One of my earliest posts featured a couple of photographs by Malerie Marder and ten years later I am very surprised to go through her work and see that she has been seriously addressing intimacy, not only thematically, as core object of her compositions, but also in what the photographic camera, as a technological medium, does, within the idea of intimacy: how the camera penetrates the realm of the nude, of the erotically charged bodies, of the sexual proximity.

© Malerie Marder, ‘Untitled’, 1998. Published in British Journal of Photography, 2011.
© Malerie Marder, published in Metal magazine, #29, 2013.

In a conversation with Carolyn Brennan (Metal mag, #29, 2013), when asked about the voyeuristic aspect of her photographs, Marder addresses the way in which the psychological and the technological dimension participate in her compositions, as a unity:

Maybe it’s the nature of photography. The body of a camera is a voyeuristic tool. It allows you to be closer when you are actually farther away; it manipulates space and consequentially manipulates the way we register the world. I think when I’m looking at someone through the ground glass of my camera and I have the black cloak over my head and I’m focusing on the scene – I can feel the voyeurism of my positioning and it naturally creeps into my pictures.

It shouldn’t be difficult to understand that Marder addresses nudity as a means to construct more intimate portraits. In that sense, I seem to deviate from the idea that her photographs are about voyeurism, since the figures in her photographs seem to sit extremely comfortable in them, as if participating in this sort of register legitimated their “carnal knowledge”, as if that register immortalized how, at a given moment, they feel about their bodies and their sexual personas. 

© Malerie Marder, ‘Untitled’, from the series ‘Anatomy’, 2008-2013. Published in Musée, 2013.
© Malerie Marder, ‘Untitled’, from the series ‘Anatomy’, 2008-2013. Published in Musée, 2013.

In another conversation, with Oscar Lopez (Musée, #6, 2013), Marder is asked about what distinguishes pornography and art and if she thinks the way artists represent women bares traces of how the female body is exposed in the media outlets, to which she answers:

I never gave this much thought until recently when I did an art event for Playboy and was asked to photograph the “Playmate of the Year.” Strangely it made me realize how big the divide is between art and pornography. Succinctly said, pornography has one message, “fuck me.” Women are often photographed in a style that is rarely deviated from, with an arched back and eye contact with the camera. In art, the message to the viewer is layered, possibly unique, and hopefully mysterious. I can’t think of any art that just communicates that one message. The impact of pornography on art is seen most flagrantly when art explores a desensitizing of culture like violence, where its’ impact is in its’ display of a fetish or stylization, but I feel like this is so purposeful, its’ rendering and representation is fundamentally different than straight out pornography.

Ultimately some of her staging and lightning choices remind me of Philip-Lorca diCorcia (who happened to be her tutor). Having said this, I find her work to be less about the environment and the theatrical display, and more about an attempt to deconstruct the distance intrinsically associated with image as screen. As a consequence, I feel she succeeds in relating to the people she photographs, instead of using them as characters within her fictional narratives.


Note: In June a decade will have passed since I first started Nihilsentimentalgia, so for the next few months I will be revisiting some of my early posts, which were very poorly done.


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