Fort Myers photographer Doug Heslep shares many attributes with iconic figurative artist Ruth Bernhard including an overarching pursuit of classic perfectionism and a commitment to discretion.
“I strive for sensual, not sexual,” Heslep fiercely states. “My images always show respect.”
Heslep rankles at viewers who equate sexual with sensual. To Heslep, there’s a laser-bright line of demarcation.
It’s a lesson taught decades ago by one Norma Jean Mortensen. Like Cleopatra before her, Marilyn Monroe came to be regarded as the epitome of raw sexuality. But Marilyn Monroe’s carnal appeal lay not in her voluptuous curves, plunging cleavage or deep, breathy tones. It was rooted instead in her sensuality, that incongruous mix of vulnerability and schoolgirl innocence that unconsciously radiated from her deep need to be loved and psychological craving to be desired.
While it may have been innocence and vulnerability that lay at the root of Marilyn Monroe’s sensuality, the attribute or attributes at the core of each woman are different. It is Heslep’s rare ability to open himself to each muse’s unique sensibility that explains the introspective (When a Woman Knows, The Good Egg, Frenchie), reflective (The Struggle Within, Contemplation, Dark Dream, Afterglow), seductive (Seduction, My Neighbor’s Chair, The Embodiment of Desire) and playful (Like My Shoes, The Starting Line, Simply Divine) nature of Heslep’s figurative images.
As an artist, Heslep is simply not afraid to confront that ephemeral, amorphous dividing line between sensuality and sexuality either in his models or himself in order to uncover the traits necessary to convert his models from mere women into singular, sensual beings worthy of adoration for eternity on the Epson Cold Press Natural cotton rag paper he uses to print his finished work.
“The imagery has to say something,” Heslep flatly insists. “Each photograph has to speak.”
To cajole his imagery to speak another language, Heslep sees his artistry embracing mixed media in the not too distant future. Nothing as banal as simply using brushstrokes to highlight some aspect of a figurative image. “Montage work, collages, perhaps mixing letters and words into the imagery,” Heslep circumspectly teases.
He’s also planning a landscape series that contain embedded figures in tree trunks, rock formations and mountain faces. “Kind of like Where’s Waldo?” Heslep laughs, referring to the series of children’s books created by British illustrator Martin Handford that consist of detailed double-page spread illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location and which challenge readers to find a character named Waldo hidden in the group. Of course, Heslep’s figures won’t be attired in red-and-white striped shirts. In fact, they probably won’t be attired at all.
But whatever he does, you can be sure the final images will be uplifting, inspirational and celebratory in nature. That’s yet another trademark of a Doug Heslep fine art image.
For more information about Doug Heslep or his figurative or other fine art photography, please visit www.dougheslepfineart.com or telephone 239-878-2952.