his violent stuff. The Soft photos are like a collaboration between himself and his punky young subjects, flirtily flaunting themselves in various states of come-hither undress. It's an art that conceals art: his skill in lighting, framing and staging his scenes coyly hides behind an unretouched do-it-yourself look, making the steamy scenes resemble what might happen if the amateur goth exhibitionists of the Suicidegirls website had all gone to art school. The girls loll and puff bong smoke into the ripe O of each others' mouths, blankly display nosebleeds, "accidentally" flash their panties, mockingly parody archetypes from Cindy Sherman, soft-core porn, and notorious candid tabloid "gotcha" snaps of celebrities: Catherine Zeta-Jones pregnant and smoking, Uma Thurman caught topless emerging from the surf. They play their parts with gleeful aplomb, in a fun, smutty (but not too smutty) conversation with the photographer. Institute of Contemporary Art curator Matthew Higgs supplies Artforum-style insights in his scholarly essay, but this is one book most folks won't read for the articles. --Tim Appelo
Beyond traditional portraiture, Richard Kern's new works manifest a strong eroticism while incorporating the cinematic power of his earlier "Transgression" theme. His recent photographs with saturated color and stark, atmospheric lighting accentuate his pretty-but-not-perfect young nudes. Inspired, unique, and "real," his approach is as daring as ever in Soft. Still sticking with the "no airbrush" motto, Kern's unpretentious, honest photos draw the viewer in close. Kern's longstanding relationship with the "No-wave" scene, which incorporated music, performance, feminist art, and the punk lifestyle, is reflected and distilled in these photographs. --via Amazon.com
see also: Richard Kern - erotic photography -
New York Girls - Richard Kern [Amazon US]
At first glance it is tempting to see Richard Kern as an imitator of Eric Kroll. This is hardly the case, but the comparison is inevitable. Both are New York photographers who specialize in fetish work, primarily photographing women. Both have a good sense of graphic imagery. In truth, though, the similarities end at the surface. Their intent and approach are radically different.
Kroll has a strong background in commercial and fashion photography which gives his images a more glitzy, mainstream look. Kern came to New York and immediately fell in with the extreme sex crowd. He spent his early years publishing little, Xeroxed magazines and making short films with such dark stars as Lydia Lunch, Nick Zedd and Cassandra Stark. In a sense, "New York Girls," marks a shift closer to mainstream fetish work.
These are harsh, revealing images. His color work reminds me a bit of Nan Goldin, but his black and white images are uniquely his own. The sexuality is blatant, sometimes erotic and sometimes not. There is a profound alienation in his images. These are people being sexual to and for themselves. They rarely meet the viewer's eyes. When they do face the camera it is to issue a challenge, to dare the viewer to cross the line into a solipsistic universe of tension and release.
Many of the photographs are haunting. There seem to be layers of content that keep the viewer's attention for hours. If you haven't encountered Kern's work before or a looking for the right collection of fetish work you will find this and excellent introduction to photography's more challenging visions. --Marc Ruby, amazon.com
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