I made coffee on a lovely Sunday morning, sat myself down to look at this book of erotic photography, and write this article. Going back over my notes about the book, I saw that I so articulately wrote, “ass-in-your-face” which is indeed accurate about a lot of the photos.
Vixen Obscura – El Libro Malo is a collection of Ivana Ford’s “desires, vanities, obsessions, and demons” in the form of erotic photography. Ford challenges viewers to “understand and appreciate the intrinsic depth and directness of unadulterated images captured on film as opposed to digital.”
Ford features a range of women in her work—tatted women, redheads with ruby red lipstick, muscular women, pierced women, a pale woman captured in daylight with wild hair, women in bondage, feminine women, women of color, and one woman wearing briefs and a tie which I, um, particularly appreciated.
She chose a less conventional space for her photo shoots—Esperanza Studios in East Los Angeles—incorporating “sets and props comprised primarily of found objects that offer endless possibilities.”
A majority of the photographs are in color, but a few appear in black and white, emphasizing the light and shadows around the women’s curves. On Ford’s Tumblr, she has a quote by Japanese photographer, Daido Moriyama, regarding how he thinks color affects the level of a photograph’s erotic quality: “The reason why I think black and white photography is erotic is completely due to my body’s instinctive response. Monochrome has stronger elements of abstraction or symbolism. Colour is something more vulgar because the colour is making the decisions, it feels vulgar, and that seems to me to be the difference.”
Another issue Ford addresses is her point of view as the photographer of her models. She writes about a question she received from another writer: “. . . one of which was asking if I was worried that I would be viewed as objectifying women of color in my photography. Lol! I e-mailed her back and asked her if she had assumed that I was white. I’m guessing it’s ok to objectify them since I’m Afro-Latina. I’ve given myself permission.”
On the kind of direction she gives models while shooting, Ford says she approaches, “each shoot with spontaneity and as a collaboration with very little pre-planning. The images in the book reflect my mood at the time. Vixen Obscura is an invitation to join me in that place. There’s no telling how it will affect the viewer. Responses I’ve received have run the gamut from titillation to aversion.”
If the women aren’t entirely naked, they’re in sky-high stilettoes, fishnets, or corsets. As for some of the women, the hottest thing about them is the attitude you can see in their posture and their facial expressions. All of the photos are provocative, some of the photos have a classier feel, and others are straight up dirty—because they’re supposed to be. Ford uses light and shadow as well as the natural angles and curves of the women’s bodies to draw your eyes where she wants them.
Ultimately, Ford aspired to create a body of work with strong images that would intrigue and entice. “I like photographs that stay with you like a riff or melody from a song,” says Ford.”
Did I giggle like a 13-year-old when I looked at Ford’s photography? Um, maybe. But would you materialize your personal “desires, vanities, obsessions, and demons” and publish that work for friends, family, fans, and strangers to see? That’s pretty courageous of Ford.