Striking Poses: The Photographs of Robert Heinecken

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”I don’t really think of myself as a photographer in the classic sense,” said Robert Heinecken. The artist, who got his start in the LA art scene of the 1960s, described himself as a “paraphotographer.” The Lessons in Posing Subjects series made in 1981-82 is Robert Heinecken’s incisive examination of implied meanings in contemporary visual culture. Heinecken mined images from commercial advertisements, pornography, and other mass-produced print sources, and then photographed the found images of men, women, and children with Polaroid SX-70 film. He wrote his own sophisticated, tongue-in-cheek text that accompanies each of the 41 plates of Lessons in Posing Subjects. Click ahead to see more.

7 October | New York

Striking Poses: The Photographs of Robert Heinecken

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    "The ability of the subject to maintain a given connotative facial expression for lengthy periods of time (even through changes of apparel, hair style and locale) is important."

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    "When posing young male and female subjects together it is advisable to arrange the material in such a way as to create a sense of narration and of time passing. This forces an audience to fantasize about the relationship between the subjects."  

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    "Two different female subjects are depicted in these five examples. Note that through careful selection of subject and skillful use of makeup techniques, the facial characteristics of both subjects are made to look nearly identical."

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    "Combining the subject with a bed is a rather complex pose. The prevailing mores of the culture require certain applications."

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    "When posing subjects in a pseudo French maid’s uniform it is important to position the subject in front of a mirror in order to suggest what has become known as the “Versailles Effect”. Also it is advantageous to have the subject pout the lips as if she is pronouncing the word “ooh” in ooh la la."

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    "Correctly realized, the arms folded in front of the upper torso can be very effective in communicating a sense of contemplative well being."

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    "In these five examples, which of the subject’s facial expressions fail to replicate the other four in an acceptable manner?  Do not allow “head cant” to confuse your decision."

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    "This classic pose involves positioning one hand in proximity to the head and projecting a sober facial expression."

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    "Because these undergarments are white cotton casual as opposed to a more sensual fabric, the subject may be instructed to actually bare the midriff by grasping the hem of the tank top with the hand or hands."

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    "Standard Pose #12 is clearly violated by these 9 subjects who demonstrate what occurs when one hand is removed from the hips and positioned elsewhere on parts of the body, thus conoting [sic] divergent meanings."

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    This complete set of Lessons in Posing Subjects comes from the collection of Thom Schaar, an avid art and design collector from the Netherlands.  After meeting in Los Angeles in 1991, Heinecken and Schaar became friends, visiting with one another’s families, and continuing an extended written correspondence. This photograph of Heinecken and Schaar was taken by Heinecken’s wife, Joyce Neimanas.


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