Maiden Voyages: June 2022

Yes, everybody; we are still here. This is a crucial stage in the site and organization where we must strategize how to survive in this environment.

“Protected” Images: I feel it was a sensible decision but it does pain me a bit that it has become necessary to protect certain image from prying eyes and those they report to not competent to make informed and rational decisions about the content we cover. No use crying over spilt milk. As an emergency measure, we had to change the status of most posts to private which mean non-registered readers will not see those posts. Now that we found a way to protect individual images, I am working back in time and making each post public again as I evaluate each image. It is important that the posts themselves are public so that those researching specific artists or themes can find the contributions of this site. As of this writing, I have released posts going back through 2017. All posts should be readily available in the next few days.

Registered Readers: I am pleased to announce that there is robust interest in full access to this site. Requests have been trickling in and over 100 users have now been registered. The good news is that a handful of materials that artists wanted to keep under wraps due to unwanted public scrutiny can now be made available to a limited number of viewers.

Pigtails Volunteer Recruitment Drive: The biggest problem with keeping this site going is the efforts of our supporters. In the early days, I had time to nurture the contributions of others but I have had much less time of late. In the coming month, I will be putting together a list of supporting positions that would help in the smooth operation of this site.

Agapeta‘s Domain Issues: I am pleased to report that the domain transfer codes to Agapeta have finally been released. In the mean time, a new domain had to be used and still functions but now the original is now functioning again. I’m afraid Agapeta and the Graham Ovenden sites were the unwitting victims of attacks targeting this site.

Lukas Roels: I am delighted to report that images from Roels’ Angels Of Time are now publicly available. I confirmed with the artist that the images displayed by Galerie Ludwig Trossaert London were duly authorized by him.

Jogging the Collective Memory: Many times readers have shared memories of images they recall seeing in the past in the hopes of making an identification. Usually the descriptions are a bit too vague to offer much of a lead. However, a recent message gives details that are peculiar enough to be distinctive and perhaps one of our readers will recognize it. Anyone wishing to help, please send us a message.

Many decades ago I saw late 19th early 20th century (maybe 1900s) nude photographs depicting girls seated on short legged baroque chairs, one was looking with binoculars at a circular mirror on the ground oriented towards her, another photograph was a girl also on the same chair looking at white dog on the floor and another was a girl standing with the same chair behind her while looking at the circular mirror on the ground. All girls were wearing knee socks. So where can I find those plus all other similar work from the same photographer? [Text was edited for clarity. -Ron]

The Angels Return: A Lukas Roels Update

It is testament to a good artist that he have a good working and/or personal relationship with his models. The strongest evidence of such rapport—short of outright defense in a court of law—is when they return for another shoot. This would not be possible unless the model were treated with the utmost respect in the first place and she herself got something positive from the experience. Time does fly and Lukas Roels informs me that he has begun a kind of “Angels of Time Revisited” series featuring his former models using similar poses and props as those of the original series. One of the first models to participate has graciously consented to have her image appear online. Thank you, Papi.

Lukas Roels - Papi revisited light (2014)

Lukas Roels – Papi revisited light (2014)

As a private collector, I never gave much thought to the ethical or moral issues in the production of such images. The nature of the self-righteous but ignorant rhetoric of extremists itself seemed to justify my position. However, it should not be forgotten that behind that closed-mindedness is a human emotional impulse and how we deal with it is an expression of our character. When I began work on Pigtails in Paint, I realized that images that were freely available in books could not just be posted cavalierly. Copyright issues notwithstanding, I understand that the internet offers a new level of publicity beyond printed matter. The issue, therefore, is not about the moral implications of producing the images, but in how they are publicized. The natural incongruity we feel has really to do with intimacy and vulnerability rather than bald exploitation. In a perfect world, models who want to pose nude would be given the liberty to pursue it, but the reality is that children especially are subjected to ridicule in own communities when they do something unconventional like this. Therefore, I wish to take this time to commend Papi for her courage and hope others will come forward soon to allow their images to appear on this site.

Readers can visit a couple of online galleries to see more of Roels’ work (here and here) or collectors may contact the artist directly at lu[email protected] for a catalog of available books and prints.

Heavenly Light: Lukas Roels

In the early days of scientific inquiry, people believed that light had to be the basic material God had used to make the universe. Whether science has served to clarify or confound its nature, the literal exploration of light entered the domain of the artist once it could be captured on film. All photographers must somehow master light to accomplish the desired effect, but few photographers have inspired me to consider the human experience of light so deeply.

Lukas Roels was born in 1957 in Ghent, Belgium and it remains his home to this day. He studied photography at the Academy of Arts there but felt the program had little to offer him, so he left after a few months and engaged in self-study. Because he wanted to be taken seriously, he did complete exams before a special commission and participated in internships at various photographers’ studios before striking out on his own. Initially, he had a brief career as a press photographer, but as that kind of work was unfulfilling, he worked his way to a professorship while pursuing the artistic side of his craft. He teaches at several schools and leads workshops for children and adults.

Roels says he got started on the “Angels of Time” series by coincidence. Although he had already been photographing the children of close friends, when he got a pair of wings as a present one day, it inspired him to begin this series using them.

Lukas Roels - No Angel (2001)

Lukas Roels – No Angel (2001)

His first photograph of a child with the wings was Papi. As it was not the first time he had photographed a child naked, it never occurred to him that some people would react so strongly. Papi got her nickname from the people in her hometown who began to call her “Papillon” (French for butterfly) because of the shape of her eyes. It was later shortened to “Papi”.

Lukas Roels - Papi (2001)

Lukas Roels – Papi (2001)

Roels was not trying to make any kind of statement at the time, but the reactions of friends were very good, so he continued to photograph their children. After Papi came Sisters I then Sisters II. The younger one, Marieke, he photographed again years later when she was about 11. So this is a personal series for the artist and his relationships with the people involved have been an integral part of his life. He hopes someday to photograph the children of his former models. He has exhibited all over the world, but in his home country he is far less well-known because of the controversy involved. I learned of “Angels of Time” when a catalog of his exhibition in Bruge was produced in 2010 and became available to a wider audience. This created the impression that he was new on the scene but in fact he has been working at a slow pace for 25 years now. With true artists, the kind of mind that can create a beautiful work is not one that is necessarily skilled at self-promotion.

Lukas Roels - Sisters I (2002)

Lukas Roels – Sisters I (2002)

One of the aspects of children that intrigues Roels is their tendency toward androgyny. He wants to go beyond gender and show the universal beauty of a young body. There is clearly nothing sexual about it and he makes no effort to hide anything or to provoke. The artist simply gives these young people the freedom to express their natures and personalities with self-assurance. This challenges some viewers who find it more difficult looking at a photograph than a more derivative sculpture or painting. However, Roels insists there is no difference and his photography is as much an abstraction as any other medium; there is someone who poses and there is the artist who endeavors to capture an eternal moment of beauty. There is another excellent shot of this boy taken later when he was 13 called Death of an Angel which can be seen on his website.

Lukas Roels - Androgyn Angel I (2007)

Lukas Roels – Androgyn Angel I (2007)

In a country with a strong Catholic heritage, it would have been hard for Roels not to assimilate some of its iconography, such as angels’ wings symbolizing spiritual flight. Real children are earthbound, yet it does not seem incongruous for them to have wings. It is as though they enjoy a grace period of innocence where adults treat them with tender reverence. The artist uses natural daylight exclusively, and though its intensity may verge on harshness, it never diminishes the delicate and subtle features of his subjects. In most cases there is a strong suggestion that the light is coming from above: a heavenly light.

Lukas Roels - Marianne (2008)

Lukas Roels – Marianne (2008)

The older and perhaps more vital of Western Europe’s spiritual legacies is the Classical. Pagan symbols have much power and poignancy when conveying the pristineness of young beauty.

Lukas Roels - Jona (1995)

Lukas Roels – Jona (1995)

At first, I did not notice the exquisite quality of Roels’ compositions, but when a friend of mine was moving, he asked me to hold some of his prints for safekeeping until he settled in. I hadn’t realized how different the same image can look in a larger size; the A3-sized print of Our Days on Earth took my breath away. After closer examination, I noticed that it brought out a kind of horizontal rippling of light and shadow. The vibrancy of the effect was further enhanced by the girl’s expression of joyful exuberance. It is not shown here because doing so might cause problems for the artist. Although the girl and her mother were pleased with the results, the father (and ex-husband) has taken exception with its public exhibition. Fortunately, it can still be seen in the large-format book Angels of Time published in late 2011 by TimeWorks, and prints can be purchased by private collectors.

Roels, like many who came before, has had his own trial of tears with the authorities. Fortunately, he had firmly established himself as a legitimate artist before the various high-profile scandals about pedophilia. About five years ago there was a police investigation; they searched his house and questioned him for hours. They confiscated his computer and all the negatives they could find. It appears they had received a tip from a lab that made prints for him. Fortunately, there was an intelligent investigating judge who decided that this work had nothing to do with child pornography. It illustrates something I remember another artist saying about European versus U.S. courts. Being rather more artistically literate, judges in Europe seem better able to distinguish art from mere vulgar exploitation. After the judge’s ruling he got all of his property back. Now he does much of his own printing, and the larger sizes are done in a nearby lab by people he knows and with whom he has established mutual trust. To publish the hardcover book, he had to approach three printing companies; the first ones would not print his work because of the subject matter. An air of paranoia has made many people nervous about being connected with certain material involving children, despite its aesthetic or artistic quality.

Roels recently began to develop more complex compositions, introducing natural backgrounds in his new series “Les Voyages Imaginaire” (Imaginary Voyages). I have observed that it is a natural evolution for many artists to progress from a pure focus on human subjects to a stronger emphasis on backgrounds and landscapes. This image strikes me as hopeful, the dove being a potent symbol of love and peace.

Lukas Roels - Le Paysage de Rêve (2012)

Lukas Roels – Le Paysage de Rêve (2012)

It is gratifying to know that the artist is still producing new work in spite of the obstacles. This new piece is striking in how the sharply contrasting background brings out the outline of the figure, further accentuated by the dynamic pose. This image is quite sculptural in quality and I can easily imagine the ancient Greeks appreciating this piece.

Lukas Roels - (Untitled) (2013)

Lukas Roels – (Untitled) (2013)

Both boys and girls are well represented in Roels’ exhibitions and published work and now his fascination with androgyny has progressed another step. He has just begun work on a new project that he says is all about transgender people. Although he expects this venture to be a challenge, it won’t be the same kind as that involved in working with his child models.

Lukas Roels (official website)