NEU SEX Hardcover – Mar 29 2011
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“The book is an intimate look at what it's like to be Sasha Grey.”
About the Author
Sasha Grey, born March 14, 1988, in Sacramento, California is an American actor, writer, photographer, adult film star, transgressive artist, and experimental musician. She moved to Los Angeles one month after she turned 18 to pursue a career as an adult film star. She entered the adult business to explore her sexual fantasies in a safe environment, to make more creative adult films (which she felt were severely lacking), and to encourage men and women to not be ashamed of their sexual desires. Since entering the adult industry in 2006, she has far surpassed the usual boundaries of adult film stardom, appearing in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, and speaking at the prestigious BFI in London, Brandeis University, Yale University, and UCLA.
Grey was chosen as “Penthouse Pet of The Month” for July 2007, which was photographed by the fashion photographer Terry Richardson. Grey made the 2008 Rolling Stone magazine “Hot List,” and the May 2009 edition featured a profile piece on her. In January 2010, Grey appeared nude in an ad campaign for PETA advocating animal birth control. She recently hosted two one-off shows for G4, and has been featured in many magazines, including Vice, Blackbook, Flaunt, VMan, Love, The Inrockuptibles, Elle, GQ Germany, Blurt, Filmmaker, Playboy, and Rolling Stone.
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The story that people like to tell themselves about the industry is that the actresses are unhappy girls without any skills to support themselves who do things they don't like in order to get attention and drugs. Actresses like Carrera and Starr seem to break the mold, inasmuch as they had other viable options that were clear to them. Is Grey, who Oscar-winning director Soderbergh describes as being not of the typical industry mold, another Carrera or Starr? Based on this book, not apparently. Grey much more conforms to the broken home/no skills story. The photos and essays in this book range from the uneducated mundane to the educated mundane, but they don't really have anything to tell us. There is not a budding artist or philosopher here. The gushing over Grey by reviewers and industry insiders has always been lost on me when confronted with the final product, and I feel the same about this book.
Is the book a behind-the-scenes look at the industry by an insider with a camera? No, not at all. They are a few shots of Grey on-set, but the majority are simply portraits of Grey. I was expecting photographs BY Grey that would show how she sees the world. Instead these are all photographs OF Grey, and so it makes me wonder how many were actually taken by her at all. The portraits range from uninteresting shots that could have been taken by any schmoe with a 35mm camera to art photos that have obviously been informed by viewing the work of professional photographers. Yes, some of the photos are good, but none of them are original and few go off script ("it's about Sasha").
As for the essays, they are also mixed but mundane. In style, they fit the short, expository, non-formal format favored in art show catalogues. In content, they seem to reveal someone of above-average intelligence who hasn't given much thought to the things she's writing about. Is it true that many people have trouble being honest about their feelings with those they love? Yes. Okay. So what?
In the end, I think this is mostly a book aimed at Grey's fans. You won't get much out of it otherwise.
I was browsing the photography section at my local bookstore when I found a copy of "Neü Sex." My understanding of the book is that it's meant to be porn star Marina Ann Hantzis' (or Sasha Grey's) foray into the world of photojournalism, chronicling the day-to-day life of a porn star. I was expecting a behind the scenes journey: photos of lighting crews, and camera men setting up shots, and actors preparing for their roles, that sort of thing. But be assured, this book is not a look into "the wild world [Ms. Hantzis] inhabits."
My immediate impression of the book was from the cover: a black and white portrait of Ms. Hantzis pointing a camera at a photographer. The image conjures up memories of every single self-portrait found on an angsty teenager's myspace or facebook account. Photos like these have been done to death by thirteen-year-olds and have become a cliché. You can imagine my horror when I opened the book and realized that every single photo was just like it. Every last photo in this book is a self portrait of Marina Ann Hantzis.
This book is not an example of photojournalism, it is a book of self-indulgent myspace photos. I cannot stress this point enough. Every time I turned a page in this book I felt like I was on the internet looking through some idiot's myspace profile. At one point I came across a photo of Ms. Hantzis in the shower with fake blood dripping from fake wounds and I nearly laughed aloud to myself. There is nothing "neü" about the "staged suicide photo in the bathtub/shower," which can be found on the profile of any angsty preteen trying their hardest to come across as a brooding and melancholy individual. Ms. Hantzis' desperate attempt to shock us comes across as trite and unintentionally hilarious.
While the cover may lead you to believe that Ms. Hantzis is the only photographer in this book, the fact is that some of the photos were taken by her fiancée Ian P. Cinnamon. Ms. Hantzis states that Mr. Cinnamon "understood [her] aesthetic," but to be honest it is very easy to distinguish which photos were taken by who, and it is apparent that only 5-10% of the photos within the book were taken by Ms. Hantzis herself. Take a look at the four sample photos provided by amazon.com. Two of these photos, which I'm assuming were taken by Mr. Cinnamon, show an elementary understanding of photo composition. They are the photo with Ms. Hantzis is eating a sandwich, and the photo where she wears a blue earring. These two photos demonstrate an understanding of the rule of thirds, Ms. Hantzis is balanced against the negative space, the photo with the out-of-focus background demonstrates utilization of depth of field, they also show a rudimentary understanding of framing. These portraits are good enough for a relative of Ms. Hantzis to display on their mantle, but by no means are these photos avant-garde or worthy of adorning your coffee table.
The photos taken by Ms. Hantzis, on the other hand, do not demonstrate such elementary knowledge. Ms. Hantzis' ham-fisted "aesthetic" is to point the camera at herself and shoot. There is no evidence of any sort of composition whatsoever. The photo where she has a lightning bolt on her head is partially overexposed because she used the flash. A Photography I student would have turned the flash off and increased the aperture size or slowed the shutter speed or here's an idea: used a Goddamn tripod! The photo with her makeup running stupidly disobeys the rule of thirds by centering herself in the image, an amateur mistake, evidence of dynamic lighting is nowhere to be found, the contrast is dull, and this photo is so utterly bland and so clearly not composed there isn't any reason to discuss it further. I can say with confidence that if it were not for the invention of auto-focus Ms. Hantzis wouldn't have been able to take a single photo of herself.
The book contains an occasional blurb every several pages where Ms. Hantzis uses college-grade words to express middle-school ideas. Example: she presents the fact that American society is sexually repressed as if it's her own discovery, and then she fails to offer any insightful knowledge to this well known fact. Tell us something we don't know. In addition to talking about sexuality, Ms. Hantzis also touches on her personal identity, inspirations, and little else. She constantly reminds us that we live in the age of information, name drops Sartre, Cindy Sherman, and Nan Goldin, and tells us what other people have said of their work but offers no personal opinions about them. These blurbs are carefully written to sound intelligent but are comprised mostly of air and have little substance to them (such as her assertion that superegos prevent everyone from admitting they're bisexual, and her brilliant deduction that not exploring one's sexual desires is bad). These ramblings are a tiny fraction of the book's content, but I was requested to comment on them.
Let's end this review. Don't buy "Neü Sex." Don't even bother to flip through it like I did. Marina Ann Hantzis is no photojournalist, nor is she a photographer. This book is nothing but self-portraits, and they are incompetent self-portraits at that. This book is an exercise in unoriginality, which demonstrates that Ms. Hantzis has all the creativity and artistic talent of your average myspace-using preteen. Anyone with even a minimal understanding of photography would know better than to purchase this book.
That being said, the book offers a candid and unfiltered look at an interesting woman.
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