Brendan Russell

Above: A photo of Brendan Russell. Credit: Bslice.

Brendan Russell

This (above) portrait of tattoo-artist and body-modifier Brendan Russell is typical of a certain type of modern photo-portrait. In this type of photo-image the subject presents to the camera in a camp manner intended to be as crass and vulgar as possible.

The overall modus operandi of the sitter in such portraits is to appear in every way contrary to the ordinary respectable-and-conventional person. All visual aspects are inverted as much as possible from those that the square person would aspire to manage--the image attempted by the sitter might be described as warlock-simpleton. So, where there would be a shirt-and-tie, there is instead a bare tattooed torso. Where there would be a dignified and poised body-posture there is instead a slovenly mocking swagger, etc.

The facial expression that the gentleman adopts is undignified and leering (SOED: look or gaze with a sly, malign, or lascivious expression). This is entirely deliberate. Most striking is the lack of sincerity or solemnity in the subject's face. Originally popularized in photo-portraits from the high-Victorian age, a serious look is often adopted by many photo-subjects regardless of their being conventional persons, or not: djs, artists, and jugglers often give a serious look to the camera when having their photo taken. The leer here may be read as an effort to undermine a truly basic photo-convention: the serious look tells the viewer that the sitter values their life and their life activities.

For the warlock-simpleton, the aim is to give the impression that nothing matters. In other words, the subject tends to give off, by any means available, an aura of nihilism (Chambers synonyms: rejection, repudiation, negation, denial, pessimism, scepticism, nothingness, oblivion, emptiness, non-existence, lawlessness, anarchy, terrorism, disorder, agnosticism, atheism, cynicism, disbelief, negativism, formal abnegation, nullity).

The subject's right hand hovers close to the genital area--almost grasping the penis. This is a pose long-familiar in masculine non-verbal communication: reaching to grab one's groin area is an impressive action which is intended to emphasize a certain virility and simmering (SOED: a state of suppressed anger or excitement) wildness.

(6 August 2018)