PEAKS & VALLEYS
[pullquote align="left"]Photographer Allan Teger’s nude photos adhere to the philosophy that human bodies are nature, just like the earth—with a playful twist (and no Photoshop!). TREATS! talks to him about his use of toys and miniatures in his erotic nudes, why some people call him “sick” & his new book “Bodyscapes.” by Rob Hill[/pullquote]
Hey, Allan, how are you?
Hi. Doing great! Very busy doing publicity for my forthcoming book “Bodyscapes.”
We are excited for the book. Your bodyscapes photos are very unique—the way you use toys and narratives with nudes. You said they emanated from your study of psychology. Can you elaborate?
I was a professor at Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania and I was teaching psychology of consciousness and eastern philosophy. I wanted to show in art the concepts I was teaching—that two realities could co-exist, and that it is possible to see things in many different ways, all of which could be true at the same time. Bodyscapes came out of that. I was not really interested in shooting nudes; it just evolved as a way of making the point that you can see things several ways. In this case, as both body and landscape. I have also always been intrigued by the Gestalt perceptual psychology—the way the mind effects how we perceive the world.
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You really seem to tap into both fun and seriousness with “Bodyscapes”.
Freud says that humor is when you have something in one category and suddenly find that it belongs in a different category. I think that is what happens with Bodyscapes as you re-categorize the image from landscape to body. I like playing with reality and giving people the experience of seeing their mind “flip” from one interpretation to another. I really want the images to stand on their own as art even if the viewer doesn’t realize that there is a body in the photo. So, yes, its both serious art and fun—why not? Another example of how two realities can co-exist.
What has been the reaction to the photos?
People love the work—but some people still cover their child’s eyes when they enter my exhibit! But things have changed since I first showed the work in the late 70′s. Most parents now encourage their children to “find the body” in the photos. I think that people are comfortable with the work because the humor takes the edge off of the nudity and makes it easier to deal with. Recently, a juror for an erotic art festival said that she didn’t understand why I had submitted my work for a show on the figure—she didn’t initially realize that there were bodies in the photos!
How do you come up with the names and specific narratives?
The titles of my photos are just descriptions, really; they are just labels. The specific scenes come from a variety of sources. Sometimes I have an idea and have to find a miniature or toy to use in the photo. Other times, I will find the toys first and design a photo around it. Sometimes customers, friends, or models suggest ideas. An important aspect of my work is that I don’t use Photoshop. I place the toys or miniatures on the model’s body and shoot a single exposure of the whole thing together. I do not combine images. I shoot with film, and the larger prints are darkroom prints on fiber-based silver gelatin paper—the old fashioned way!
Have you ever seen anyone else do this kind of photography?
The idea of body as landscape has been around for a long time, but I have never seen anyone do what I am doing. Some people use miniatures on flowers, food etc. Others do landscape-like shots of the body, but as far as I know there is no one else doing what I do with miniatures on the body.
You are a completely self-taught photographer. Did you have any big influences early on?
I learned photography as the school photographer in high school and college, but never did studio work until I began the Bodyscapes. My favorite photographer is Walker Evans and my favorite painter is Edward Hopper, but the Bodyscapes didn’t come out of those influences. They came out of my study of consciousness, especially the books by Carlos Castenada where an anthropologist learns from a Mexican-Indian sorcerer to move from one reality to another. That sort of thing was the real inspiration behind this body of work.
What do these photos say about you?
Interesting question! I guess I like to play with reality, I like playing with erotic ideas and images, and I enjoy communicating with people. Some people say I must be “sick” but they always say it with a smile.
What do they say about nude photography?
Nudes are just part of nature and one of my points is that our bodies are nature, as is the earth. We have hills and valleys like the Earth does. The best nude photography is not as much erotic as it is beautiful and natural.
You also shoot beautiful travel pictures. What’s your philosophy about capturing a place and its mood?
My hand colored work (www.teger.com) is about capturing a timeless moment, energy of stillness. Most of the photos do not show any people, or any action. But I try to evoke the many people who could be at that spot, gone through that door to an old theatre, or walked in that old village. It’s about the “hum” of the energy of the place.
Finally, when are you gonna do a shoot for TREATS!?
Let’s talk about this…could be fun!