Nude, naked, bare... all these words convey the state of being without clothing, covering or adornment. These images are of bodies that are without clothing, but are not totally bare. The bodies here are richly covered with light that carries deep and surprising colors and shapes. Because the bodies are so adorned, they are not nudes in a classic sense. They are naked bodies, yes, but they are clothed in light that dresses them with nuance, mystery, and sometimes a narrative.

Each print from the "Clothed in Light" series is constructed from at least two photographic images. First, there is the principal image that forms the basis for the print you see today. In addition, there is a secondary image that is used to "clothe" the body of the model. To the left, the model's body is dressed in an image of a vibrating drum skin.

Thus, in this series the "clothing" is light from a secondary image, projected onto the model's skin and captured in the principal image. By using this technique, I engage both modes in which humans normally view color. When humans see color in the natural world, it is almost always in "object mode," where color is perceived as light reflecting off something (like a flesh-colored body). In the "illuminant mode" we perceive the light itself as bearing the color. In these photographs, color from the secondary image is projected on skin, and our minds tend to read the images in object mode, and assume a painted body. In fact, the bodies are flesh-colored and it is the projected image that bears the colors as it illuminates the model's skin.

This series was inspired by an exhibition entitled "Cuerpos Pintados" that I viewed in Santiago in 1992. That exhibit featured photographs of models whose bodies had been physically painted by Chilean artists. In homage to that inspiration, at the start I used only images that I captured in Chile (in conscious preparation for my own style of body painting) as the light with which I "clothed" my models.

 

 

 

The process does not necessarily result in immediately recognizable pairs. To the left is an example of one of the "secondary" images, a corrugated door in downtown Santiago. Below is the final product, in which the brightly painted tiles have become stockings on the model.

The first images utilizing this technique were displayed in Baltimore in early 1993. They have lain fallow for ten years. In 2003, I realized that the new digital technologies would permit me to realize more fully the objectives I originally had set for this project. The images I obtain through this multi-stage process are "painterly." They call for presentation on richly textured watercolor papers. When digital pigment ink printing technology enabled me to achieve this, using archival inks and papers, I reapplied my energies to the subject. I completed all of the Clothed in Light images that appear in this exhibition in 2004.

 

James Putnam Abbott - December 2005


 

All images © 2004 - 2005 James Putnam Abbott