Review by Gerhard Clausing •
The swimming pool of a Mid-Century Modern Southern California home in Palm Springs, designed by a renowned architect, seems like the perfect spot and a fitting context for continuing one’s artistic studies of the human figure. The surroundings lend themselves to imagining a more carefree leisure time. Thus the artist known as SameSource cast his male glance at five models having fun in said pool, enjoying a setting representing an imagined past that was marked by racial separatism and sexual prudery in spite of a slow progress in both categories over the past series of decades.
SameSource succeeds in capturing a project that presents a reimagining of playful natural behavior in this historical setting, photographing the models’ activities both above and below the water. Regarding the male gaze topic, SameSource states, “As for my male gaze, it comes with an awareness of privilege and an understanding of objectification, but also with an argument that sexual objectification is inherent in most any art that explores sexuality, and that in and of itself does not make it toxic or harmful. In 2021, the diversity of perspective and subject matter in art is exciting and engaging, but I don’t think that invalidates art that has at least some elements that received disproportional representation in the past. I embrace the female beauty in this work as an artist and as a male, because I cannot be anything else.”
I think this approach to contextualized figure studies in a reimagined historical context, replicating a time in which not enough progress had been made in our society regarding equality, has its own full legitimacy and does not require apologies. Quite the contrary, what other way is there to show respect of and admiration for the female body, a subject that has kept painters, sculptors, and photographers mesmerized for many centuries? A range of age groups is represented in the models in this project, and, as SameSource says in the introduction, “central to my thinking with this work is the emergence of the sexual revolution in American culture, the sprouting seeds of which coincided with the high-water mark of the Mid-Century Modern that inspired the look and feel of these images. That is what interested me as an artist, and as with much of my work, Underside celebrates the intersection between arousal and aesthetic, which my conviction argues are both healthy forms of human expression that the fine art world often has difficulty embracing together.”
The project includes images taken above the water line, and below, as well as a combination. The shots taken in the water are marked by a mysterious mood of abandon and self-definition; the bodies are doing their own thing, in collaboration and with juxtapositions that are not subject to the photographer’s control to the same extent as might be customary in other setups. The style applied by SameSource is marked by a deliberate super-saturation of the colors, which has the effect of adding vibrancy to the images, and it also contrasts blue tones of the water with the warm colors of the skin and the floating devices.
In general, the “chaos” and lack of precision of the assemblies of nude bodies is the primary factor responsible for making the series more charming to look at. The lack of formal arrangements of shapes and colors contributes to the feeling of playfulness and joyful abandon that is intended. The images are printed on pages measuring 12 by 12 inches, so that a feeling of immediacy and participatory enjoyment is created for the viewer. The pacing is well thought out, so that the above-water world is often juxtaposed with the views below the water in sets of double-page images facing each other.
SameSource has dared to challenge the world with another project. It deserves an audience that evaluates it with the same respectful delight that the collaboration between the artist and the five models exudes.
The PhotoBook Journal also reviewed SameSource’s Reinterpreted.
Gerhard Clausing, PhotoBook Journal Associate Editor, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
SameSource – Underside
Photographer: SameSource (born in Kansas City, Missouri; resides in Los Angeles, California)
Self-published; © 2021
Texts: Javiera Estrada, SameSource
Hardcover with illustrated cover; 38 pages, paginated; 12 x 12 inches / 30.5 x 30.5 cm; printed and bound in the USA. ISBN 978-1-00-672366-7
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).