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Christo Viola’s photography packs a punch and Me Love Gin is no exception. The image playfully subverts our assumptions about the body, the subject and the gaze.
At first glance, the upside down portrait triggers our 'female' and 'fashion' senses, but on closer observation there’s stubble, a glimpse of underarm hair. You catch the gaze of the subject, staring directly back at you, challenging you to delve further. The longer you look, the more you can see that this body is not that of a woman, but of a man.
What makes this image so intriguing is the visual language Christo uses to play with our media-moulded preconceptions of sex and gender. Why do we approach the image as if staring at an undressed woman? The features of the photograph - like the orchids veiled across the subjects eyes - play into traditional visual culture but Christo subverts them all. The purple orchids represent an exoticism, royalty, respect and admiration, but the subject is also sexualised, his plump red lips and ivory teeth biting on a finger; this is a man that wants you to desire him. The orchids also nod back to ancient Greek and Roman ideas of virility, so Christo is perhaps referencing masculinity through this image, even though it is not a traditional image of a masculine man.
Christo’s photography challenges the assumptions of mainstream photography and their perversion of the body, particularly the female body. Her visual imagery descends from Michelangelo through Robert Mapplethorpe and in the same thought-provoking and devious way, Christo entices us into a safe and familiar place, but then takes it all away, leaving us in an uncomfortable moment where we meet our own desires and prejudice.
HN & DE