The thin line between fine art and explicit material has been tiptoed by adventurous artists for generations, but few contemporary photographers expose the alluring and complex nature of the naked female form quite as well as NYC-based Richard Kern. A former “girlie” magazine photographer, Kern has made a living as a professional portraitist for the past two decades, during which time his popularity has grown exponentially—in part thanks to the VICE video series “Shot by Kern.” Over the past seven years, with film crew in tow, the intimate series has led Kern around the world to photograph hundreds of real women in their most personal environments. While the series has aired, the photographs had never been released. However, today Taschen is releasing Kern’s 12th book—also entitled “Shot by Kern”—to present some 300 previously unseen portraits.
Up close and often extremely personal, the full-color images aim to capture these models—most of whom had never been professionally photographed before—in their truest state. This search for “realness” sees the girls doing any number of relatively mundane activities, from brushing their teeth to putting on make-up. By bringing the viewer behind the scenes, Kern’s talent for exposing the “taxonomies around sexual representation” really shines through.
“Shot by Kern” is available today from Taschen, where the hardcover sells for $40. You can also see more of Kern’s work on his website and in the video series on VICE.
Images by Graham Hiemstra