Updated: Sep 6, 2020
A few years ago, I chanced across an article about early 20th century Hungarian/American photographer André Kertész' (1894–1985) distorted nudes. Kertész used a combination of water, mirrors and lenses to create a bizarre and long-lived series. His chance 1917 photograph of an underwater swimmer and work with reflections prompted the magazine ‘Le Sourire’ to commission him to produce a piece featuring nude models reflected in mirrors. Over the years he went on to create a series of nearly 160 nude ‘distortions.’ To Kertész' annoyance, the techniques were much copied.
What should we make of them? Kertész offered little in the way of analysis, saying only that,
“One can give what explanations one wishes of this work; all I can say is that making them was very exciting, very amusing.” [Source...]
His results were surreal, but Kertész was never an official member of the Surrealist movement, who embraced irrationality, but we can be forgiven for seeing the works as sympathetic to the movement. Alternatively, the sometimes grotesque results can be read as an ironic commentary on art's patriarchal portrayal of the female body as the incarnation of a harmonic and beautiful form. Truth through a distorted lens: Alternative facts? The appearance of beauty, transmogrified? Undermining the beauty myth? All of the above? Perhaps beauty isn't skin deep.
At any rate, making this series is very exciting, very amusing.
As usual, Shakespeare said it best.
“So may the outward shows be least themselves:
The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts.”
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
I owe a big vote of thanks to the models featured in this series, who have tolerated the distortion of the fair ornaments of their bodies.