Fotograf Magazine

Charles Cohen


What we no longer have is complicated by the way we remember it. A pervasive sense of longing ultimately indicates a link between the present and what is lost, what is missing, as well as, perhaps, what is regrettable. We are surrounded by absence. One only needs to alter perception slightly to see how present it is.

The transformation is simple. In the case of Buff, the commonplace is rendered abstract by denying the image its original function. A void replaces what ought to be present, or rather, what is expected. Buff does not have to be based on pornography, but because its intended function is simple and explicit, to entertain the voyeur, it is thus easily manipulated. Ironically, it is because pornography suggests participation that we can observe the phenomenon of stimulation in a more heightened fashion. This is the process of abstraction.

While in most cases the pictures are still clearly erotic, one finds oneself appreciating the image in ways not common to pornography. This is the effect of abstraction. The color palette, the interaction of light and shadow, negative space, and references to art history contribute to an unexpected beauty. Several dualities become apparent and are changed: the background and the subject (foreground), the refined and the crude, the private and the public, the perceiver and the perceived, and the present and the absent, among others. The relationships between these themes find a dynamic equilibrium dependent on the viewer.:: It is the spirit that the participant lends to an object that makes it more than the sum of its parts. If one chooses to react to Buff the way one would to pornography, perhaps one might welcome the opportunity for insight into one\’s own relationship to the images. The little bit of abstraction that I introduce is intended to alter a conditioned response just enough to draw attention to the preconceptions that we bring to the act of observation as well as the process of abstraction itself.

Abstraction does not only occur when we cannot identify elements of a piece. To the contrary, when any given program, image, or object is reduced to its separate components, and one is removed or emphasized over another, the interruption that ensues is the wedge that allows us to find intellectual pleasure and beauty where we do not expect it.


*Buff is one case study in abstraction as it exists in the realm of the mundane. Abstraction does not reside in any particular experience, let alone in any one artistic medium. The reward for appreciating the diversity within abstraction is the ability both to communicate an internal experience that is beyond common language and to bond with our own individual meanings and memories that we are entitled to project on the medium of everyday life.

Charles Cohen