“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with one photographer that breaks the rule, reminding us that great work is the exception to the rule.
Rule Setter: Kat Kiernan, Editor-in-Chief, Don’t Take Pictures
Rule Breaker: Silke Seybold
I never want to see another photograph of a nude figure in an abandoned space. The beauty/decay juxtaposition of a young body and old building compels many photographers to stage similar scenes. For the most part, the structures and figures are unmemorable, and we learn nothing about the environment, the subject, or the relationship between the two. While I appreciate that photographers are drawn to the seductive textures, colors, and shapes of these neglected spaces, the inclusion of a nude figure, often female, is an overused trope. The figure rarely seems to have a purpose in the frame and comes across as an afterthought. We do not know why she is there, or why her presence matters.
Silke Seybold’s series of lith and color photographs, Silent Places, breaks my rule. As the city of Detroit crumbled around her in the early aughts, Seybold photographed herself in these once-prosperous factories, posing her body to fit the shapes of the derelict rooms and structures. She does not merely stand and survey the remains, nor is she draped across them as though left for dead. Instead, Seybold is an active participant in these surroundings, finding her place within this dystopian environment. Refreshingly non-sexual, Seybold’s nudity instead suggests vulnerability, humanizing her rather than using her form as a prop.