Sunday, May 6, 2012

Moulin Rouge by Robert Farber

Penthouse had a very different girl/girl pictorial in their March 1976 issue from the one it had had the previous month.  

The February pictorial by Stan Malinowski, My funny valentine, was the magazine's first bondage pictorial and couldn't have been more different to this softly romantic period piece.

For a start, it was their first ever girl/girl/girl set and was shot in dreamily soft-focus style which was the complete opposite of My Funny Valentine's harsh lighting.  

The pictorial was the work of top photographer Robert Farber in his only Penthouse shoot.  At this point in his career Farber was taking a very painterly approach to his photography which suited the French Impressionist period setting of this pictorial. 

Farber himself described his style "as if I were using the strokes of a brush to paint with light".

Farber had just started to work with two models in his nude photography; the result of a happy accident when two girls accidentally turned up for the same session.

This photo is less soft-focus than the others and, with its companion (second one from the top), gives an idea of the backstage at the Moulin Rouge environment they are supposed to be in.  It shows off the sort of wonderful set dressing which you don't see these days.

Some of Farber's shots demonstrate the sort of abstraction he would pursue later in his career.  In the eighties he moved from largely colour to largely black and white photography.

White Nude 1994

This picture done for Bloomingdales (above) in the early eighties demonstrates his ability to pose more than one model in an effective composition.

Whilst not as explicit as, say, Earl Miller's Mirror Image from December 1975 Farber's shots convey a soft, nuzzling sort of intimacy.  They are more akin to J.Frederick Smith's work than the usual cadre of Penthouse photographers in approach.

More interestingly, his models are very much women rather than girls

So, to the story behind the pictorial.  This time there was one but it was not as involved as some of those in the past.

Set, of course, in the theatre of the Moulin Rouge the pictorial purports to depict three dancers in the changing room backstage.  "The show is over for the night, but in the dressing room another is just beginning..."

"Costumes drop to the floor, hats roll away. lips brush against stiffening nipples and thighs part and cleave."  We're not quite sure about the concept of a thigh cleaving, unless they are envisaging one taut, dancer's upper leg pushing between those of another's.

Farber's compositional skills are very evident in this shot where that dark patch of pubic hair sits in the centre and yet your eye is led up by the fingers to the face on the left and finally that one, massive breast at the top right, being cupped by elegant fingers.  

This sensual picture was left out of the UK edition of the magazine.  Although the UK edition was showing some of the faux mastabatory pictures by this time they were still nervous about them in love sets.

Finally, it is revealed that the girls have had a secret voyeur all the time, in the diminutive shape of what the magazine describes as a "crazy, dwarf, painter" who, naturally offers to join in their games.  "Now shall we explore the possibilities of l'amour à trois and a half until dawn?"  So, yet again, the implication is that the women aren't really lesbians although their expressions in the final photo don't indicate that they are going to invite the chap to join in and they look more than capable of chucking him out on his ear!  Toulouse Lautrec (the implication being that it is he) was not, of course a dwarf.  He was 5'1" tall but he did have short legs caused, it is said, by having the genetic bone disorder pycnodysostosis.  

Robert Farber continues as a top photographer, particularly of the nude on which subject he gives lectures and runs masterclasses.  He also does advertising work, fashion and beauty as well as fine art work including still life and landscapes.  His landscape work, in particular, is very painterly. He has had seven books of his work published. In 1995 he was presented with the ASP International Award by the Prefessional Photographers of America and the American Society of Photographers.  This top award is for those who have made a significant contribution to the science and art of photography.

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