images so beautiful that it takes a couple
of seconds to remember to wince The old adage of you can't judge a book by its cover is often said, but in the case of the Body Piercing photography book by Andrew Dunbar, you can. The ring pierced jacket was infact the impetus for a creative journey by Australian photographer Andrew Dunbar, who has captured body piercing as an artistic form of self-expression.
Through this photography, Dunbar takes piercing from a sub-culture to popular culture, exposing custom made body jewelry designs in a beautiful and often cheeky manner.
Dunbar's unique photographic style has positioned him as a contemporary master in photography. Dunbar's career began in photojournalism prior to studying in the USA and Australia in the mid-eighties. He then moved into the realm of commercial, advertising and fine art photography where he has worked extensively for the past 10 years.
Since 1996 Dunbar has been the recipient of over 40 awards and commendations including the prestigious Ilford Trophy. The Body Piercing book has also won Dunbar three major design awards including Australian Institute of Professional Photography 'Editorial Photograph of the Year' for one of the Body Piercing images, Winner of 1998 Australian Publishers Design Awards for 'Best Designed Book' and 'Best Designed Book Cover'.
In recent years Dunbar's work has been widely exhibited including 17 shows nationally and internationally over the past 12 months. In the United States his work was shown alongside such luminaries as Annie Leibovitz, Man Ray, Diane Arbus and Paul Outerbridge Jr, where the prestigious G Ray Hawkins Gallery in Los Angeles represents him.
So how do Dunbar's images of body piercing remain credible - or credible enough to exert the influence they do? They remain credible because the images are judged, not by real fulfillment of expectations, but by the relevance of the ideas they create in the mind of the spectator. Its essential appeal is not to reality but to self-expression. Dunbar says,
I wanted the pictures to be beautiful, that is, beautiful in a photographic sense. I struck away from using people with multiple piercings or with tattoos as well as piercings, not because I had a problem with that, but because I wanted the images to look clean and uncomplicated.
Such an intention has brushed the images with a pure kind of sensuality, sheer, uninhibited curiosity without the vamped-up voyeurism. My images are more concerned with body piercing than as brutal expressions of rebellion, exerts Dunbar. The images are to capture what body piercing feels like rather than just what it looks like.
Dunbar explains that part of the aim of the book was to profile the cutting edge jewelry, from eyebrow alien antennae and tongue spider, to a belly plug and a nipple fishhook.
At the Gomez Gallery, Dunbar is showing an assembly of some of the more risquÈ piercings including the septum, ampallang, guiche and labia.
Hailing from Adelaide in South Australia, Dunbar didn't have any trouble finding willing initiates to photograph. His models show people from all walks of life, from a shop assistant to a biologist, a mechanic to a nurse.
Piercing can be adornment or mutilation asserts Dunbar, therefore I wanted my images to embrace piercing as a creative form of self-expression - to seduce rather than to shock. To take piercing away from its connection with subcultures, freaks and fetishes. Many of the images are so beautiful that it takes a couple of seconds to remember to wince.
April - navaL