André Kertész’s Distortions
Typical of pornographic photographs is that the ‘recognitional’ aspect of pictorial representation is emphasized at the cost of the ‘configurational’ aspect. In order to achieve a better understanding of the specific perceptual experience that is solicited by pornographic pictures, the chapter analyses what could be thought of as the counterpoint to pornography: André Kertész's series of photographs from 1933, entitled Distortions. Instead of underplaying the configurational aspects of the picture, making the picture transparent and fully in the service of showing naked bodies and triggering arousal, Kertész aims to achieve the exact opposite. His photographs, made with the aid of two distorting mirrors, effectively strip the female body of its sexual connotations and draw our attention to the formal features of the pictures. A close examination of these modernist photographs, the chapter shows, helps to illuminate issues regarding the antithetical experience of photography-based pornography, as well as to answer some general questions about the configurational aspect of pictorial representation. The chapter ends by contrasting Kertész's Distortions with the work of another famous modernist photographer, Man Ray.
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