(1/14/2014) Note: apparently, the photos we linked to are no longer available. We’ll see if we can re-link to them somehow.
“An abandoned western gold rush town sets the stage for a photographic fantasy of three beautiful young women.” Ghost Town is the result of Stephan Würth’s lifelong fascination with the American West. — Clic bookstore & gallery
(Note: this review is based on the 21 photos from the book displayed at Stephan Würth’s website.)
It would appear that Stephan’s main body of work is in fashion photography; all of the photographs included in his “portfolios” section at his website are fashion-related at the time this review is being written.
Though some of the book’s photos remind me of Playboy-esque soft porn, there’s sufficient artistry in his treatment of the subject matter to bring it back into a primarily art-oriented enterprise–though with a fairly obvious sexual fantasy targeted undercurrent.
I am sure we could endlessly debate whether these photos are “art” or soft porn. I am OK with leaving this an open question.
What I wonder about more than the art versus porn question is what Würth’s conceptual and visual goals were with this project? For example, take a look at the following two photos from the book:
These two photos–and there are more of this sort–seem to be here simply to remind us that we’re in a western ghost town, people; forget those naked women for a moment!
There are a number of purely artsy “detail”-type shots (e.g., a table outside on the plains with a framed photograph of a man that seems to date from early cowboy days) whose purpose seems primarily decorative.
Then, there are these very fashion-oriented photos. For example:
There are also some photos of the women that seem very posed and isolated from the ghost town context (e.g., there’s one of a totally nude woman seated on a chair with a plain canvas backdrop…fairly disconnected from her surroundings).
What it comes down to is this: he seems to be going in 3 or 4 different directions at once with these photos, which I think ends up diluting their overall effect.
Don’t get me wrong…I think he’s got some nice photographs in this book. The problem is they seem loosely put together without a clear visual or conceptual direction. Sure they’re all black & white photos–and maybe they all took place in a single ghost town location–but I don’t think that ensures the sort of continuity the human mind yearns for in a singular book-based project.
Does this review mean you shouldn’t purchase the book? Not necessarily. It’s just what I think; you can make up your own mind.
All photos © Michael Grace-Martin unless otherwise indicated