Only Skin by Laura Terré
Rafael Roa has also focused on the skin, with the intention to develop the concept of existence. Dead Skin is the title chosen to turn our gaze on a set of photographs of posed bodies which are an entirety portrait of the flesh that we are. His desire is to stress that constant inertia that leads the living bodies to death and that leaves traces printed on their skin, wrinkles, tattoos and mutilations, marks inflicted as pass rituals. Due to the documentary effect of photography that puts us on the trail of the living, eternally alive, through the work of freezing the moment, even in the case of aged bodies, almost blue, and deprived of the context of their lives, we don’t see corpses, we see friends, parents, lovers, coworkers.
Roa cuts the bodies into fragments, following a tradition that began with artistic photography of the early twentieth century. Those photographers disregarded for the first time the strict description of the proportions of the human body that had been carried out in nude photography to serve as a model for painters and sculptors. The modern photographers freely interpreted the body shapes and they dared to cut off the head and limbs to avoid any spatial reference. The body shapes are incomprehensible and the suppression of the face and eyes avoided all distraction, all communication with the person. Everything was reduced to flesh. We have magnificent icons in the tradition of abstract nude. As the early trials of Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston. The portraits of Georgia O’Keefe’s feelings through their hands and equivalent the clouds of Alfred Stieglitz. And at the end of twentieth century, when prejudices to look at the naked body and conventions and taboos are lost, we have the beautiful series of self-portraits by John Coplans (his aged skin of the torso and its separate members of the body) . Or the hyperrealistic series of fragments in black and white, also with aged skin and bushy hairs and wrinkles of Robert Davies. And other style, which searches the beauty of young bodies, they are the unforgettable implausible fragments by Robert Mapplethorpe, who created a beauty body trend in the eighties. Or Bill Brandt, who surprised us with his outdoors nudes in mimesis with boulders from the beaches.
Roa’s photographs follow this tradition, but they do not seek abstraction nor are merely aesthetic , much less documentary (saving the detail of tattoos that give us a clue on the culture of the bodies). Its erotic content refers to an action stopped in time, in which we perceive the subject restless, busy in their passions and sometimes not very content with their physical transformation. The nude becomes a portrait “otherwise”. It was a genre exploited by photography since its origins, both privately and professionally. Unlike painting and drawing in which nude sublimated the human in beauty stereotypes, photography always liked the body as it is. So erotic photography intimidates those who contemplate it because of its realism that particularized personal details. The punctum, that Barthes said as inescapable real place. Photography is brash and gritty. When we look at a naked body, it makes us to hold our breath. Many blush to the erotic photos, they look sideways or take it to a corner and “use it” as pornography, because they feel the contact of the skin where they put their gaze. The mere eye contact produces in them the experience and need solitude for contemplation. The proximity is so strong! The viewer guides its photography experience, creating plans according to their interest and deciding to look at everything at once in the distance or only to look at certain details of the foreground.
Faced with the bodies that Rafael Roa portrays we don’t have much freedom. He diverts our attention from the volume and forms and he focuses on the most superficial: the texture and color of the skin. In these photographs, our gaze is caught inside the skin taut as a parchment lampshade . We see the naked from the vacuum of its volumes, in a diving vision, magic, converting the spheres in concavities.He does this by fragmenting the bodies and using an artificial dominant blue light, as if it was a submerged and amniotic vision. The weightless bodies flow like luminescent air bubbles. The purity of the waters that bath it , works as magnifying glass on the fine hair strokes, on the capillary veins, wrinkles and marks of underwear. We even see what we do not want to see. We know, in any case, that defects will be concealable and beyond that carnal contingency, the human being will wear clothing that will return their soul, hide all their embarrassments and reveal their class differences. May even look for a face in the mirrors where to encastrar their eyes that will bring the gaze and thus stop being only skin.
Dead Skin is a Rafael Roa’s art work
link to buy the book: http://www.rafaelroa.net/libros-deadskin.php