Girls I Never Knew, by the Hungarian photographer Adrian Samson reminds me of Helmut Newton’s 1975 Private Property for several reasons. Mainly the collective reflection on the obsession’s of human vanity from female exhibitionism to male voyeurism. But also as an example of nude depictions of women that lack much of the overt sexuality you’d expect, due to their aggressive posturing. These women dominate the viewer even as they offer themselves. Like Newton, Samson’s work is tough, polished and disconcerting, but Samson’s women are pictured in bold color with harsh illumination and he some how achieves a delicate and difficult balance between flattery, caricature and intimacy.
It could be the decision to use the domestic setting that provides continuity for a relationship between photographer and subject; Samson invites the models into his home. But any semblance of soft porn is eclipsed by the strength of Samson’s portrait. These pictures are more about the sort of memories of a lover, snap shots of different women drift in front of the mind’s eye.. Maria was completely silly, Dianne smoked a lot, and Christine changed her hair. Samson entertains a moment, a playful environment and an intimate space generally reserved for lazy Sunday mornings, confident that the audience of your performance has eyes for you and you alone.
Yet it must be noted that these women are not professional models, but complete strangers responding to a classified add placed by the photographer, a method typified by Rankin in the late 1990s. His approach is leading us towards a far more liberated sexuality for women than any of Newton’s contrived and personal visions. The punctum in Samson’s pictures can be understood as the little hesitation of bearing all in the presence of a stranger and the magic in this collection of pictures can be read through the collision of individual reasons for “HER” making the decision to continue towards the shoot.