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Nearly Naked

Margareth Kluka, the model Becky Singleton photographs in her series of twenty ‘How to’ Photographs might be described by some as “unphotogenic.” She is a “full figured” woman of generous proportions, near middle age, and in these photographs, nearly naked. Nonetheless, she is as compelling as the young and more conventionally attractive Janeita Eyre. Singleton presents a series of frontal photographs of Kluka demonstrating such “How To” subjects as, “How to pet a Chihuahua,” “How to wear rubber gloves,” How to wear a party hat.” etc. In most of the images Kluka is naked to the waist wearing a pair of Dr. Denton’s style cotton panties, and open toed shoes with straps. Sometimes she wears a transparent plastic raincoat, which in one image appears to have ripped, perhaps in the effort to button it up around her. The selenium toned silver prints are composed uniformly with the figure in the middle against a medium gray background on a wood floor. Except when bending down to pet a Chihuahua, the model stares straight ahead. Close inspection reveals a slight smile and a twinkle in her eye. “Go ahead and look at me,” she seems to say. Dare we look? We’re not used to seeing women in this “natural” a state. But Singleton invites us to look, and to consider, both the woman and the absurd “How To” information she demonstrates, revealing something deeply humorous about these absolutely serious photographs. She may be demonstrating the correct way to pet a small dog (large breasts discreetly held aside) but surely this is unseemly attire for that purpose. We want to laugh out loud, yet restrain ourselves in the presence of the two women, the photographer and the model, who clearly mean business. We are meant to be instructed, but I suspect it has nothing to do with the petting of Chihuahuas or the wearing of party hats. Instead, Singleton’s message has more to do with confronting deep seated notions about proper behavior, femininity, and social conditioning. 

 

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