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My first book of photographs, "Vic Eating Cabbage", has recently come out. ISBN 0-9544746-0-0. Published by Adnax Limited in Newnham, England. .

It is hardcover, 9" x 11" with 96 pages and 84 duotone b/w images. Retail price is $28 US. I have finally obtained a quanity of these books and you may now purchase them directly from me. Please add $2.50 shipping US Mail Book Rate or $7.50 Priority Mail. Shipping rates apply to the continental US only. Payment may be by personal check or money order. Signed copies also available for an additional $5. Send inquiries to:

James Riegel - 915 Reed St. - Kalamazoo MI 49001

E-Mail: [email protected]

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“I became interested in photographing the nude around 1973. I was annoyed that most photographs of the nude dealt with the body as fantasy sexual object, or as sanitized light and form devoid of personality. I wanted to see if I could portray the nude as real people in a non-sexual and matter-of-fact way.” 
“My first nude portraits were of friends and acquaintances who wanted to see what it would be like to model nude in a non-threatening environment. As I became more comfortable working with the nude portrait I began to add props and situations to the photo session. I still work with the general theme of being naked in front of the camera, but from there I try to evoke a multi-layered mood or emotion, be it serious, humorous, satirical, sensual, disturbing or a combination of the above.”

Jim Riegel 

1. Bodies
There are good photographers around who make individual photographs of equal interest and importance to those produced by Jim Riegel. But in the case of most of them there is no overall objective in their work, other than the desire to produce an interesting composition, and to win the applause of their audience. In the end this is all their work amounts to; a whole heap of desire for applause.
The essential difference with Jim's photography is that there is a leading idea informing the whole body of his work, and, by using a systematic approach tied to this leading idea, each image adds something to the whole, and each image, seen in the context of the whole, says something more than it would on its own. 
It was something of a revelation to me that there was actually somebody out there photographing the nude as a human being. Had it been done before? Absurd as it seems, I couldn't remember having seen the approach used consistently. As Jim says in the opening statement above, nude photography was mainly either fantasy sex or just light hitting forms, and with both approaches there seemed to be an almost obsessive (and rather silly) attempt to deny that what was being photographed was actually a human being with personality.
I made some prints of Jim's photographs, and showed them to a few people to see what sort of reaction I would get. A whole ocean of issues came up. There were people who were positively turned off by any representation of the naked human body. There were others who thought that the only bodies they wanted to see represented were so called 'beautiful people', ie bodies which conformed to the tight stereotype of what our culture (or perhaps media) says a body should look like. There were those who thought that it was OK to show some bits of the body but not other bits. And there were those who just wanted to mock the people in the photographs. 
From these reactions, I realised that in the process of looking at Jim's photographs, we are led to confront not only the question of how we respond to issues of nudity and sexual provocation, but, because he is showing us nudes as people, we are also drawn into looking at the issue of how we relate to our own bodies. There is no doubt that this can get uncomfortable. 
The issues of sexual response and how we relate to our own bodies are connected of course. But the body issue is a wider and broader thing, and is established very early on in our lives, certainly before we have any sort of conscious control over what is happening to us. For this reason, it becomes difficult to discuss rationally. I realised that with some people I was dealing with a whole host of basic fears and uncertainties which had probably been with them since early infancy, and which were using the rational part of that person’s brain to protect themselves. 
Tacked onto these fundamental issues related to how we live in our bodies, there are, of course, a whole host of neuroses about weight, body hair, shape of nose, disposition of eyes, regularity of feature, youth and so on, which become part of our consciousness as our personality develops through seeing and feeling how other people react to us. These neuroses get constant reinforcement from the media who, despite the competitive nature of the industry, are united in pushing one agenda: the idea that to look good is to be good. Appearance is essence. To look good is to feel good and to have value as an individual. If it were not the case, what would be the point of buying any of the thousands of products which are targeted at changing the appearance, enhancing status, making the buyer look cool or sophisticated, elegant or fashionable, strong or desirable? 
Jim's photography addresses these issues directly by presenting us with examples of human beings who are not paradigms of youthful desirability. Many of the embarrassed reactions I got to the images I showed around just spoke of the viewer's own problems with being overweight, underweight, undersized, oversized, too hairy, too dark, too spotty, too freckled…you name it, somebody's got too much of it, or too little, and they are made to feel bad about it. We are picked on for what is different about our bodies. Deformed or handicapped people have it even worse. Viewed rationally, the whole thing appears manifestly absurd. You are what you look like. Everybody knows it's untrue. 2. Aesthetics.
To many people, aesthetics is something far removed from ordinary life. It's what happens in museums, art galleries and concert halls and is the prerogative of the rich, who wear it like a badge of superiority. Unfortunate, because in reality aesthetics (from Greek : perception) goes to the very roots of everyday experience.
I was at the Bowes Museum in County Durham a few years ago. In the entrance hall stands a large silver swan in a glass case, the wings of which open on the hour, every hour, then close again. The museum itself is overloaded with giant oil paintings in heavy gilt frames depicting handsome men in wigs showing off their badges of status, winsome maidens, historical scenes of appropriate gravitas, idealised classical landscapes and so on. It was all very fine. I wandered around the exhibits until I came across a small almost monochrome oil painting by Goya. Maybe the effect was heightened because of the context, I don't know, but that little black and white painting travelled the distance between Spain and England, between the 19th and 20th centuries in an instant, eclipsing all of the fancy paraphernalia around it. It was human experience presented starkly and accurately from the pen of a human being intent on recording what was going on around him. It recorded what was, a moment, a situation. It was not beautiful, except in the sense of its power to convey, its power to record, its power to move, the power of the truth. It's the type of experience that makes your primitive particles dance. And, at its best, that's essentially what the business of art is, a beautiful accord between means and expression, an accord which comes across as a uniquely powerful experience, connecting us immediately and strongly with the artist who made it. No matter what the time and distance, we feel his knowledge, his intelligence, his humanity, his perception.
Harmonious proportions, creativity, inventiveness, the investigation and recording of issues of fundamental importance to human beings, pattern, repetition, echoes, clues to the eternal, the application of intelligence and imagination to problems, riddles, paradoxes and processes, using different media, producing observations on and embellishments to the society in which we live: these have all been the pre-occupations of artists through the centuries. And this is the tradition continued by Jim Riegel. It’s a tradition which engages not only the artist, but also the scientist and the philosopher, a tradition which is rooted in curiosity about the world and how it works, and which seeks to express the harmonies and dissonances of the world in material form.
There are, of course, plenty of other agendas for art: it has been equated with fashion, with self expression, in fact with any set of qualities that can be put together and sold at a high price. This is an impoverishment of both art and the language. There are plenty of words for these other activities : advertising, marketing, fashion and elitist self indulgence are a few that spring to mind. They all lay claim to the word ‘art’ simply because it is financially and socially advantageous to do so. If there were neither money nor status to be had, they would quickly leave it alone.
Jim’s art is not concerned with these externals. In defining his objective as that of showing the nude with personality, he is targeting his interest on the relationship between what someone appears to be (their physical form, their nudity) and what they are (their personality, their inner self). Taking away the clothes is a masterstroke, because the individual no longer has the badges of identity to hide behind. It makes it much more likely that the real person will appear sometime during the photo session. And it opens up subject matter which is of profound interest to human beings, and also for which the camera is well suited as a means of exploration.
It’s important to note that there is no sordid striving after sensationalism by depicting the deformed or obscene in Jim’s photography. Such an approach does not address anything deeper than pornographic or fashion photography, both of which rely on our response to the human being as an object. 
In this he is fundamentally different to some ninety five percent of photographers who latch onto the external aspects of their subject matter in the belief that this is all a photograph can show. Sex, or light hitting form. For both approaches, there is nothing but the body as an object: an object of desire, or an object being hit by light. At bottom, it’s not very interesting. Its popularity is driven by the appetites, and the whole narcissistic obsession with desire and gratification, its appeal transient and often based on novelty, its value temporary, though sometimes resurrected as nostalgia, another desire close to self love, love of my past and those cultural artefacts that connect me to it. In short love of me, albeit a past me.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with sex and light hitting form per se. But the approach does represent something qualitatively different, and it does seem important to make distinctions between what is happening based on these different approaches. Making distinctions in this way is a process which enriches our perception (aesthetic). The Eskimoes have 49 (or so) different words for ice. In the arctic tundra they see a world rich in diversity, of which we are unaware. The same applies to the world of cultural artefacts. There is a similar richness and variety for those who can see. In this richness, and the profound resonances which accompany it, lies the essential benefit of pursuing aesthetics (perception). It requires working at, because it is nearly always based on background knowledge. It is valuable not only as a thing in itself, but also as a means of communication, because there is here a common heritage which expresses and preserves common ideas, aspirations and spirituality. 
Civilisation, humanity itself is very close to its expression in cultural artefacts. The North Vietnamese civilian, reduced to living in underground tunnels for days on end by napalm bombing, retained a sense of identity and humanity through his songs, ie through his own cultural and aesthetic heritage.

John Lao