For Blake Little’s latest work, “Preservation,” Little executes a simple premise and a singular technique in which his mostly unclothed subjects are covered in gallons of honey while being photographed in the studio. It’s unwieldy, and evidence of that carries through into the pictures, in the faces and bodies of the models and in the dramatic configurations of the honey itself — all serving to highlight this unique creative process further. Though the most profoundly transformative magic of Preservation resides in the book’s finished portfolio of images, it is still impossible for the viewer to avoid an empathetic moment deconstructing how it was done at every turn.
Honey. It is one of the most evocative words we have. It’s a food, a scent, and a term of endearment. Its production is one of the most magical of nature’s processes. It’s a metaphor and a symbol, a color, a sweetness, and a frequent element in homemade cures. One thing it typically is not, however, is a raw material of visual art, like paint or clay. But in fact its irresistible physicality is heavy, dense, sticky, and fluid; and its seductive aesthetic properties of luminosity, transparence, refraction, and motion make for compelling sculptural and photographic optics — especially when it comes into contact with the human body.
Little worked with Craig’s List actors. His ad just said “art project” and no further details were given until they arrived. He says 80% of the people stayed once they heard the plan. Over the course of 15 ten-hour days between 2012 and 2014, he saw dozens of people and thwarted a swarm of rogue robber bees. The little baby named Riot, the exuberant tattooed couple, the obese lady, the dog, the elderly, the young and innocent, the nubile and statuesque — the goal, well met, was to depict as wide a range of humanity as possible. “I wanted interesting, unique people, not just pretty people,” says Little. Plus as a practical matter he needed exaggerated features that could stand up to the honey itself, sculpturally.