In his commissioned work Charlie Engman captures the surreal result of a cultural saturated by stunningly ambiguous stylings. Engman, whose clients include, Urban Outfitters, I-D Magazine, Vogue Brazil, Marie Claire China and Collina Strada, photographs edgy fashion within contextually absurd settings outside of the realm of real time, developing striking figural images.
Engman’s own photography resounds a similar tone, as he photographs about the human body– he characterizes his own interest in the body, “Another major interest of mine is the body, specifically it’s dual function as a utilitarian object and emotional signifier, and it is often helpful to think about this functionality through exaggerated poses and extreme physiques…”
Engman’s own photography evokes a high level of emotional energy as produced by the body as emotional signifier. In the following photos, from his series, domestic diorama, a sloth induced equanimity (between morbid and celebratory) prevails as his figures bend and snake across the furniture. The postures of Engman’s figures presents the body seperate from its ‘human’ inhabitant. As the eye rolls over the hills and vales of a spinal chord, its gentle bowing as it winds along, across and around. These poses arouse sensation, rather than provoking the mind to ask, “what is this person doing?” or “why would someone get into this position?” arises– revealing Engman’s handling of the human body as an emotional signifier successful.
On the other hand, Engman’s representation of the body’s function as a utilitarian object develops clearly in his fashion photography. By capturing the gestures of the body’s form, Engman is able to articulate the qualities of the garment, the stories attached to it, the material it is made of as well as the garments’ relationship to the body.
These photos are from Engman’s commission for Urban Oufitters. Also, here is a link to an interview with Engman, outlining his styling methods and a bit of his artistic background.
Charlie Engman’s commissioned work is directly related to his own work. When asked about what this relationship looks like Engman comments, “I try to make as little distinction as possible between my personal and commissioned work, but naturally there is a lot of posturing in fashion/lifestyle photography…I am constantly skirting the thin line between complimenting and charicaturing my personal work.” Engman’s perspective on how his comissioned work informs his personal work and vice versa, is what makes his photographs uniquely his. The exchange between Engman’s works is evident and he states specifically, “[O]ccasionally referencing my personal work as style rather than concept in this way has helped me learn how important the purely formal aspects of photographic imagery inform the ideas that hang my work together as a whole.” Hang the work together as a whole…
Below is a bit of a thought experiment, pairing together Engman’s commerical work next to his personal artistic works.
Finally, it was such a pleasure to conduct an exchange with Charlie Engman, who was in Japan during our conversation and this was the most inspiring thought that he shared, “I’ve always been interested in the bizarre moment of discovery/recognition that occurs when two or more things fit together, match, or rhyme–a incredibly simple and common phenomenon–and the pressure in commissioned work to produce slick, flashy imagery has helped me turn off the heady white-noise that can sometimes get in the way of the more instinctual approach that facilitates that discovery and forms the basis of my interest in photography.”