From Alasdair Foster’s article for Talking Pictures:

The first time I saw a photograph by Chuck Samuels I didn’t see it. I was flicking through a photo magazine, and what I saw was a classic Edward Weston nude. The sunlight defining surface and shadow, the modestly averted gaze, the artfully folded limbs cradling the tip of a penis… (!) Stop flicking. Backtrack. Yes, that is indeed what I saw… For this is one of a now famous series of images in which Chuck Samuels substituted his own body for the original model in iconic images of women made by male photographers of note: Richard Avedon, Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Paul Outerbridge, Weston… The images are witty but unsettling. They make clear (at least within the mores of their day) the very different conventions for representing and looking at the two sexes. But there is something deeper. A more fundamental push–pull that challenges both the reliability of memory and the conventions of photographic veracity. And then there is something else, less tangible. A certain unexpected warmth…

These images and the others we will discuss in this interview are forms of appropriation art. A genre in which existing images are reproduced with minimal changes in ways that recontextualise them, setting them in a new critical light. Appropriation art can be by turns earnestly conceptual, mocking, or coldly brutal. The work of Chuck Samuels is none of these. It certainly disturbs cosy certainties and atrophied assumptions, but it does so in a remarkably amiable way. The unexpected warmth I feel underlying his images is one of a deep affection for photography. His is a love that is far from blind. He is acutely aware of the limitations and misrepresentations of the medium; his artistic mission is to make evident this inherent untrustworthiness. And yet he also seeks to immerse himself within its very fabric. To pursue the impossible of ‘becoming photography’. He makes no secret of it, for this is the title he gave to his recently published monograph, a book which spans three decades and the six series we will discuss here. For me, his images challenge one to see photography realistically, for what it is and what it cannot be, and love it all the more for that.

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Browse all of Chuck Samuels’ work at CLAMP.