Photographs by Steven Klein.
JMc & GHB Editions, 2010. 60 pp., 60 black & white illustrations, 15x10½".
"JMc & GHB editions is pleased to announce its latest publication Stag Film, by photographer Steven Klein. This is Klein’s second photographic artist book, following his 2003 collaboration with Madonna, X-STaTIC PRO-CeSS,. In Stag Film Klein reproduces and sequences 60 black-and-white images culled from a larger photographic series on horse studding produced by the photographer. The process of horse studding has fascinated Klein, a well known horse enthusiast and competitor, and in Stag Film he trains his camera on the horse breeding routine involved in collecting a stallion’s semen for implanting in mares. Quite literally, a stallion is led into the paddock and introduced to a dummy, or “phantom” mare. Using a combination of artificial inducements the stallion is drawn to mount and penetrates the dummy, into which its semen is projected. The act completed, the stallion descends and is led away. Although Klein’s photographic series is, at first blush, purely documentary, the artist Klein is never a mere literalist—and therefore, Stag Film continues his artistic investigation into form, shape, body movement and pose. Like his earlier bodies of work, his enduring subject in Stag Film is how we harness, form and reform a body’s natural shape for theatrical and often erotic effect.
With Stag Film, Klein expands the visual frontiers of traditional horse portraiture by blending an appreciation of the stallion’s beauty with an awareness of the provocative physicality of the breeding act. The result is a photographic realism that is bound to the facts of the process of horse studding but is not tethered to its reality. Klein’s book does not merely show what is involved in studding a horse. Instead, the process is transmuted into a visual poetry that speaks to the sheer power and energy of the animal, its beauty, and raises questions about what should and shouldn’t be made visible in photographic portraiture. In effect, Stag Film takes us into a visual world that occurs behind the scenes, beyond the usual camera’s angle, and shows us the pleasure and terror of the sublime in the form of a majestic animal nature harnessed by humans for the sake of procreation. And Klein’s camera doesn’t shy away or blush from the process: rather, it stands as a very forceful witness to the elegance of the act, the relationship between the stallion and dummy, and the poetry of the dynamic that unfolds throughout the carefully edited and sequenced images.
With echoes of Muybridge’s studies of animal locomotion and Hans Bellmer’s surreal postcards to the beauty of trained and transmuted bodies , Stag Film is a work of elegant and austere visual poetry. Klein designed every element of the book, creating a folio sized digest of printed images hidden within a fragile, hand assembled paper box. The box has a cut out window on its cover to reveal the head of the phantom mare, which, shown in the close-up cropping, takes on an air of mystery and beauty. The very form echoes the illicit and erotic portfolios of images found in the basement studios of amateur photographers from the fifties and the subterranean places where pin up models like Betty Page were photographed and stag films clandestinely viewed.
About the Limited Editions
Stag Film is issued in an edition of 2000 copies and a limited, signed edition of 100 copies. The limited edition comes with an original, framed black & white photograph, signed by Klein. The frame is a traditional portrait frame procurable at your local department store. With it, collectors can add Klein’s horse to their extended family album. "- the publisher
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