13 May 2011

Book Review: Roy Stuart V

Roy Stuart is - as best I can describe - an erotic auteur, an American photographer and filmmaker based in Paris - and his work has that familiar, appealing feeling of French eroticism that I like so much. He's also often the subject of tiresome is-it-art-or-is-it-porn discussions - I'll skip that comparison since art is highly subjective, but I'll say his work is definitely erotic and likely pornographic - and very exciting for it. He's been a fixture in Leg Show magazine for some years - which is all the better for it - and this is his fifth book via Taschen, the only one that's readily available to buy (a shame that Taschen seem to let books go out of print relatively quickly).

This is definitely racier than some of my recent glamour-based reviews. The content ranges from simple portraits and undressing, to full nudity and sex - there are individual models, scenes with two girls, couples and threesomes. Which arguably makes it porn - which is fine with me - although rather different from the run-of the mill kind. I can think of two major aspects that set Mr Stuart's work apart; first is the quality of the photography itself - the lighting, focus and bokeh is very evocative, bringing out the subject of each shot - be it a flash of panties; the face of the model seductively looking at the camera; or her hand wrapped around her partner's cock, guiding it into herself.

The other key aspect is narrative; the book is a mixture of different styles, with some documentary and portraiture, but most of it is taken up with short sets depicting a story. These are as diverse as a couple simply having sex (and authentically looking like they are enjoying it); grabbing a chance look up skirts in the park; having panties (rather improbably) stolen; or coming to a more-than-amicable resolution of a minor traffic prang. It's this aspect that, for me, make it very exciting, to imagine either being part of the story or simply a voyeur as being a reader makes me.

Models here (the female ones, that is - there are some men including the photographer) are naturally beautiful women; but it's worth noting one of Mr Stuart's other defining features, is his disapproval of the last-decade-or-so's trend of shaving pubic hair. This is perfectly OK with me, since being waxed bare has never really appealed to me; I prefer my eroticism with models who look natural - and without fail, every model here is unshaved. Another feature is the locations; some Parisian scenes, but many in the classical French interior of the studio, with baroque chairs and the like.

The book itself is of the usual Taschen quality, well printed - 280 pages and slightly oversized (approx 25x31cm). A coffee-table book, but only if you have lovers or particularly open-minded friends round for coffee. It also come with a DVD; about an hour of clips of the photographer's film projects; the subject matter is similar, with some crossover with the scenes in the book - but the very graphic sex and porn aspect is obviously heightened when viewing it as video.

You may think that it sounds a little pretentious; I find more of a hint of that when viewing Mr Stuart's work than with some other photographers. And you might arguably be right - but then what is eroticism and fantasy, but a kind of pretence? Either way, it's all the more thought-provoking - and arousing - for it. Definitely recommended, if you don't mind turning the heat up a bit from typical art-nude books.

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