In a body of work from the 1970s, Jo Ann Callis crops in close on the elements that make up desire. A man grips a woman’s ankles as she stands on a chair in heels, illuminated by the camera’s flash. A woman’s hand with dirtied cuticles lies in a pool of honey. A single marker line runs down the spine of a woman, who is face down in bed. Callis uses everyday items in suggestive ways: Duct tape stretches across nipples, or black silky gloves against bare skin.
The photographer kept her figures anonymous in what she refers to as her “fetish project.” It heightens the sense of mystery in interactions that could be strangely innocuous or the makings of an illicit album. She made the series as a mother in Los Angeles, having just obtained her undergraduate degree after an extended hiatus from school. Though she wasn’t politically engaged with the feminism movement of the decade, she, like many of her contemporaries, reclaimed sexuality through the female gaze.