Nouveau-Fetish

Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

While I have taken some of my best photographs under strict rules imposed by art directors and magazine restrictions I believe that rules often squash creativity and invention.

I will not deny that I often attempt to take photographs that are erotic in nature. I like to think that the more one delves into the imagination the better the photograph will be.

An example of how rules don’t, take fetish. This branch of photography has an established set of rules in which black, latex, leather and the like are all necessary for the labeling of an image as being fetish.

It was many years ago when waling on one of the downtown streets in Vancouver I spotted a magazine, it may have been American Photographer, that had the French actress Sophie Marceau. I am a fan so I went inside and purchased the magazine so I could drool. But there were some pages of photographs, all odd and some that made me flinch that I could not stop watching. One of them had a woman’s nude body wrapped in octopus tentacles. I thought, “Ugh!” But I have never forgotten. It was then that I coined for myself the term nouveau- fetish.

In this category of photography the kicker is knowledge behind the scene. It is knowledge that is cerebral and does not depend on whips and gags.

As an example I photographed a woman in my studio dressed (very lightly) to resemble her idea of Audrey Hepburn. It involved fishnets and long black silk gloves. It suddenly became cold so she put on a herringbone coat that was obviously a man’s. I asked. The answer was, “It belongs [not in the past] to my father.” I quickly took the shot. It is an odd photograph that you cannot stop from looking. But to me the knowledge that the woman put on her father’s coat (brought to my studio on purpose) adds immeasurably to the impact of the image. I call it nouveau-fetish. For me while more subtle it can be more satisfyingly shocking.

The photograph here is another one of that category. It is of a lovely young baroque cellist. A baroque cello, unlike the modern one that has an an endpin, made of metal, on which the player can lean the instrument on the floor, has no endpin. This means that the player, a man or a woman, must press forcibly with the inside upper legs to hold the instrument in place. If one plays the instrument for several years the musician will have marks in the inside of the legs. I enquired and I was answered that it is the case. Therefore for your contemplation - nouveau-fetish.