“When I learned a couple months ago that renowned photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia was going to give a guest lecture at the Akron Art Museum, I was instantly excited. I remember first seeing and being captivated by his work in W about eight or so years ago, and the fact that such an influential, acclaimed artist like himself was coming to Akron instantly made me a bit jumpy.””
When I learned a couple months ago that renowned photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia was going to give a guest lecture at the Akron Art Museum, I was instantly excited.
I remember first seeing and being captivated by his work in W about eight or so years ago, and the fact that such an influential, acclaimed artist like himself was coming to Akron instantly made me a bit jumpy.
On Tuesday, I attended the event that I had been so anxiously anticipating, and I must say that I very much enjoyed diCorcia’s presentation.
Born in 1951 in Hartford, Conn., diCorcia comes from a postmodern generation of photographers who frequently focus on the people around them and whose work is often staged, causing their images to have a cinematic quality.
He went to school with Nan Goldin, whose gritty but slightly glamorous pictures of young street urchins and drug addicts served as a major driving force behind the heroin chic trend of the early ’90s.
Similarly, diCorcia’s early images focus on the sordid, destitute characters of the street: in the late ’80s, for his first major project, diCorcia traveled to Hollywood and photographed the down-and-out hustlers working along Santa Monica Blvd.
These haunting photos of male prostitutes are made even more disturbing by the fact that the subjects are often depicted next to capitalistic venues (shopping centers, fast food restaurants), reminding the viewer that they are merely products, merchandise on display.
It wasn’t long before diCorcia caught the attention of magazine editors, mainly due to the fact that many fashion photographers of the time were copying his style.
He was approached by W to shoot a photo-spread, a collaboration which would turn into a long, prosperous relationship between diCorcia and the magazine.
DiCorcia’s fashion images are quite different from traditional photos seen in glosses: they are less about the clothes and more about the concept. In addition, diCorcia’s photos for W are surprisingly very similar to some of his non-fashion photos, sometimes directly referring to earlier images.
For example, in one story, diCorcia focused on the idea of a decadent, private club. A nude male prostitute is depicted from behind in one image, standing on a stage being ogled by the businessmen and trophy wives below him. Like the marketable hustlers, this figure is merely an commodity.
My favorite of diCorcia’s fashion editorials is a story with endlessly-gammed, platinum blonde German supermodel Nadja Auermann in which she plays an ice queen businesswoman whom leads a secret double-life at night, attending cockfights and watching topless Chinese strippers dance on a table in a boardroom.
As can be deduced, diCorcia’s photos frequently center on provocative, shocking topics. More recently, he turned his lens on strippers.
The lighting in these images have been considered by many critics to be celestial, much like the providential light seen in many Northern Renaissance paintings from the fifteenth century.
Whether heavenly or not, diCorcia’s images always have a gorgeous aesthetic to them, making them memorable and beautiful art objects.