Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sienna Luna & Rhodanthe

One of my all-time favorite photography books (and biggest guilty pleasure) is Revenge by Ellen Von Unwerth. It's a little (6 x 8 inch) limited edition book, bound in black linen. I don't like to judge books by their cover- but just looking at this cover, you know that it's going to be a treat inside. I've actually had people see the book among others at my photo studio and say "Oh, what's that?!". While there is a general narrative arc (taken as "excerpts" from the diaries of the nubile young heroines), Von Unwerth primarily uses stylized black and white photography (think Helmut Newton meets Man Ray) to tell the story of how the Baroness disciplines her newly orphaned nieces. It is not a very original story, but Revenge is really not about the story. What little narrative there is, is executed with a tongue-in-cheek flair that sets the saucy tone of the book. And the eroticism in Revenge really does have flair. The models are gorgeous, the clothes (when there are clothes) are gorgeous, the set (a glorious mansion and its extensive grounds) is gorgeous— all in the style of the lovely pornography of early 20th century Europe. The sadomasochistic elements tend less towards real pain and suffering and more towards the discomforts of dominance and submission in a campy, Paris Vogue sort of way. You can't help but laugh, but you also can't put it down— it's just too damn fucking pretty. Though I find the pleasure of reading it to be more aesthetic than erotic, I certainly can't deny that it's definitely a pleasure all the same. Revenge is a sexy little volume, all the more so because it doesn't take it so too terribly seriously. If a book could wink, this one would ;)

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