by john brian king
“Both a grotesque imposition and an ugly seduction” – Flavorwire
The photographs of Nude Reagan are discordant and grotesque, portraying changing bodies beneath the endless repetition of one mask.
For John Brian King’s most recent series, he photographed twenty-three nude models with a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera in an empty Palm Springs office. Each model wore the same Ronald Reagan mask, striking any pose she liked.
Deliberately unsettling, these photographs depict Reagan as a demon and specter haunting the modern world. Evoking the dead conservative president, the models wear the hideous dark-eyed mask – anemic and wrinkled – and morph into unerotic, freakish wraiths. The colors of the photographs accentuate these figures’ eerie qualities: the camera’s unstable flash turns the bland office backdrop alternately into a mold green, a muddy gray, a brilliant white, or a dense, all-encompassing black setting. The women’s shadows are sometimes starkly present, and at other times disappear.
The photographer was influenced by such disparate sources as Conrad Veidt’s grim grin in The Man Who Laughs; Reagan’s own frozen, Brylcreem-lathered satanic countenance; artist Maurizio Cattelan’s sardonic approach to politics in art; and Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s Southern Gothic photographs of masked children.
John Brian King is a Los Angeles native who graduated with a degree in photography from the California Institute of the Arts. He designed the film titles for over thirty films, including Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love and The Ring. He wrote and directed the feature film Redlands, an examination of creativity and horror in relation to photography. His book LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980-84 (Spurl Editions, 2015) was featured in the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Impose Magazine, L’Œil de la Photographie, Yet Magazine, It’s Nice That, AnOther Magazine, and more.