Dangerous Beauty: David Drebin’s Glossy Sex Appeal

The high-glamor photographic world of David Drebin is filled with equal parts sex appeal, intrigue, fantasy, and danger. There’s a cinematic quality to his stylish images, as though the viewer has stumbled upon a moment caught at the height of the action. The viewer is a voyeur, lured in by Drebin’s femme fatales, watching events occur, but removed from them. It is the slick, saturated beauty of the photographs—honed by a successful career of shooting for luxury brands and fashion magazines—that initially captivates, but layers of the image are discovered over time: hints of humor, melancholy, and underlying drama.

In Facing the City,the reflection of a woman stares longingly out against a glittering urban backdrop. She is made up for the evening, with glossy lips and lined eyes that gaze into the distance. Her face fills the photograph, but no clues are offered about her, leaving the viewer to imagine the details and fill in the thoughts in her head. “Coming from a perspective based on how I see the world with my eyes, heart, ears, and brain, I like to think of myself not only as a photographer, but as a psychographer,” Drebin has said of his emotionally charged work.

Selfie (2014) could be part of the same imaginary film. It’s an all-too familiar modern scene: a beautiful young woman in a short cocktail dress posing for her own cell phone camera as she dances. Reflected in a window overlooking city lights and shrouded in scarlet light, she looks like she is in a nightclub until you realize she is alone. Like much of Drebin’s work, the viewer is left to wonder: Is this an innocent moment of revelry, or is there something sinister lurking beneath?

Heather Corcoran

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