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New York Girls Hardcover – March 1, 1997
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The photographs themselves, however, generally show a serious lack of imagination and creativity. I don't know if it's just laziness on behalf of Kern or if he's just seen so many gorgeous naked ladies through the years that he's grown accustomed to it and doesn't really care, but there's just not a lot of truly great photos here. I was favorably impressed with perhaps 1/3 of the photos shown, but the vast majority are little more than what you'd expect to see if you picked up a ten-year-old Penthouse magazine - actually, worse in fact.
If you can get this one at a good price it's worth having, but it's certainly not phenomenal, and actually, there are VERY few photos in this book that I would consider "fetish" photography at all - most of it's just nearly naked ladies posing in fairly boring settings making facial expressions that are trying to convince you they're either viciously fierce, or they're having an orgasm for some unknown reason - again, pretty much what you would see picking up any cheap nudie magazine or surfing the internet for five minutes.
Kroll has a strong background in commercial and fashion photography which gives his images a more glitzy, mainstream look. Kern came to New York and immediately fell in with the extreme sex crowd. He spent his early years publishing little, Xeroxed magazines and making short films with such dark stars as Lydia Lunch, Nick Zedd and Cassandra Stark. In a sense, "New York Girls," marks a shift closer to mainstream fetish work.
These are harsh, revealing images. His color work reminds me a bit of Nan Goldin, but his black and white images are uniquely his own. The sexuality is blatant, sometimes erotic and sometimes not. There is a profound alienation in his images. These are people being sexual to and for themselves. They rarely meet the viewer's eyes. When they do face the camera it is to issue a challenge, to dare the viewer to cross the line into a solipsistic universe of tension and release.
Many of the photographs are haunting. There seem to be layers of content that keep the viewer's attention for hours. If you haven't encountered Kern's work before or a looking for the right collection of fetish work you will find this and excellent introduction to photography's more challenging visions.
There's a lot of bondage sort of images but not in poor taste, everyone looks to be having fun, even if a little perturbed now and then but always looking completely consenting. There's a little bit of penetration with objects but it's not in poor taste.
I like this book for it's quality of printing and happy feel to the images. Though it's not by any means quality glamour (I guess I mean arthouse!), I don't believe it ever set out to be. It's engaging and creates a nice feel, like you're sharing some women enjoying pushing their sexual boundaries and then sharing it with the reader.
It's not a book you'd give someone to learn photographic rules by but it is a book you'd give to someone just to feel they were sharing in all the good things about putting convention aside and wallowing in the pleasure of their own sexuality. A nice coffee table book for somewhere fairly liberated that, in that environment, would probably bring the reaction Mmmmmmmmm, yuu-uum more than too many other reactions.