It was so fantastical in a playfully morbid way that I thought... how can the rest of this book not be brilliant? I had no interest in the magazine, but did clip the article out, and actually would go and salivate over this $80 book. Should I buy it on faith?
Years later, I found it less than half priced - I think thirty - at a discount book store. It was in pretty shabby condition - the dust jacket, at least - but I snapped it up. I flipped through to the image, the one image, that had captivated me for so long. And then I read the rest of the book, only slightly disappointed that not very many of the images had the fantastical or sci-fi looks I'd hoped for.
So disappointed that I soon picked it up again, sure that I'd missed something. Of course, I had. I'd missed the playfulness that wasn't a take on death and rotting, or how alien one could look. I'd missed the tropes and sexuality and the way that Nars not only played with them, but did so with a sense of artistry - of composition and color - and how he twisted and teased at my expectations as an art lover and reader.
Sex, death, fairytales, and tropes that one encounters in every day life are all taken and spun on their heads. And the reason it's so easy to miss, especially the first time through? The images are so luscious and many present themselves as ordinary in contrast to the look of human-not-human of the cover of the image of Kembra Pfahler - the latter was the image that I had lusted after so long - that it's easy to pass them off as ordinary, and nothing special other than keen sense of color and composition.
They're worth a second look. A hundredth look. As shabby as this book was when I first got it, it's nothing to the ripped and torn air about it now. It's been read, and loved, quite heavily over the years I've had it. I've shown it off, I've hidden it away and pulled it out when I feel shitty, to cheer me up. While one image may be morbid, even that one is done with such a slyness, such a wink and tip of the hat, that it does manage to make me feel happier.
And the index is the back is brilliant: miniatures of the images, with name and occupation of the models in the back. Some are, in fact, models, others are singers, stylists, actors, and even one school child. It's easy to find out more about whomever you're looking for. Best index I've ever see in an art book.
I've hoped to see much more from Nars since my second read of this book. Sadly, he's focused all of his attention on his makeup and books about how to pretty yourself up. I mean, good for everyone else, and even sometimes me: I've bought some of his makeup after reading this book and it's brilliant. But I'd rather have another photography book from him to be honest.