An Imperfect Triangle
My work focuses on the intersections among intimacy, power, trust, and ecstasy. The bonds I examine in my photographs have in common a private, continuous communication, both between the subjects and between them and me, the camera eye inserting itself into their relationship. The current project features the Place des Cordes in Paris, where participants practice the traditional Japanese art of Shibari, or Kinbaku, known in the West as rope bondage. Intimate and erotic, Shibari establishes a relationship between the dominant rigger, trained to tie restraining knots without damage, and the submissive model.
Having been brought up in a strict Catholic environment, I developed an early interest in the connection among submission, suffering, and ecstasy -- literally, a standing outside oneself. And the notion of submission or bondage as a precursor to ecstasy isn't limited to western religion. The punk scene I explored in the 1970s featured bondage gear, chains, and safety pins as markers of subversion. Followers of Tibetan Buddhism, which I took up later, submit to elaborate rituals to achieve out-of-body experiences. As one tantra puts it, "By passion the world is bound, by passion too it is released".
My photographs of Shibari performance try to capture those moments when the tied subject seems to anticipate or experience a conversion to rapture. Trust and mutual respect are essential to the process, and constant communication sets the rhythm and pace of the performance. As the observer over many months, the one trying to understand Shibari's erotic and spiritual dimensions, I am implicated in this conversation; I bring my own history to bear on this search for the ecstatic.