I came across the work of John Stezaker in the latest issue of Ag Magazine. Photographer, writer and critic Gerry Badger writes a review of an exhibit of Stezaker’s work at the Whitechapel Gallery. Of the images that you see here (from the series “Mask”), Badger says “By sticking a postcard over a face, and obliterating the features, he might be saying something about popular culture, the way we fetishize both celebrities and so-called beauty spots.”
Whether or not Stezaker had this in mind when, scalpel and glue in hand, he created these collages, Badger has a point. We fetishize natural beauty spots and turn them into a product for our consumption – whether as romanticized image or as a pilgrimage destination for the faithful. The product is starting to become so valuable and so rare that, like a unique painting or crown jewel, it is now surrounded by fences and patrolled by guards with mere people only allowed in under strictly controlled circumstances – and after having bought their ticket.
Little or none of the “Nature” that we consume is ‘real’, ‘unspoilt’, ‘genuine’ or whatever else we choose to call it. Armies of scientists and technical specialists work every day to ‘conserve’ it and keep it beautiful and ‘natural’ in much the same way, suggest Stezaker’s images, as we have armies of plastic surgeons working to conserve celebrities’ faces and bodies.
Yet, Nature is a product that many of us still want to have and want to consume – in one form or another. The character, shape and form of that product has changed and will continue to change over time. We will adapt to those changes but, I suspect, we will continue to seek and enjoy that product and will continue to want it to be available.