These two images were shot in 1978 by Daniel Joseph Martinez, an L.A. artist who’s gone on to be known for installation art with a strong political edge. They’re in a show of his early photos at Simon Preston Gallery in New York. I’m told that Martinez essentially infiltrated an early bodybuilding event, and got its contestants to pose for him as a “straight” photographer. They couldn’t know that his cropping and lighting would make them look like strangely artificial specimens, in a peculiar relationship with photographic art. Martinez’s shadows could almost come from Edward Weston, but instead of making the photos seem more abstract, they underline (almost literally) the images’ documentary strain. Of course, these photos also emphasize the artifice that lies behind documentation.
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