Cuneyt Akeroglu’s Red Room series is a polished exploration of love and sex through the lens of fashion. Akeroglu enlisted top models like Lara Stone, Anja Rubik, Natasha Polly, and many more to enact scenes meant to convey the many facets of love through nude portraiture. The photographs are each stunning in their own right. Nude women (except for one male model) with ideal figures set in front of a striking red backdrops with sometimes extremely suggestive props, like Natasha Polly’s red rose spilling white liquid – read semen – down her leg, or Lily McMenamy entangled in a snake.
I’m particularly drawn to the photo of Anja Rubik where she squats on top of a mirror looking down at herself with curiosity/rapture, and holds her breast while covering the portion of the mirror that would (presumably) reflect her vagina. Akeroglu captures a moment of discovery for Rubik’s character in the photo, as well as demonstrates the complexities of being able to reach out and touch someone or oneself, and the confusion and excitement that comes from the attempt.
The only problem I have with the series is Akeroglu’s approach to the male portrait. I acknowledge right off the bat that the precedent for the subjects of nude portraiture in both fashion and art history is predominantly female, and so it’s entirely expected that his subjects would be a majority of women. What I find strange is that every woman is on full display with her entire body in the frame, where the male model, Arthur Grosse, is taken only from the shoulders up, not even baring a nipple. It’s barely a nude portrait, and only addresses the themes of sex and love using tiny beads of sweat that could indicate physical activity of a sexual nature. Although I enjoy the subtle tones of the photo in contrast to the overt sexuality of some of the female portraits, I question the decision to include a male portrait where the subject is treated with such hesitation.