One must always be aware that photography is the result of an intervention by another party. It is impossible to distance the photograph from the intervention of the photographer’s intent. And the photographer’s intent is integrally bound in the mechanical functions that aid in the process such as framing, distance, lighting, speed or focus.
Ricki Hall sports a thick black beard and tattoo laden body that he makes sure are visible in every take. What the reality is, and this is the inevitable result of any form of fashion photography, is that he is by no means bucking a trend, he is not a non-conformist: he is a conformist. To be a successful fashion model, the goal is always to appear original.
The brilliant photographer Diane Arbus was famous for her photographs of Fellini-like freaks. Arbus started out as a fashion photographer. It was in this milieu that she was inspired to switch subjects, for Arbus realized the biggest freak show on earth was the fashion industry. It was her contention that fashion is the fabricator of the cosmetic lie that masks the inequalities of birth, class and physical appearance. Hall is a composite of all of this inequality.
One theme that runs through the bulk of the photos is that of having one eye covered, either by his hand but usually by his hair. It is as if the attempt is to say: “You can never really know me. I am a mystery.”
One photograph that personifies Ricki Hall and his publicist is taken of him leaning against his bathroom sink with his torso naked. He is looking at the camera, his hair covering his left eye. Behind him is a an oversized photo of Muhammad Ali in the ring, facing the camera. Hall is leaning like a fighter against the ropes – also so we can see Ali. The intention is to connote that Hall, like Ali, is fighting against a norm.
The greatest maxim in art is: show, don’t tell. By showing too much, Hall tells nothing as opposed to what Just The Design must think.