18 January 10

The One and the Many

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Photo by Eric Francis.

Our current definitions of relationship models — monogamy and polyamory — make distinctions between whether a person supposedly has one partner or more than one. A model that I am developing suggests that every relationship is based on each partner’s inner relationship to self, and that this is the most significant factor to consider in how they relate to others. Further, all relationships with others are one-on-one relationships, no matter what their apparent style; and these one-on-one relationships, whether sexual or not, whether ‘monogamous’ or ‘polyamorous’, each exist as part of much wider and far-reaching social networks. Interpersonal relationships can support or hinder one’s relationship with oneself to varying degrees. Relationships are either supported by communities where they exist, or not; relationships support community, or not. Our prior dichotomy between relational styles, i.e., ‘monogamous versus polyamorous’, is neither descriptive nor useful at describing how real-life relationships work, since in effect, all relationships have important elements of both concepts. This presentation explores these real-life factors in our contacts with other, and how they relate to our wider social experiences.

8 December 09

Radical Self Forgiveness, Which is Affirmation

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Second Life, Photo by Eric Francis.

To Dr. Betty Dodson

BAD (and company!)

I speak in the spirit of radical-self forgiveness. Which is Affirmation.

We are doing the right thing.

You have opened a door. It remains wide open. The results as unfolded may arrive far in the future – that is how history tends. Yet the quantum field is faster now. We know that due to the quickening, effects can ripple easily outward; there may be a simultaneous effect in many who are on the scent of this energy. We are introducing a kind of counterscript to a problem that was slowly choking off creative energy and emotional flexibility: toxic selfjudgment.

There appears to be a direct way through: we help one another in front of the mirror; and then go there alone; and go with a friend. One benefit of sharing masturbation is that it makes it possible to have a much wider diversity of experiences with many more people — lots of us crave this but don’t know how to make it flow. Many of the usual issues with partnersex – the inconveniences as you call them – are dismissed and we get something akin to essential sexuality. That essence of contrivance, beauty, energy, pleasurepain, need, desire, shame, that we encounter in the mirror. All that guilt we bring to denial…shows up in front of the mirror.

We live in a time when there are legitimate, often serious concerns about partnersex. One meaningful one is that a lot of the smarter and more sexaffirming women are smart enough not to use hormone birth control. The obstacles and fears often become excuses to not explore, as does the emotional bondage issue. Expressed masturbation, witnessed masturbation, is a space where all of that is mitigated or evaporates and we can be free, within a new reality. It’s both a personal confrontation/exploration space – the mirror – or an open, highly energized field of phantasy or direct conversation. It is FUN, easy and has many fewer risks than we usually associate with sex. Rather than being a source of jealousy it’s a way to explore compersion. The really brave part is how close it brings us.

The potential is tossed wide open. It’s not really possible to fuck 111 people at once, but they can watch you make love to yourself and you get to relate sexually with all of them. So much of sex is wanting to be SEEN and ACKNOWLEDGED. A whole drama ensues, because it’s rare that we can really say this; narcissistic, etc. Witnessed masturbation offers this in such a beautifully clear form. I have to really trust someone to let go like that; or exercise my trust. I get to drink in the beauty of being trusted, when I am asked to be witness for someone.

When we get down to the deep emotional gratification of sex, it involves self-forgiveness; necessary to experience any pleasure at all. We can invest that directly into selfloving journey. The support and friendship of the Other is more honestly directed at one’s self-affirmation. This saves energy and keeps the emphasis on creative pleasure. When we can masturbate in front of a mirror with a loved one affirming our experience, that is, our existence, and express whatever might come up, that is radical and beautiful and the definition of healing.

I want to do a series of face-to-face and mirror masturbation videos offered to couples. Reveal some of the feelings; show how easy, and how much fun. fm/mm/ff. And solo m and f.


to be continued
—self compersion—consensual phantasy—astral embrace—empathy field

4 October 09

Book of Blue in Three Dimensions

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Aimee, Canada Day 2005. Photo by Eric Francis.

An exhibition of my photos is taking place at 268 Fair Street in Kingston, near John Street. The show is 28 photos hung on the walls of a real estate office. This is one of the first times I’m seeing my photos in the context of some life other than my own, and the first organized exhibit project.

We had to make our selections around what I’m calling the no areola rule. There could be no nudes that revealed the private parts. Sarah and I worked on the project for a while and then one day it dawned on me how this rule had twisted my thoughts to the point where I had let my creative process submit to puritanism.

We rearranged the front room and instead of some nature photos put the image of Laura (a vertical with lots of green, visible on the fine art prints page) and two from the Daily Mirror series there. That felt better; putting my most personal work in the threshold area, where one enters the building and the exhibit.

We organized the display in several sections, which are grouped by theme and which are framed in an area of the room. There’s a section on Paris, another on my current home Kingston, New York, a display from Burning Man 2009, and a display from the Grandmother Land.

In the most spacious area, there’s series of women in or near mirrors, and it’s my favorite space. Having gone through the process of creating a show with several themes, I am reminded where my heart is, and where I feel my pictures have their clearest voice. Witnessing a woman aware of herself offers me some deep comfort that I understand intuitively and embrace warmly.

I feel safer and more grounded when she dares to know herself. With these photos I want to express the pleasure of that, and share some of it with you.

10 July 09

Leah from the Galaxy

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Leah Orlikowski, who has seven planets in Sagittarius. Photo by Eric Francis; 28 Aquarius rising and a Scorpio Moon.

Today I worked with a musician named Leah Orlikowski. This is one of my dream jobs, such as doing album art. During the session, I was so grateful to be a photographer because I knew that it was giving me the rare opportunity to look at and take in how gorgeous she is for an extended phase oft time. To me this photo vibrates with Goddess.

Then I got to play music with her; as she played guitar and sang I acquainted myself with the rhythm a small Asian drum, one a little like a dumbek only lower in pitch.

Her voice reminds me of hot red wine, potent and mellow at the same time. When she sings, time slows down and people pause to listen. I saw a man gazing at her wistfully, sort of drifting toward her looking at her eyes, as if he had never seen someone beautiful quite in this way before.

When we finished taking photos I invited her up to my studio, did light edits on some pictures and made prints for her. She asked me to read her astrology chart. I will only say one thing about it: in talent and humanity, this woman is not a powerhouse; she is the river of night.

21 June 09

Cosmopolitan Playspace

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Sarah Trois at 59 Rivoli. Photo by Eric Francis.

I learned photography twice: once as a reporter, and a second time in Paris. My life in this city was about learning to eat its visual expression like food, and one way you can do that is with a camera. Think of it: looking at pictures days or years after they happen, you can eat the same chocolate mousse time after time and not gain an ounce.

Paris brought out the part of me that wants to see for its own sake. Plenty in this world wants to be seen for its own sake. I explored the dance of looking, and being observed observing. This teaches a kind of zen-like acceptance of the whole process. Once a cop made me erase a picture of him, but the police in Paris do make an interesting thing to observe in action. I started doing photos of news events for their visual appeal rather than their news value. Here is an example of that.

I also began working with models. Coming from street photography and spot news, it felt surprisingly natural to be setting up a person in a space, usually with a mirror, not entirely sure why I was doing it. The Parisian women I photographed were generous and gifted, and I also detected a touch of reverence for the photographic process, which was developed in 19th century France.

Traveling in the Netherlands and living in Belgium, I discovered that there is a reason Flemish painting looks the way it does, which is the light in that part of the world. Living in Brussels I was approved for a very nice press card, which gave me the opportunities to photograph proceedings and news conferences featuring various governmental celebrities.

But I spent most of my time in that window, photographing whoever was willing to stand there. Though many other apartments overlooked this one, no model ever hesitated to be naked in sunlight, in that spot.

After a decade of travel, living in several regions of the US, Canada, France, England, Germany and Belgium, I once again made home in the Hudson Valley of New York State. I live in an artsy, rough at the edges town called Kingston, which was once the state capital. My studio is located inside what was the original stockade built to protect Dutch settlers from the wild country all around.

25 April 09

The Blue Dress Conversations

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Alyssa in her blue dress with a neck tie. Photo by Eric Francis. The picture is shown here full frame, with the shadows brought up, so that the darker areas can be seen more clearly. It can be seen in its original context by exploring the links below.

Editor’s Note, summer solstice 2009

I was removing old articles from the site, and this one seemed like a keeper. This section is spread out in a number of parts, explained below. The main one is a thread on the Planet Waves discussion board about the nature of the photo you see above. I still don’t know what to make of the picture, except that it seems to have painted a thousand words.

I recently used a Book of Blue photo on Planet Waves that became a point of controversy, relating to an old feminist theme called the “male gaze.” The theory is related to the creation and perception of images by men, and it holds that men turn the world into pornography and women into sexual objects. The photo was in the context of a Planet Waves article on self-esteem, the introduction to which you will find among the links below.

I facilitated this conversation by posting a comment from a reader in the UK which said the picture was misogynist in nature – that it spread violence and hatred of women. The suggestion was that it did not do so overtly, but rather subliminally.

The conversation begins with an open forum, called What does this image say to you?

After reading about 65 comments from readers, I posted an essay about why the conversation mattered at all, titled The Male Gaze and the Sun in Taurus.

Eventually I posted a photo that includes the model’s face, in a post called The Devil in the Blue Dress.

Last, I posted a response from my photo colleague Kelly Cowan, who deconstructed the image. This essay is titled Looking at the Image.

The conversation is a testimony to how pictures, far from being inert, are active parts of consciousness with tremendous influence to provoke thought and response.

Blue News for Sunday, April 26

19 April 09

Blue News: Pike Plan Documentary

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We are currently working on a documentary involving the Pike Plan, the canopies that are being attached to these buildings. The project involves a mix of light studio work, architectural photography and documentary. This high-res rephoto of a newspaper image shows the Pike Plan being installed on the west side of Wall Street in approximately 1975.

A total renovation of the canopy is now being planned, and that is our occasion to be documenting it in its original condition, as well as other features of the Uptown area.

Thinking globally, acting locally, this is

Blue News for Sunday, April 19.

17 December 08

Book of Blue in the Daily Freeman

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Photo by Kim Maurer, courtesy of the Daily Freeman.

TODAY BOOK OF BLUE was featured in a “fresh faces in business” supplement in the Kingston Daily Freeman.

Here is what the Freeman said today, written by Kimberly Maurer:

“A New York City native, Eric Francis Coppolino now has set up shop in the Hudson Valley. Eric Francis writes for Chronogram, however, he discovered his true talent with fine art photography. Though his camera lens, Coppolino has captured provocative and captivating images from around the world. He has gained international recognition for delivering a fresh and positive twist of world thought and culture with his photographs. Eric Francis is a funny and knowledgeable yet humble human being. Take a glimpse into his gallery.”

A friendly introduction.

I would add: I am a photographer with a philosophy. My work is emotional, intimate, introspective and at times erotic. I believe that you can only photograph what you truly see, and since you can only see what you feel, I bring my feelings into the work. Soon I will have some lettering added to my storefront window. It will be the inscription – which I would send out dedicated to all photographers – attributed to Anias Nin: We don’t we things as they are. We see them as we are.

I love being photographed as much as I like to take pictures.

I started as a news writer/editor and thus photographer, and have spent a lot of time at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels photographing world leaders – as a hobby, because I happened to have the press access to allow that. I feel like I truly refined my craft doing street photography in Paris for a year, with many travels to London, Amsterdam, Toronto, Montreal and other cities in Europe and North America.

My true love is photographing women. Most Book of Blue pictures are taken into a mirror, a style I’ve developed photographing women in five different countries and in countless sessions over the past three years.

I regularly hire models, and by that I mean people who consider themselves ordinary people rather than fashion plates. You may be any age over 18 and any body type. The introductory interview/session gets us acquainted and from there, we can choose a project to work on. All sessions, including the test/interview, are well compensated.

I also do custom work as a professional portrait photographer. For example, if you would like a intimate portrait of your partner (male or female, or both of you), perhaps a little more risqué than you can do at the Wal-Mart studio, I am the person for the job. I am developing a line of fine art prints for sale, which will be available in July.

The Book of Blue website that you’re now visiting offers photos as well as a mix of fiction, personal essays and nonfiction. I write what I feel, and what is on my mind. As an art or literature project, Book of Blue is an experiment; I’ve designed it to be a playspace for the creation of ideas and images. I have a series in the works on the power of fantasy and how that relates to photography, and another on body image and its relationship to self-esteem.

You can find much more of my photography at PlanetWaves.net (scroll through the “prior covers,” a daily feature I share with my partner Danielle Voiron), and you may reach me at (845) 331-0355 (or by email at egg@bookofblue.com). Visitors and other inquiries are welcome. Bring your photos, or come and look at mine.

Eric Francis Coppolino