About Putin: Man of the Year, Series I
Series I originated with my photograph of Time Magazine’s 'Man of the Year' issue, published in January, 2008, with Vladimir Putin on the cover. I enlarged this image and then made an ink jet print on matte vinyl. I mounted that on colored paper, then photographed the reflection. My examination of the Russian leader produced a number of interesting variations, perhaps the most striking: those that show what looks like a large penis attached to his neck. Insight into several aspects of my overall process can be found in answering the question: “How did it get there?” My finished images are a blend of accident and acquisition; I embark on a journey into the unknown and grab what I find interesting as I move along. The Ouija Effect is one way of explaining what happens. Yes, human fingers rest on the Ouija planchette as it writes its message; but the inventor of that process believed spirits from beyond the grave aided, or actually drove the pointer across the board, spelling out the message. The reflections I photograph are highly unpredictable and uncontrollable. But, at the same time, I am not walking around the reflection shooting randomly. I am looking to find a message. To start, I placed the print of Putin I had prepared in front of a manipulated mirror surface I had used for a previous series of photographs a few days earlier. I walked around the studio, photographing from different angles and levels. At first I found nothing intriguing. Going back over the series when I was done, I see there were hints of the penis in camera frame 4332. But I missed it at the time. His face was then a awkward jumble of features and the appendage looked more like an unarticulated and bloated pond leech. Without stopping, I moved to different shooting points, and took 56 additional shots, all of them unexceptional. I made adjustments to the back of the mirror, adding bits of tape here and there, and eventually drifted back to an area of the studio where, in the reflection, a dark, barbed erection suddenly emerged from Putin's neck. Only from this one particular angle and elevation, first recorded in frame 4389, did the elements come together. I ran off a long series of photographs of the phenomenon, daring not to move my camera more than a few centimeters, millimeters, up, down, left, right, capturing slight variations. At this unique shooting point Putin was easily recognizable in the reflection and seemed to wear a slightly bemused expression. Any movement away from that spot in the air and the penis disappeared and his face changed. As I recorded my discovery, I realized how serendipitous it was, considering this was a reflection of the “Man of the Year,” and came, in 2015, not long after his annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine. To those who might say I shaped the mirror to make a perfect penis appear, I reply: it is beyond my abilities; impossible; you try it. I had no idea what I was going to get. The cold, shark-like Man of the Year image was a promising place to start, but it certainly did not suggest a penis. But, yes, once the phallus appeared, I recorded it enthusiastically. And, upon examination, one can clearly see that the organ is not my creation: it is Putin's. The shaft was crafted (through the magic of reflection), from Vladimir’s own stubbly cheek, the corona and glans formed from his pink left ear. As this process requires, I shot as fast as fast I could. Knowing that once I stepped away, the perfect spot in the air would be hard to find again. And that if one of the dozens of pieces of tape holding the mirror in its particular shape should come undone, as often happens, my photograph would disappear forever.