And How About Ansel Adams and All Those “Trees”, Eh?

From a review in the Washington Post about an exhibit of Allen Ginsberg’s photographs, at the National Gallery (emphasis mine):

The early photographs were obviously part of his [Ginsberg’s] energetic self-mythologizing of the Beats, especially those he took of Jack Kerouac, for whom Ginsberg’s torch always blazed with embarrassing brightness.

I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that when the artist is male and his model is female, it is the usual thing for a critic to rhapsodize about how the artist’s intense passion for his subject has expressed itself in the use of sensuous lighting that plays erotically over the curved surfaces blah blah blah. In our finest museums hang plenty of paintings and photographs of fully nude women, painted or photographed in all kinds of provocative poses, and no critic would dream of describing them in print as “embarrassing”, for fear of getting laughed out of the Critics’ Club. We critics, you know, we are above all that crass provincialism and puritanism.

Hell, when a photographer or painter gives this kind of treatment to freaking flowers or vegetables, the critics ooh and aah in their reviews and commentaries, reveling in the sensuality and usually including somewhere a gratuitous passing sneer at anyone who might find the works shocking. You’ll never read a critic saying that there is something “embarrassing” about the way the artist’s erotic feelings toward bell peppers blaze forth in his works, or complaining about how she is “mythologizing” orchids.

But a man taking a photograph that expresses his erotic feelings for another man (and a man who was damn handsome to begin with, at that) — now that’s embarrassing.

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