Pissing isnt easy for a woman. No easy thing for the photographer snapping her either. How to frame it? Claude Fauville keeps his rame tight... dry in the face of the humid.
Claude Fauville is not a urinary documentarist. He is a poet/observer. He offers his models that moment when they may let themselves go in a femininity both unorthodox, and, before he came along, undisplayed.
He opens us o the representation of a forbidden water that for him flows from the source.
Press comments and reviews
Impressive black-and-white photos devoted to an extraordinary theme. (SELEN, Italy)
Never before have urinating women been so artfully photographed. Never before have such artful photos been published in such a gorgeous book. (WET SET, Australia)
In this book, Claude Fauville has succeeded in evading every sort of embarrassment. His photos reveal the beauty of a natural process. The special look of a cascade of urine transforms a mundane emission into an epiphany, a self-confident act of opening oneself, of pouring oneself forth
. (SCHLAGZEILEN, Germany)
Connoisseurs of wet eroticism will surely savor this lavishly illustrated volume. (TWILIGHT, Germany)
Foreword of this book
The sexual organs portrayed are dry...
almost invariably dry.
Smooth skins and sheets
That is, when they are shown at all. For ever so long they were concealed by comely and providential sheets, the body's movements were modest, "verso" rather than "recto", with foliage most seasonable, solicitous hands, and the perennial and very kosher fig leaf. Adam and Eve left paradise as naked as worms. Yet, from the beginning of time, the "origin of the world" remains in the shadows, unfit to be seen. When timidly one dared lift the veil and remove the draperies, women's bodies were shown to be white, and as smooth as one of those celluloid dolls that used to be given to children not so long ago, called "bathing baby". They had hardly any vulva and, above all, no hair. Body hair... that was the new enemy of pictorial propriety in a prudish 19th century. In the face of the Victorian conventions that straight-jacketed the painters - and thank you Mr Courbet for having defied these so outrageously - the photographers, champions of a new art form, quickly took every licence. To academic smoothness, they responded with a veristic approach to the body. Between 1850-70, many artists - and by no means the least of them, since they included Nadar, Marey, Olivier, etc. - worked with models, showing their nudes not idealised and fully waxed, but with their "native ornament of hair."
The Story of "O" and a Story of "Eau"
If, since those heroic times, all that is just so much water under the bridge of the permissible and the forbidden, those waters remain by definition symbolic or abstract. And yet the "female" is associated with this element in all mythologies. Aphrodite and Venus spring from the waves. Life itself emerges from amniotic fluid. And water is an image associated with female sensuality. How many representations has one seen of "The Well", where a beautiful individual, more or less unclad, lets flow her long hair, together with the limpid waters contained in a negligently tilted pitcher. Not to mention the water bearers and Naids and Ondines and mermaids... in short, the myriad languorous bathers who romp in the waves for the obviously exclusive pleasure of art lovers and aesthetes! But one liquid can rule out another, and as long as the waters are fresh, the billows marine and the fluids pure, honnis soit qui mal y pense! Claude Fauville's "Pisseuses" are a blunt departure from these allegorical and genteel tides.
Everyone knows that the pissoir is for men. The virile member accommodates the gaze; and the upright posture - the only dignified one - favours the noble trajectory, the almost ballistic pee. Secrecy and intimacy have nothing to do with this quintessential relief. It can be transformed into a game, a contest, a friendly sparring match, with the victor being the one who can piddle the highest, the farthest, the strongest. The seasoned pisser, with the well-defined urinary arch, is a man... a real one. And this innocuous pleasure, a measure of health and character, would be embodied in Brussels in the "Manneken pis", that gently ribald effigy of a life style where gourmandise and bawdiness keep good company.
Women, on the other hand, must drop their drawers, crouch, shut themselves away in the solitude of the water closet, hide behind a bush... pass water in discomfort and vulnerability. Any intrusion brings embarrassment and confusion. Those waters are classified as dirty or secret. They flow for nobody. And if a sexual partner solicits them, the request is perverse, and its accomplishment a perversion... a hidden pleasure in the shadows of love's unspoken gestures... without pictures and without report. Or so it would seem.
A tinkle and a taste
It all starts one day when a spot of light clings "there". The photographer's gaze is quick to transform it into a liquid element, and the imagination runs riot. Why not speak of this confusion, this fantastical substitution, with one's lovely friends who come to the studio and play at being models, posing nude. An allusion, a chat, a connivance. And... a spark in the eye, as potent as the subject. Conventional reticence impels those willing to play the game to adopt a mindset... a sort of "entrer en pissoti¶re". And here Claude Fauville captures something unseen: a need to transgress, to share a dark pleasure on the playground, a desire to bring the "business" out in the open, the generosity of offering this hot pleasure, this watery caress so commodiously situated. Everything is possible, and, most certainly, there is the deeper provocation of seeing that place filled with itself, in a selfsufficiency of relief, a wetness where "the other" is an outsider.
The set-up is simple. A photographer's studio encumbered with professional paraphernalia. Placed to the near... for the studio space is shallow... a modest platform, a step with linoleum, and a dark cloth as the backdrop of the non-dÚcor for the light to bounce off of, a sofa, either present or absent, and two simply-fashioned wooden plinths. No visible props, because Claude Fauville's staging is in no way anecdotal. It frames its most urgent business, there where it happens. There are no urinary theatrics, no posing, no tableaux vivants. There is nothing pretty, no story; simply a sexual organ and a spurt. Hence the "take it or leave it" brutality of what he shows. He provides no socially acceptable loopholes, no relay point where the observer who wants to see without seeing can find support.
The frame and the light
Claude Fauville's work is defined by this form of the inadmissible, women's urine. And everything hangs on this... this meeting of essence and form, that perfect ocus of a gaze that comes to terms with the rawness of gesture. In this sexual representation that tends to rule out the pornographic gaze, one may be reminded of Mappelthorpe: that is, a way of portraying the object of desire, where what is desired is as free and the one who desires it. This equality eliminates the subject/object relationship, the link of mercantile servitude, the paying gaze on a paid-for sex object. It is then a purely visual dialogue, a representation of complicity where there is no predator. The spectator is invited to enter a field of desire where he fantasises from one subject to another; where what is shown to him is an image already filled with a desire... as opposed to pornography, which is an empty image. Claude Fauville makes pictures full of his models' connivance. And full of his own gaze. The spectator is not a voyeur. He has to enter the dance. The ballroom doors have simply been left open.
Pissing isn't easy for a woman. No easy thing for the photographer snapping her either. How to frame it? And there's that spurt. This leaves Claude Fauville completely free. He is free to fragmentize. He has total control over this fragmentisation of the action. "This is essential if you don't want to revert to representation," wrote Bresson. It's the part for the whole. But where is the showable part? Claude Fauville keeps his frame tight... dry in the face of the humid.
Each photo poses a question: what is an image? There, Claude Fauville plays the admissible against the inadmissible. What are we supposed to see? There are the outright macroscopic shots where, out of the genital froth, there emanates a squirt. There are the magnificent presentations of bodies in positions of classical statuary, where the spurt of urine is only an added value that suddenly renders the body alive... as if Apollo suddenly ejaculated. There are these open genitals, these pendulous lower lips, immense, open in their desire for water. About these bodies of which we see only the font, he says nothing. The nothing for the all. The expressive silence of the photograph.
Sometimes he works like a filmmaker and each photo is a photogram, the tracking shot approaching the ultimate scene of the fiction, of the micturition; the one where the story stops, where the spectator is invited to continue the fantastical tale. But print by print, shot by shot, Claude Fauville brings us ever nearer to the scene of his emotion, the place where he saw and where all was given him.
To achieve this mastery of an image, there where his work quite simply fixes the living thing - the water that gushes forth and is alive - requires that prodigious attention to detail known to all photographers. That seizing of the instant among instants. The magic second that will be re-framed, magnified, and reworked in the dark room. Claude Fauville is not a urinary "documentarist". He is an poet/observer. He offers his models that moment when they may let themselves go in a femininity both unorthodox, and, before he came along, undisplayed. He opens us to the representation of a forbidden water that for him flows from the source.