"Most see my photographs as 'party' photos", says Dana Goldstein in the blurb that accompanies a sequence of images depicting the kind of model you'll often see posing for photos at parties. "But it's not about that at all: there are heavy metaphysical, theosophical, and occult undertones...." Right. Why can't they all be as straightforward as Richard Kern, who simply says of his black-and-white photographs of leather-bound beauties from the early stages of his career: "They still really look hot".
Every summer, Vice Magazine emerges from the armour of snark and sneer that it uses in battle against our cultural shibboleths, and publishes a photography edition. theprintspace (sic) on Kingsland Road is running an exhibition showcasing the best of this year's work. And if Goldstein's overblown concern about the title's perceived focus on heroine chic drug underculture is partly true — it is a fashion mag, after all — it's not true of this show.
Take Candid Reich, a series of found photographs with a barely believable provenance: a man named 'Rudolph', injured on the Eastern Front in 1939, wound up in hospital back in Germany with some rolls of film he'd shot. Instead of handing them over, he kept them in a cupboard, where sixty years later his grandson Nico handed them over to photographer Phillipe Gerlach. The result: a rare peek into a Nazi army whose simple, self-evident humanity is a seldom seen, even uncomfortable, aspect of German history.
Elsewhere it's the magazine's typical plunge into subcultural strata that offers the most engaging moments. Alex Sturrock spent time with an unlikely group of troubled Hackney kids learning to unicycle as a way of staying out of trouble, with the result a series of gloriously improbable vignettes of noctural joy. Other photographers subvert some of the magazine's usual concerns: Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, aiming to redress the balance of super-skinny women, takes domestic shots of various overweight men that he met on a dating website. And Angela Boatwright's "Nudes Sans Tattoos" offers just that — except the ink-stained flesh has been digitally scrubbed to leave eerily flawless skin. Are there "metaphysical, theosophical, and occult undertones" here? Perhaps, but then again, they're just a bunch of hot models. All's right in Viceland.
Vice Photo Exhibition 2009, at theprintspace, 74 Kingsland Road, until 26th August. Entry is free.