Photographer Brings Curious Collection of Phallic Photos

The Chao Mae Tuptim temple in Bangkok is full of phalluses. They are vertical and horizontal, big and small, stone and wood and plastic.

The temple—a shrine to the Goddess Tuptim—is a forest of them. The statues are shockingly realistic, and yet, with diaphanous scarves tied around them by worshippers, curiously graceful.

The temple, hundreds of years old, today lies behind the Bang­kok Hilton Hotel, its lush green shade and collection of religious symbols a stark contrast to the modern city.

The temple is the subject of a new series of photographs by Phnom Penh artist Pierre Poretti, on display through April 29 at his Klick gallery, 65 St 178, in a preview to a show he will put on in New York. Poretti says the statues are a Chinese Buddhist tradition, considered lucky for fertility.

Poretti employs his signature technique in this series: Taking intimate, closely observed black-and-white photos, then delicately coloring in only a few parts, highlighting a central image or a focal point.

In some, he colors the phalluses bright pink and orange, making them stand out like fluorescent fruit against the static grays of the foliage behind them. In others, the statues are left untinted but the scarves tied around them are colored in delicate pastels.

The most striking photographs are those that include living beings, human and animal. In one, a young Thai woman holds incense sticks in her clasped hands, praying for fertility—juxtaposing masculine and feminine.

In another, a bright-pink phallus sticks out of the ground at a 45-degree angle like a rocket ship about to take off. In the foreground a demure brown-and-white cat is licking its paw.

 

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