PHOTOBOOK REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS AND WRITE-UPS
ALONG WITH THE LATEST PHOTO-EYE NEWS

Social Media

Book Review: Skin


Book Review Skin By June Yong Lee Reviewed by George Slade We should all be thankful for the interior structure our body gives us. That is, the cubic volume we occupy courtesy of bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage keeping it all together, more and less, over time. I express this gratitude as I consider June Yong Lee’s photographs of unwrapped torsos; skin, seen in planar fashion, as though a rug on your floor, a tapestry on your wall, or a blanket on your bed...

SkinBy June Yong Lee
The Arts at California Institute of Integral Studies, 2015.
 
Skin
Reviewed by George Slade

Skin
Photographs by June Yong Lee. Essay by Tina Takemoto.
The Arts at California Institute of Integral Studies, 2015. Unpaged, 30 color illustrations.


We should all be thankful for the interior structure our body gives us. That is, the cubic volume we occupy courtesy of bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage keeping it all together, more and less, over time. I express this gratitude as I consider June Yong Lee’s photographs of unwrapped torsos; skin, seen in planar fashion, as though a rug on your floor, a tapestry on your wall, or a blanket on your bed, loses whatever seductive qualities it had when it was still enwrapping a body. I say this about human epidermis, of course. Other animals, skinned, yield pelts and hides of great value, enhanced through the rendering.

Lee’s renderings, fortunately for him, his viewers, and especially his subjects, are accomplished optically and digitally. The end results are on one hand profoundly disturbing — think of gruesomely fetishistic bookbindings, lampshades, or Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb’s new clothes (in The Silence of the Lambs) — while on the other uncannily fascinating. These are not (I hope) conventionally seductive images, but you may find it difficult to shift eyes and attention away from them — especially so, I imagine, when printed at 31 by 53 inches and hung on a wall, and sufficiently so in this book.

SkinBy June Yong LeeThe Arts at California Institute of Integral Studies, 2015.

The images are printed double truck, full bleed throughout the book. Thus, as you read the book and turn a page you unfurl a new canvas in front of you, between your hands. You read these images like blueprints, or maps, although you may, as I did, occasionally jump, symbolically speaking, from map to mask (nipples and navels as eyes and mouths) to the pallid underside of a ray. Full versions of the images appear in thumbnails at the book’s end; that compact gallery affords a clearer sense of the impression Lee’s work makes.

SkinBy June Yong LeeThe Arts at California Institute of Integral Studies, 2015.
SkinBy June Yong LeeThe Arts at California Institute of Integral Studies, 2015.

Lee chooses bodies well. He photographs them with what we might call democratic precisionism — enough modeling to capture contours, but otherwise the light rests on these skinscapes with the indifferent grace of a blanket of air. The details of moles, follicles, wrinkles, creases, bruises, tan lines, tattoos, stress and stretch marks, even the imprints of recently removed undergarments, add up to an abstract, inexpressible sum.

SkinBy June Yong LeeThe Arts at California Institute of Integral Studies, 2015.

Volume gives us reference points, a sense of the person and the space they occupy. Lee’s photographs recast our visions of bodies. Our mind attempts to rewrap these corporeal containers and restore order, but these images will not submit. They spread wings of unpinned flesh. They resist narrative, and insist upon their topographic innocence and their universality, regardless of the surreal space in which they are encountered.—GEORGE SLADE

Purchase Book

GEORGE SLADE, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant. He can be found online at http://rephotographica-slade.blogspot.com/

Read More Book Reviews

1 comment:

  1. There are near caricatures of 'faces' here, almost humorous if not for their gruesome origins (Haha...looks like a kitty cat! Woo hoo) which make these images truly repulsive. I guess, when desperately looking for something unique to photograph, one would choose a subject like this. It's kinda what the photographer (played by Elliot Gould) in the 1971 film, "Little Murders", resorted to for 'originality'...great steaming piles of dog poo. Disgusting, but 'original'. You are abundantly welcome to wallow in this muck without a critical word, but, it's not for me, and, I hope for no one else. This is utter crap.

    ReplyDelete