I had only a passing interest in Natacha Merritt’s work until I met her. Mr. Tungsten and I were on the verge of doing a scene in the medical room at Bordello. I found him chatting with a man and a woman. She was asking about the the array of instruments that had been laid out on a towel, seemingly the ingenue, although once I got my hands on a copy of Digital Diaries it appeared that she wasn’t nearly as innocent as she’d seemed. In fact, she was the exact opposite.
I wonder if it’s Ms. Merritt’s M.O to let the people she might want to fuck reveal themselves. Did my dragging a pair of forceps around her décolletage or my impatient air of “okay, enough wordplay, let’s get this scene going” pique her interest at all?
I remember leafing through this (heh) seminal work at The Pleasure Chest in the early aughts and being caught up by the unaffected, free-form nature of Merritt’s work. Digitial Diaries wasn’t shot like porn. Or, well, it kind of was. There were plenty of naked people and yet the angles and the way she filled the frames was unexpected; the models weren’t posed. It was clear that the shoot was going on during the action.
The book also wasn’t lit like porn, although it also kind of was — the amateur kind. There was no color correction for incandescent lights and the little blurs that came with slow shutter speeds were either ignored or specifically selected for the final volume. Yet the whole thing somehow came off as being much more artistic than just people taking snapshots in hotels and rented dungeons.
Perhaps the biggest surprise about Digital Diaries, however, was that the intention behind it didn’t seem like that of porn — a mass-marketed product calculated to arouse. Diaries was about self-discovery. If you were aroused by looking at it, fine, but that part seemed incidental.
I didn’t know what to make of it.
Serious consideration went into dropping the thirty bucks or whatever they were asking for it back then. The book was so very different from anything I’d ever seen and the format was bizarre, mainly landscape photos arranged vertically. You had to turn the book 90 degrees to even make sense of it. In the end I didn’t buy, mainly because I was poor and because it didn’t hit my kinks as hard as an anthology by Circlet Press or a graphic novel by Manara.
Yet it was certainly memorable.
Merritt’s sophomore book is called Sexual Selection. I haven’t seen any of its contents aside from what is floating around on the web, but its clear that this is a more polished, more intentional, and much more intellectual work. It appears Natacha has a biology degree. If that makes the horny part of your mind go “sproing” then join me in this quest to uncover what this newest work has to say. Skin Two has a gallery, and Wonderland magazine has an interview plus a few more thumbnails. However, as Justin Fox of Zen Garage had to say in his own discussion with the artist, looking at images of Natacha’s work online is far and away a different experience than holding one of her books in your hands.
Plus the new book seems to involve a whole lot of biological specimens contrasted with attractive examples of the genus Homo. Yum.
All images by Natacha Merritt.