29 April 2006

Teenage angst and acceptance

It’s wonderful to be loved for who you truly are. But, what if you’re not?

What if you were a young and able college-going girl without a boy-friend? What if the guys you liked so much admired your intelligence and knowledge, but happily went out to the movies and lunches with dumb good-looking girls in pretty clothes? What if they came back and told you what a great time they had? What if all you ever did was hang out with your parents at home, watching their favourite TV programmes – those yucky serials that made you throw up most of the time?

You tell yourself, you’re doing the right thing. Your loyalty is to your parents. Your parents want you to discover who you truly are. Your parents want to help you develop fully into the person that you should be. They lay down wonderful plans for you. They wish you well. They want you to study, study, study. They encourage you to study so you could excel later in life. While all the dumb good-looking girls go out and have fun with the guys you should be out with.

“IT’S ONLY AN EXCUSE TO STOP ME FROM ENJOYING LIFE!!!” you feel like screaming. Your parents keep you under their wings – almost like a hostage. You’re never allowed to do the things every other person of your age is doing now.

Teenage angst is a concern for many parents. If I am to believe what I hear and see around me, it’s a growing problem in urban India. It leads to teens hating their parents and rebelling… sometimes, depression. In the western world, there are also cases of teenagers with eating disorders (girls mainly), drug addiction, cutting themselves and suicide attempts. Many Indian urban teenagers feel frustrated. They fall prey to anger, depression and drugs (boys mainly). Even to stealing money from home, or applying pressure to their parents, to buy them the things they normally can’t afford.

And why not? All around them, the big wide world is asking teens to be attractive, to be sexual, to be popular. The media is saturated with messages luring them into consuming brands (check out the latest issue of INDIA TODAY for ‘What’s Hot and Cool’) in order to look attractive and popular... To be somebody, standing out in the crowd. To be admired and accepted. Teenagers today simply want: clothes¸ shoes, food, friends, mobilephones, iPods, cigarettes, alcohol, members of the opposite sex, and sex. All, in order to get social acceptance.

For teens, everywhere, acceptance by their peer groups takes precedence over family. They live by the expectations of their peer groups, not their parents’. It’s no big deal, they say. They are quite familiar with this concept. Growing up, they lived by their parents’ expectations; now they are replacing their parents with their immediate social groups. Only this time, the numbers outweigh the parents.

27 April 2006

Is this your idea of glamour?

“The Sun’s Page 3 [with photos of topless women] has been going 35 years. And no one even bats an eyelid these days,” says Kira Cochrane.

While reading up and blogging about women, sex and glamour (it all started with my post on photographer Robert Carlos Clarke a few weeks back), I came across a story by Kira Cochrane in Guardian Unlimited, 'Is this your idea of glamour?', going back to November 2005. The title of my post is borrowed from her story and I’ve reproduced some portions of her story in this post [as the Guardian link requires registration]. Of course, her story was on the British tabloid The Sun and the debate over Page 3.

Does the concept of a 'Page 3' work? Ms Cochrane says that it does: “Page 3 had proved its worth by boosting sales of the Sun a full 40%, establishing the newspaper as the most popular in Britain.” How do women in Britain feel about this? Here are some excerpts from her story to provide a point of view:

“Was our acceptance of Page 3 a way of compromising with male culture, saying we’d accept women’s bodies being used daily to sell and to titillate, as long as we could get ahead in the workplace?

But by accepting Page 3, we seemed to open the floodgates for ever more explicit images to be stocked on the newsstands, often accompanied by incredibly misogynist language… the culture was changing. The cover of the Daily Sport now features so-called ‘up-skirt’ shots, their photographers literally lying in wait for celebrities… And then there are Nuts, Zoo, FHM and Arena, all of which now feature naked women on their covers (why confine it to the inside of the magazine?).

Now young women tend to label the topless photos ‘empowering’ and ‘liberating’. A recent survey of 1,000 15-19-year-old girls found that 63% considered ‘glamour model’ their ideal profession. Faced daily with the evidence that women have to be sexually attractive to be considered successful why wouldn't young women choose to make a profession of it? When I was a teenager, and Page 3 was really one of the only examples of ‘glamour’ shots, it already seemed daunting to oppose it. With the proliferation of these images, is it any surprise that young women have further embraced it?

Interestingly, a growing number of women are now starting to speak out about objectification, beginning a debate on how the mainstreaming of porn imagery affects women and indeed men, socially and personally. Groups that campaign specifically against sexism and objectification are growing at a huge rate. Page 3 has been around for 35 years, and it’s likely to be here to stay, but that’s no reason to accept it. Speak to teachers and they will often tell you their students never even seem to have considered whether there might be an issue with the images of women to be found in mags such as Nuts and Zoo. And that lack of debate - and its effects - is very far from ironic.”

Ironically, soon after the appearance (15 Nov 2005) of this story in Guardian Unlimited, Mumbai’s Bachi Karkaria posted (18 Nov 2005) her account of Mumbai’s own Page 3 on

“A country that managed to ‘Indianise’ McDonalds, forcing it to create the all-vegetarian potato pattie, McAloo Tikki, can be relied upon to give its own spin to the hoary tradition of Page 3. The term here describes an entirely different, but as seminal, a social revolution. Page Three People or P3P has become shorthand for the hedonistic party crowd, the fliterati, if you like. It’s a breed you love to hate, or unabashedly aspire to. The concept springs from the Page Three introduced by the Bombay Times, with its header ‘Boomtown Rap’, when it launched in 1994. It featured the city’s swishiest social events. It created the ‘celebrity’ guests. Bombay Times attracted young and women first-time newspaper readers, largely on the strength of this flashy segment, driving the circulation of the parent Times of India for much of that decade. Page Three reflected, and later propelled, the economic reforms which released urban India at least from its socialistic straitjacket. Suddenly making money and spending it were no longer clandestine; ‘lifestyle’ became legit. Soon every paper, and then TV channel, had a P3 equivalent. Indeed, a couple of years ago a feature film was made on this phenomenon, capturing its froth, its bitchiness and its hard realities. It was called simply Page Three, indicating how firmly this concept is now rooted in the urban consciousness.”

25 April 2006

Why do women need so much sex?

Sex is important to everyone – and you’d be a liar to deny it. Everyone knows sex sells – everything from ideas to news to merchandise, even itself, and we can see it glaring at us from advertisements to headlines in tabloids and women’s magazines. In fact, the last of these facts – sex in women’s magazines – never stops to amaze me. Not that the topic of sex should not be covered by women’s magazines; but the sheer omnipresence of it.

Here’s a sampler from our very own Femina:

“Not tonight darling... how to get your man in the mood.”

“Keep the other men in your life.”

It’s a universal concept. Check out foreign magazines like Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Elle and others, and you’ll be sure to find similar stories on sexual lessons that women need to learn about men.

Why is it that women, who always complain that sex is what’s on a man’s mind (and presumably, not on theirs), have to be constantly reminded of sex? Why do women need so many lessons on how to please the men in their lives? Why is there so much readership – even enthusiasm, perhaps – of sex in women’s magazines when all the obsessions and anxieties about sex are supposed to be with the men?

Are women really so preoccupied with sex these days? Is the amount of sex in their lives inadequate? Or, are women so callous about their sex life that they have to be reminded – albeit tutored – by these magazines and their lessons on sex?

Any thoughts, anyone?

[Another fact that amazes me is the blatant bias these women’s magazines have – when talking about sex – in favour of heterosexual women. Lesbians and bisexuals don’t seem to fall in their readership. Yet no-one complains.]

24 April 2006

Fear of the feminine

The woman’s ability to reproduce – the maternal body – is unique indeed. It is one thing the male has not been able to conquer.

I wonder if this thought has ever created fear in men.

That, no matter how much of the world men dominate, there will still be the aspect of reproduction that men would have to concede to women.

That, men will never be able to exert masculine dominance over the biological process of creation. That, men will never be free from this feminine supremacy.

22 April 2006

Masculine intelligence

Since I’m a man, my views are likely to be male-gender-friendly and invite criticism from women. But I’ll express myself anyway. [So, send in your hate mail when you’re through reading this post.]

I do appreciate the women’s movement’s efforts in seeking and legitimising equality for all women on this planet, but there is one aspect of this equality and freedom-seeking that bothers me. It’s about this ‘thing’ women have about their body. Somehow, many women feel the concept of freedom equals body exposure. Give women freedom and their clothes start getting scantier and/or start coming off.

Would a woman showing a lot of skin have more rights than a woman in a sari? Would she obtain a higher social status compared to other women on this planet? Would she be perceived by men to be of equal intelligence and capability? Would she be considered by men to be equal to them socially, psychologically, financially? Would she be victimised less by men because of her scanty attire and show of skin? I think not.

Then there’s this new ‘raunch culture’ I’ve been writing about: Women, not just in scanty attire, but making out with other women in discos, bars, pubs and parties. Even on videos (though not in India, yet). What is this exhibition, this show of sexual desperation, for? Is it to attract men and gain popularity? Does this kind of behaviour actually elevate women socially or psychologically? Does it make them equal to men? Does it make them more intelligent than men? Once again, I think not.

You don’t see men making out with other men to be sexually, socially, psychologically or financially more attractive to women, do you? In this respect, thank God, men have more intelligence than women.

20 April 2006

Tricky business

So, what’s wrong with raunch behaviour? If women want to show off their body, if they want to make out with each other in front of men, why should men object? Don’t men get turned on by scantily-dressed women and their perfect bodies? Don’t men fantasise about women-on-women action? Don’t men desire women who invite them over for sex? Heterosexual men don’t require great intelligence to see and enjoy the benefits of the ‘raunch culture’. It’s a bonus for them.

So, there’s no sympathy for women there. Unless, of course, the man happens to be the parent – or perhaps the brother – of a young woman displaying, or participating in, raunch. Everything changes then. Our cultural and moral values come to the fore. Even liberal-minded and tolerant parents, who normally allow their daughters to choose whom they want to be with, have active superegos; they know when and where to draw the line. They are not keen on seeing their daughters behave raunchily in public, nor permit them to act in amateur porn videos.

So, what should a parent do? Lock up the daughter in her room? Don’t think so. Set down rules of behaviour and discipline the daughter? May backfire. Since raunch has the signs of anti-authority, rebellious behaviour, challenging the daughter on the subject may have a negative effect. To add to the trouble, more and more girls are growing up watching music videos and films with provocative scenes, or reading ‘Page 3’-type material in the media, thinking and believing raunch is an acceptable code of conduct. Managing this is indeed a tricky business for a parent.

So, what’s the solution to this hyper-sexualised, hyper-commercialised situation?

According to Ariel Levy, author of ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’, and quoted in www.macleans.ca by Judith Timson in a September 2005 article called ‘Girls gone raunch’, it’s “Making the young women in our lives aware that this is the culture they live in, but they don’t have to take part in it, they will still be attractive to men, because people have managed to recreate the species for some time now.” It’s nurturing in them the sense, she says, “that you’re a real person, you’re not here to put on a performance, the main focus of your energy does not have to be how do I get a guy. You will find a partner. But the main project is you. What do you want to be? What do you want to think about? What makes you happy? What turns you on?”

Ultimately it is, Levy says, “…instilling in young women a sense of the value of their humanity.”

18 April 2006

Is raunch counterproductive?

If raunch means sexual freedom through a perfect body, then it automatically rules out half the women in this world. It discriminates against those who do not have a perfect body. It shames these women into thinking – and believing – that they have missed their chance in life. If I were a woman with a not-so-perfect body, I wouldn’t be too happy about this situation.

No matter how confident women feel about this phenomenon, the ‘raunch culture’ is likely to impact women more than men. Yes, of course, men will continue to ogle at scantily-dressed women and think of sex, but of greater importance is how women will feel about being left out or about the ‘raunch culture’ not meeting their expectations.

I mean, can this ‘raunch culture’ really empower women? Can it give them the sexual freedom they desire? Can it make women more successful in their professions? Can it give them control over their lives? Can it propel women onto positions of leadership?

Or, is the ‘raunch culture’ just another way of living out male fantasies? Playing into the male sexual freedom? If that is so, isn’t it counterproductive to the women’s movement?

17 April 2006

Female chauvinist pigs

These days, the urban way of life in India is quick to follow the American mass culture. It’s apparent in the way the youth has picked up the signals, the customs and the fashion from America; and, within this group, it’s the teen female universe that is most visible in aping the latest trends. Teen girls, wearing low-riding jeans with short, tight tops accentuating their body, are now a common sight in Indian metros like Mumbai and Bangalore – giving the ‘Page 3’ crowd a run for their money and the urban male a substantial pep in his voyeuristic pleasures.

From high-school girls to even some women in their mid-forties, women in urban India have begun to embrace a certain sexuality which was not there before. They are more free with their bodies and their voices, spelling out to the rest of India how far they have come from the days of their mothers. They feel empowered and ready to take on the world. Particularly the world of men – men with their voyeurism, their appetite for sex and their obsession for dominance. Urban Indian women are now ready to meet men on equal terms, fuelled by the new fillip they get from advertising and the media.

But, what if this sexual freedom, this raunchy display of fashion, this demonstration of woman power, this meeting of male sleaze with a show of more female skin, further stimulates the male ego and appetite? What if this new feminism encourages a new pornographic culture in India? What if this overt behaviour actually jeopardises the lives of many more women and increases crimes against them? Would these sexually-liberated women at the forefront of this ‘raunch culture’ then turn around and stoically say, “We have only ourselves to blame?” Or, would they still blame the men?

If you’re looking for answers to these questions, or ways to challenge them, then maybe Ariel Levy can help. In her recently-released book, ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’, New York magazine writer and editor Ariel Levy discusses this very topic from an American perspective. She believes there is a rise of a ‘raunch culture’ – a porn-drenched female sexuality – in America which has popped up all over TV, music videos, fashion, advertising and publishing. She feels the dominance of this new ‘raunch culture’ has superseded all other sexualised behaviour in women in America and has created a ‘female chauvinist pig’ who mimics men, wanting power in a misogynist kind of way.

Is this a new mantra for feminism and the sexually-liberated woman in America? And, how is it affecting the American mass culture? Are women actually colluding to create a more pornographic world for us all? Ariel Levy discusses all these questions in ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ – but I’m not sure if she adequately answers them all. Or, answers them convincingly enough for us to believe her. To know more about Ariel Levy’s ‘raunch culture’ why not read these reviews on salon.com and Guardian Unlimited? And then go feast yourself on the book? It might offer a window to our own urban cultural evolution.

15 April 2006

Hooked and relieved

Women should be sexually attractive – and active.

That’s the kind of message we get in the media. Newspapers, magazines, TV, hoardings, posters, the Internet, video games… you name it and you’ll find images of scantily-clad women everywhere. Cleavage, midriffs, thighs, behinds. All in a day’s exposure. ‘Sexual attractiveness’ messages are all around us. And you know something, nobody’s complaining! Looks like, we’re all hooked to it.

Sex is no longer a taboo subject – at least not with teenagers in urban India. They are talking about it openly, gathering information from the media and from each other, doing away with the age-old necessity of parental guidance. On talking to a group of teenagers in Mumbai, I learnt that they got most of their ideas on sex from media portrayals and the novels they read, apart from discussing the matter amongst themselves. They felt the media was talking about sex and dating all the time – as if encouraging them. Although some girls also mentioned (reluctantly, I felt) that they sought advice from their mothers and older sisters, according to them, this was considered an old-fashioned thing.

The boys didn’t seem to worry too much about being (or not being) physically attractive to the opposite sex; but the girls did, quite a lot. What was common in their talks – the girls, that is – was the fact that looking physically and sexually attractive meant looking and staying thin, wearing attractive clothes (the words ‘western’ and ‘tight-fitting’ came up a couple of times), showing off your body. They didn’t see this as sinful or indecent or being promiscuous. That’s how things were today, they said.

The teenagers didn’t feel that there was anything wrong in the way sex was displayed or promoted in the media. Or that, there was too much of it. In fact, they looked out for such media coverage. Media stories, TV serials and novels talked openly about pre-marital sex or sex between unmarried couples, and that was ‘cool’ with them. However, they all agreed – and here, both boys and girls joined in – that, finding actual sexual experience was a lot tougher than what or how it was portrayed in the media. I guess many parents will be relieved to hear this.

13 April 2006

Sex and censorship

It’s silly of me to write about censorship of sex. If sex had been censored long ago, I may not have been here writing this blog.

Jokes aside, it’s not sex per se – not even the sexual themes in literature, art, film and photography – that I connect with censorship, but it’s the display and expression of the degradation of human sexuality which I feel needs monitoring. Not because I’m a moral high priest, but because I feel young minds are sensitive and can be severely influenced by pornography without proper guidance.

Arzan, a fellow blogger and whose views I respect, cautioned me on taking this moral stance (please read his comment on my previous post), pointing out that self-governance is better than adopting the role of moral police. I agree with him, but with a small condition: that there should be guidance for children; because, young sensitive minds may not have the maturity to understand the ‘severity’ of pornography.

By ‘severity’ I go beyond the normal expression of sexually-explicit images (I know, why allow this also?) and into the domain of material that eroticises violence, humiliation, degradation and other explicit forms of abuse. Some aspects of pornography not only presents their subjects (particularly women) as sex objects, but goes further to show them as being physically harmed, as enjoying pain, humiliation, torture and rape. Some material even depicts the actual killing and dismembering of their subjects during explicit sexual scenes.

The Nicolas Cage film, ‘8 MM’, directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker, gives us a window to such pornography, although the film itself does not discuss the issue in any detail. Is this kind of sexually-explicit material objectionable? To me, it is. Particularly, if it is easily accessible to children. It simply sends wrong signals. Ask yourself: what would an adolescent or a teenager, with access to such material on the Internet or on his mobilephone, make of it? Is it ok to humiliate your partner during sex? Is rape a normal expression of sex? Does satisfying sex mean leaving your partner battered, bruised and bleeding?

Should we censor this kind of pornography? That’s the moral question.

Yes, I feel we should; but I’m not sure how to or how much of it to. No, I cannot prove that pornography causes violence. Nor can I prove that such pornography poses overt physical threats to women in our society. Nor can I prove that a teenager growing up watching BDSM videos will grow up to be a rapist or a misogynist. So, Arzan, you’ve got me there. Perhaps, self-governance is the right path to follow. But I do believe that pornography that links sex with violence is unlikely to bring in great benefits to our society and culture. Then again, who am I to take this moral stance?

11 April 2006

Erotic imagery and the social question

How clear are we in the depiction of human sexuality in our culture?

Sex in fashion photography – as rendered by photographers such as Bob Carlos Clarke and Bob Richardson (about whom I’ve post-ed recently) – is really the tip of the iceberg. The bigger market is in pornography – touted as a $50-billion-a-year industry internationally, give or take ten billion dollars. Even then, some say this is a conservative estimate. God only knows how large this industry is in my own country.

The fact is, erotic imagery is no longer restricted to magazines like Playboy or Penthouse, not to mention art galleries which add a slightly different flavour, but is now available on cable TV and the Internet right in our homes and our offices. Add to that devices such as PDAs and mobilephones which allow exchange of pictures, and the reach for such imagery becomes phenomenal. Obviously there’s a large market for this, whether you and I like it or not.

As a full-blooded heterosexual male, I am aroused by the kind of sexually explicit images of women that are accessible to me, say on the Internet, and I understand why there is such a huge market for such images. However, the matter worsens to an extent when I consider the networked life we all lead. For instance, consider this:

Every time I receive an erotic image from a friend over email or on my mobilephone – even as a joke – and forward it to another friend, my participation in this matter becomes more than that of a viewer. I become a trader of erotic images, even though I do not spend a penny on it to be included in the $50-billion-a-year industry. So, what gives? What gives is a social issue which is larger, wider and more dangerous than what we may believe it to be.

Of course, there are laws against pornography – specifically for the creation and production of it. But what laws are there to stop me from visiting a website of erotic images by a famous photographer? Or, for viewing and forward-ing a sex ’toon, a sexually explicit photo or video clip over email or mobilephone?

No-one seems to know much about this. No clear directions – whether from legislative bodies, courts of justice or from religious and social groups – seem to be available either. And, considering the fact that many children have easy access to cable TV, mobilephones and the Internet, this issue of erotic imagery in our culture is really a serious one. Yet, neither parents nor heads of schools and colleges have spoken up against it.

Can we continue to be ambivalent on such serious issues?

07 April 2006

Goodbye Prince of Darkness

“Sex…happened to fashion photography in the 1960’s.”
– Bob Richardson, photographer

Bob Carlos Clarke’s death (my previous post) late last month is not the only loss to the world of fashion and celebrity photography in recent times. In early December last year, another icon of fashion and celebrity photography, Bob Richardson, had passed away. Unlike Clarke, aged 56, who committed suicide by jumping under a passing train in Britain, Richardson, battling schizophrenia, died of natural causes in his home in New York at the age of 77.

In a PDN newswire, Daryl Lang writes, “Bob Richardson brought drama and sexuality to fashion photography in the 1960s... He incorporated sex, drugs and violence into his photos, reflecting a turbulent period in history and creating images that were more about people than about fashion. He was one of a generation of photographers who changed the look of fashion photography in the 1960s...”

According to Anita Hunter from the New Millennium, in her perspective on the history of fashion photography, Richardson played an important part in fashion and celebrity photography:

The 1960’s were years of major change in fashion and fashion photography. As Bob Richardson observed “Sex…happened to fashion photography in the 1960’s”. Women’s roles in society were being questioned and the youth quake was having an enormous cultural influence. Fashion trends were not just flowing down from Paris but were coming up from street culture. In Britain the terrible three David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Bob Richardson were instrumental in introducing spontaneity and sex into fashion photography.

Taking Richardson’s work further, Peter Marshall of About.com says:

The sixties are often seen as the decade when fashion photography discovered sex (notably through the eroticism of Helmut Newton and Jeanloup Sieff), but Richardson’s great contribution was mainly angst. His models acted out love affairs that were falling apart, and doing so with scenes of great emotional intensity - women deserted in cafes waiting, waiting for lovers who would not appear, even women desolate at the graveside. Much of his visual language came from the world of the movies, in particular the work of Antonioni. However, although his pictures could show women in tears, they could also depict the lighter moments, for example with models giggling together.

In Richardson, boundaries were blurred between life and work, between fiction and fact, between photographer and photographed. The photographer became a celebrity of sorts, in particular through his long relationship with his favourite model, Anjelica Houston, daughter of actor, director and screenwriter John Huston. Through his life and work Richardson set an agenda for fashion photography of later decades, one that still has a great influence today.

Photographer Bob Richardson had a reputation for being difficult to work with which was earned though long battles with editors as well as often erratic behaviour elsewhere which was echoed in the moody intensity of his work. He has been called ‘the William Burroughs of fashion photography.’

Lang of PDN agrees: 'Richardson, who suffered from mental illness throughout his life, developed a reputation as a rebellious artist who fought with editors and stylists. In a 1997 interview with PDN, Richardson said, “I don’t know why you’d want to be labeled anything else but a rebel. The opposite of a rebel is a coward, and believe me, I’ve worked with a lot of cowards.”'

John Eder’s personal account of meeting Bob Richardson can be found in The Brink. It’s called ‘Goodbye Prince of Darkness’.

05 April 2006

"It's an addiction"

It’s not just ‘Crash’, which took away the best picture of the year award, among others, in this year’s Oscars, that toys with our imagination and our guilt. All of photographer Robert Carlos Clarke’s books do the same. And, with titles such as Obsession, The Dark Summer, White Heat, Insatiable, and Shooting Sex, who would disbelieve it. Clarke’s work has always been difficult to understand and controversial in terms of acceptability, but he has definitely created a name for himself as one of Britain’s, and the world’s, greatest photographers.

Born in Ireland, Clarke studied art and design in London before embarking on his career in photography. He is known to have become a photographer while chasing a part-time model who became his wife, but left him later because of his infidelities. Clarke had always been obsessed with sex and the female body. “With an obsessive compulsion I’ve taken more or less the same photographs over and over again during the past three decades,” Clarke has written in a passage published on the web site of his book Shooting Sex. “It’s not a job – it’s an addiction.” He wanted his pictures to make us aware that sexual desire is not something that we need feel guilty about or disturbed by.

But many were disturbed. And Robert Carlos Clarke’s work was not readily accepted by the media and the critics. His pictures, with titles such as ‘Unexploded Female’ or ‘Adult Females Attack Without Provocation’, showing sexually-charged rubber-clad women, not only shocked the world, they did not endear him to the feminist movement either. Some of his models included Rachel Weisz, Jerry Hall, Caprice, but he preferred to photograph women he met on the streets or in night clubs. According to Clarke, they were more natural as models. But he successfully combined his fetishistic photography with commercial work (for Levi’s, Volkswagen and Smirnoff), real life images (his collection of still-life is pensive, even emotional), and celebrity portraits.

Once, when quizzed about his unexpected propensity for photographing still-life, Clarke had observed casually, “I shoot celebrities for a living, but photographing rocks is more peaceable than photographing rock stars.” A sample of Clarke’s work, as a
slideshow, can be found on his website (you should be above 18 years of age to view this). And, you can read an interview he did with Eyestorm here.

Robert Carlos Clarke, photographer. Born 24 June 1950. Died 25 March 2006, aged 56.

www.bobcarlosclarke.com, Photo District News, British Journal of Photography, The Guardian, The Independent, Sunday Independent Ireland, Telegraph, The Times.]

03 April 2006

Crash: masterful storytelling

There is tension in our lives. Deep inside us lies our outrage against society; our bigotry, our intolerance. Yet, it’s not an oft-visited place, and sometimes we never do, for we live in civilised societies with our families and friends, in our self-assured comfort zones. But sometimes we are driven to it through sheer carelessness... or by accident. And then we find, hidden from plain sight, another world; a world of anger, fear, prejudice and resentment.

These are difficult feelings to discuss in an open forum such as this blog. Even more difficult to express in a film. But Paul Haggis does so admirably in ‘Crash’. He brings together a cross-section of people from different ethnic backgrounds and social class, all victims of a racist society, living out their own sense of alienation. Haggis tells us who these characters are, but not what will become of them by the time the film ends. So, we are stuck in this fascinating situation.

The storytelling, the dialogue, the acting are all incredible. The characters say what they feel, yet they feel impotent when it comes to managing their own lives as the plot suddenly turns upon them. In the end, they come out as humans... something I had hoped for all along. 'Crash’ is a storyteller’s delight and Haggis does a masterful job.