Patrick Faigenbaum, Nude, 1975
b: Paris 1975
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[2May22] Faigenbaum's Nude, 1975 appears in Amao's 100 Masterpieces of Photography, 2010, a book featuring images from the collection of the Centre Pomidou: it offers an astonishing breadth of images, many obscure, usually only one from each photographer featured, mostly monochrome.
The Faigenbaum photograph is black-and-white, in (almost) square format (24 x 23.3 cm) and shows a full-length nude woman, taken from the left side: she is standing on tip-toe on an armchair, looking at what might be a mirror that is on top of a wooden, free-standing, closed wardrobe placed in the corner of the room. A small area of ceiling is visible and has a relief-decorated cornice. There is a harsh unidirectional lighting from the right of picture that throws a deep shadow of the woman onto the wardrobe and of the mirror onto the wall behind. There is a door on the right of the rear wall that appears to be open and the strong light might be directed through the doorway. The wardrobe is of dark wood, the armed chair has a dark covering, the wall is rendered as plain medium-dark grey, the door as light grey: the subject's back is the brightest area of the photograph.
There is no explanation, or even a hint of the subject's motive(s) for standing where and how she is and so this is left entirely to the imagination of the viewer.
Hand Through Door, 1968
One of the remarkable aspects of this image is that, because of their nature and configuration, pretty much all of the denoted items are significant candidates for connotive, associative interpretation — the naked woman, her pose, the mirror, the wardrobe, the open door, the lighting
In the text accompanying the photograph, Amao notes that Faigenbaum's career began and ended with portraits but was filled more with landscapes and still lifes. In his staged portraits, of which this is an early example, Faigenbaum,
develop[ed] a practice that would hardly be varied for many years: imposing deliberately long poses on his models, his approach establishes a close connection between figure and place, inaugurating a subtle alchemy of the two. Under Faigenbaum's lens, subjects imperceptibly become characters, generating if not narratives then sketches or snatches of story. One also finds a pronounced taste for marked contrasts of light and shade, Amao, 2020, p.69
While that may be the case, it hardly captures the strangeness of this image which has stayed with me since I first saw it several years ago. It makes a fine companion piece, and indeed would from an intriguing diptych with Gibson's Hand Through Door, 1968 (fig. B1).