Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: Watermark by Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins

Published by Bruno Gmunder

Reviewed by Michael Gellings

Photographer Mark Jenkins has so far only been known to insiders. His first book publication is likely to change this. There's a flood of male nude photography out there, which makes it difficult to find a new angle. But San Francisco based Jenkins has found one. Of course, nudes under streaming water, or with a soaking wet piece of clothing, have been done before, but Jenkins assembles a whole collection of such photographs.

More than the subjetct matter, however, it is Jenkins' style that sets him apart. The San Francisco based artist says about himself that he is not a 'capture the moment' photographer. So the often uncontrollable element of water brings some spontaneity to his perfectly set up shots.

All of his models are male, young, and hunky. Jenkins captures them in various stages of undress. If there is still a piece of clothing on the men's bodies, their being soaking wet adds to the eroticism of the pose. The collection also presents quite a range of emotions. Despite their physical strength quite a few of the models betray a great vulnerability when they look directly into the camera. Others challenge the observer, or seem to be oblivious to the look directed at them.

Jenkins mostly photographes single models. But there are also two tender portraits of couples. All photographs are black and white, and reproduced in an atmospheric brown sepia. The layout presents pictures of various formats, so there is a rythm to it when filing through the pages.

The only criticism I have is not limited to this particular volume: one or two of the models seem to have overdone their steroids and biceps curls. They have moved beyond hunky into the grotesque. But all in all, it's asthetic nude photography with an unusual angle.

Michael Gellings is a freelance translator and historian.



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