Only physicians and photographers are privileged to look at people from the close-up, in-your-face distance exclusively allowed for lovers. Both “examine” people without being perceived as invasive or threatening. So I morphed the two professions and voilà: Body Imaging, an installation/performance/photo piece that explores this medical/photographic merger and provides a comfortable and safe environment for making intimate pictures and listening to personal stories—a combo of my two all- time favorite activities.
It was really great to participate in Photoville (Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5) where I did the sixth iteration of Body Imaging generously sponsored by the Art Production Fund and K&M Camera. The month-long artist residency in the summer of 2013 at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ P3 Studio –also sponsored by the Art Production Fund in New York City–was the fifth. Earlier versions took place in an abandoned clinic in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in connection with a HomeBase group project/2009; at the Yongkang Lu Art Center in Shanghai/2010; in a United Photo Industries’ “foto/pod” in conjunction with the DUMBO, Brooklyn Arts Fair/2012, and as part of the Art Production’s Fund’s 2013 evening gala.
- Participants/patients come into the waiting room and fill out a photo history questionnaire.
- Next, a consultation in my office to discuss what parts of their bodies they wish photographed. Here pre-existing conditions are a plus. Reasons for their choices vary: they like/dislike a particular spot; they want to look at areas they can’t easily see; they select features by which significant others or friends characterize them; a body part reminds them of a family member or sparks a vivid reminiscence.
- Digital photos are taken in the studio and immediately printed out. Photo donors take their images home—in a VIP-like badge—both as a memento acknowledging their participation and as a thank-you for their help in the success of the project.
Follow-up indicates that the medical setup enables participants/patients the rare, anxiety-free opportunity to have a good time at the “doctor’s.” The waiting room becomes a hang out for meeting people so it fosters (however brief) a sense of community.
Those who present enjoy the individual attention and the collaborative process–the deciding on what they want shot and the selecting/editing of the final photos. If they choose to talk about what they want photographed and why, that’s important/useful/therapeutic for them and a bonus for me.
An additional side benefit: celebrating the features of real people because we’re bombarded with images of photoshopped bodies bearing no resemblance to us (or anyone for that matter). Some participants/patients, seeing their bodies in a new or unusual way, report that their sessions and photographs have helped them deal with complicated body issues. Which is great and extremely gratifying.
Most importantly, the installation provides a place where participants/patients may deal with notions of identity, memory, and personal history in a non-judgmental, serious yet lighthearted way. Or, bottom line, they can just come in and get their photos taken for fun.
And no, I don’t take insurance.