Roy Stuarts New Glimpse # 2
By Sophie DuChien
American photographer Roy Stuart has carved out a most interesting niche for himself in Paris, creating elaborate erotic scenes for his two excellent books for the German publisher Taschen and the American magazine Leg Show.
In addition, Stuart captures these photoshoots on videotape for a series he calls New Glimpse. At $120 each these tapes are not cheap. But weighing in at 2.5 hours each, they are something special, marathon-length demonstrations that Stuart is a true master of the masturbatory male vignette. He has the talent and vision to take all the familiar elements and make them original and arousing.
So far Ive seen two of Stuarts videos, and they radiate a delicious decadence rarely seen in what passes for erotic video on these shores. In one of New Glimpse #2s hottest segments a dominating young woman toys with two men who show up at her door, getting them to strip and play with themselves for her amusement. In another an older man and a young man begin making love and when clothes come off, the younger he is revealed to be a she. In a third, a group of women on one side of a wall, suck and tug on the erections men have pushed through holes in the other side of a wall.
In other words, many of Stuarts elaborately staged segments tell rudimentary stories scenarios in which one brings as much to the action from ones psyche as does Stuart. Other segments are less developed, plot-wise and with fewer special effects. Either way, though, Glimpse is a well-chosen title word for Stuarts videos. They seem very much like peeking in on unexpected erotic scenes. In many segments the voyeurism is intensified by the obvious presence of Stuarts crews. Sometimes these people create odd juxtapositions: intense moments of erotic intoxication interrupted by a nonchalant crew member passing through the scene.
For me, New Glimpse #2 works because it takes one to unexpected places and looks at the old subject of sex from a different angle.
In her review of New Glimpse # 1 (LIBIDO, Fall 1999) my colleague Sharon Peters tried to summarize Stuarts visual style by calling him an amateur with a good digital camera.
In a letter of response Stuart took exception to the characterization, saying that his visions involve usually...a large crew and a lot of technical considerations, a fair amount of production value, preparation, time, etc. and its really oversimplification to say that its all by a guy with a good digital camera. While recognizing why Stuart thinks he got short shrift, I also think I know now exactly what Sharon meant: Stuart is an amateur in the French sense i.e. a lover who approaches his subject in a way that seems a polar opposite to the cold professionalism of the American adult industry, and captures visions with a high degree of technical competence.
Certainly Stuart is right in suggesting that his work looks like nobody elses. His style is as identifiable as say Andrew Blakes at the top end of commercial porn. Stuart is equally stylish, but far earthier. I would add that from my point of view Stuarts vision is interesting as well because it is so powerfully male. His fantasies are all about naughty things washed in a heavy testosterone bath. Indeed many of the glimpses are of panties young women in short skirts sitting in unguarded fashion, young women having their short skirts blown up by blasts of air, young women pulling their panties aside to pee on the streets or floor.
In good conscience I have to say that there are also some elements in New Glimpse #2 that I find to be anti-erotic turn-offs for instance the mercifully brief but rude and apparently needlessly rough exploration of a bound womans tender parts. Sometimes, too, the strain of performance is clear on the faces of Stuarts subjects who seem to be devoting more energy to holding positions for still photos than to exploring sexy feelings. I am reminded at these moments that elaborate, structured efforts to capture intimacy are just as affected by the uncertainty principle as the behaviors of sub-atomic particles when one tries to look at them.
But for every negative button Stuart pushes in me, there are ample other reactions wherein I find myself completely tuned in to scenes that seem genuinely, erotically authentic. Im thinking, for example, of the scene in which a young woman asks how to use a vibrator, and when it is applied to her, has a very convincing spasm. So, too, was I riveted by the apparent unselfconsciousness of the woman who gets her male partner off with her feet.
For true connoisseurs of erotic video, Roy Stuarts work is a must.