August 30, 2011

Antoine d'Agata - Agonies

Antoine d'Agata's vision of sex is certainly not the one I appreciate and some of the pictures above are to my eyes what I despise the most in sexual activity (prostitution, exploitation, self-destruction). But it's sure that he's one of the most important photographs of our times and that it's impossible not be moved deep inside our guts when seeing these pictures. Something of the strenght of a Francis Bacon in his work. The fact that he's himself very involved in what he shows is important, and allow these pictures to escape to suspicion of the visual exploitation of others' misery. I can't imagine a more despairing visual of the flesh but who am I to judge? A site here. Sorry, didn't find the pix in a larger format.


  1. The fact that D'Agata is very involved in his photos but then is able to jet set back to France to edit them means that he's very much into the exploitation racket. His descent into the horrors of sexual/drug activity are very much of his own volition. While not denying agency to the Cambodian girls he consorts, they certainly have not "chosen", in any meaningful sense or the word, the milieu the must dwell in.

    No matter what his tortured justifications (see his Vice interview he's in essence a self-absorbed sex tourist with a camera. Who makes beautiful/repulsive photos

  2. I partially agree. But only partially. When I wrote that it escaped "visual exploitation of others' misery" I meant compared to most of photographers bringing back these self-sufficient portraits from which they build pseudo-poetic or pseudo-politically correct denonciation imagery in which you can feel that they want to show how they are humanists and great persons. D'Agata's work is a state of the sexuality, of course in a given context (prostitution in it's most miserable aspect) but providing a larger scale semantic about the desire. And to be clear, I find more disgusting the countless mainstream erotic photographers imposing their fascist normative female body representation and creating million of women hating their body.

  3. I don't think the jet-setting is the issue here. He is very involved with his subjects - and cares for them, at least he think he does. The main issue is that at its core he remains a sex-tourist, who is so obsessed with Yabba, Cocaine and other such mind-altering drugs that he doesn't actually realise that he is actually re-inforcing prostitution as a trade - just as any other monger by contiuing to participate rather than using his images as a form of more focused activism. He is a junkie - from the drugs and the prostitutes and keeps falling back into their arms. He is incapable to see the truth of his actions anymore - talking about relationships with the prostitutes as if they were his fiance's. He thinks he takes care of his favorite prostitutes when he is in fact just using them and re-using them. He is in essence a sex-tourist with a camera - his images are of course better than others - as they are, simply, disgusting and reflect the dark side of what this is, and because they could be used against prostitution - but he doesn't actually does anything with them to help his subjects or to help mitigate prostitution in these countries. Shame on Magnum Photography for sponsoring his activities without channeling him and his photos properly. Magnum used to be about bringing news to people; it is not just about the photographs but what they are used for; they should not be treated as art, but need to be used as activism.