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The Bed as a Prop | 17.10.16

I was thinking about the sort of things one sees in photographs more commonly than other things.

Of course you see people, because anyway I believe the main purpose of the invention is to record ourselves, at times obsessively as the “selfie” revolution perhaps bears ample witness.

It occurred to me that beds are almost as commonly seen in photographs as say chairs if not more so.

Aside from the obvious erotic overtones of beds, I think it is also the fact that they offer a notion of comfort, intimacy, cosiness, possibly even friendliness.

These days since seeing other peoples’ photographs is an inescapable fact of daily life, what with Facebook and Instagram and god knows what else, I see even more evidence of this. People seem driven to take pictures of themselves and their loved ones in beds, on beds, beside beds and so on.

Anyway this set me to thinking. I had a look through my own folio and saw to my amazement how many of my shots, but especially for the woman series are somehow bed related. Some may say “Well DUH! obviously if you go and shoot a series about beauty and sexuality and so on where better to set it?” But I’m not so sure that is the only reason or explanation. At least not in the case of my work in this series.

I think it also has to do with the resources available to my set. Think about it; the set was designed from the start with economy of means in mind. It was planned from the outset to be shot in people’s own homes and in places where they felt most relaxed, as part of the device to help create images that would highlight and emphasise the sitter’s beauty and allure in, as much as possible natural ways.

But; and this strikes me as very important on so many levels; there is another factor that really explains this for me. I go to people’s homes the first time to photograph them mostly without having any idea what their places look like. Often they are small, or too crammed with furniture or simply not really the settings I was hoping for, for the styling of that individual. And being mostly improvisational in approach I have had to decide on the fly where to make my key shots. The bed then offers a very simple shorthand solution. The person, usually not used to being in front of the lens; add to that working with a virtual stranger, in rather intimate circumstances; will find it much easier to relax and let go when placed on their own bed. A bed and it’s beddings also offers the person something to play with or cover themselves when they begin to feel a little uncomfortable with being watched so intently. The way a photographer looks at a person is so intimate an act, that its only real equivalent is the way a new lover looks at us. We are on the whole not used to being studied so closely by people to whom we are not somehow attached in erotic or at any rate very intimate ways.

Taking that as being accurate then the only conclusion is that the bed functions for the photographer as a way of eliminating distracting and superfluous objects from the composition, while offering the sitter props that are at the same time familiar and significantly more comfortable than say the balcony railings. Also they offer the sitter something of a shield if they start to feel uncomfortable. They can always pull a sheet or blanket over themselves, or cover themselves partially with a pillow, or at least give them something to play with. The bed also allows the person to bring their more playful or seductive side to the fore. So it’s a kind of a win win situation all around. Add to that all the other things a bed implies, I think this is a good short explanation for the predominance of beds in photographs. And by the way I include sofa-beds in the same category, as it turns out lots of people use their sofas to sleep on at home.

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