Jan Saudek – Self Portrait
I want to devote this week to one of my favorite artists: the Czech
photographer Jan Saudek. Quirky, kinky, raw, deeply sentimental, Saudek is a true Slav – one who celebrates his contrary nature and is able to elevate the most hideous scene – a topless, heavily made up woman with a gun in her mouth, an enormous bare buttocks smiling defiantly, alluringly into the camera -into a thing of beauty. I call him the straight Robert Mapplethorpe, and if you take a look at some of his photos (ones I will not be showcasing on Cold, since I aim for a PG-13 audience), you’ll understand why. Saudek, like Mapplethorpe, is one kinky bastard and has no compunction about putting himself – in all his glory – in front of the camera. He allows us to see him in all manner of sexually deviant or merely sexual contexts – spanking, giving and receiving oral sex, making love to obese women, naked, in shackles. He gives Christian Grey a run for his money.
But Saudek is also unflinching in his ability to depict a simple act of love – something so sentimental that it could be the cover to a romance novel, except that it’s too good. A lot of artists are more than happy to showcase sex, violence, depravity, pain, and yet cannot train their eye on love. That’s too much exposure – perhaps they think it’s anti-intellectual. Yet Jan Saudek will photograph babies from the same adoring, kitten-love vantage as Anne Geddes – only without the kitsch. In the serious art world, that’s a h*ll of a lot more brave than political advocacy or some raunchy pictures.