Analysis of a photo, Galoot style

The Porch brought up a photo by Man Ray (Link to photo at London Art Reviews) of Catherine Deneuve. I took a closer look at the photo and here are my findings:

First, I believe the planes weren’t old tools when photographed and would barely be considered vintage today. The first photo below shows what are clearly modern-pattern machine made handles. If you compare the grain and figure of the handle’s wood to that of the plane body they appear the same. It’s easier to see on the plane in the rear. Look at the edges of the plane: they are very crisp, and probably never used. On the bevels there is a distinct scalloping. It’s hard to tell with such a compressed photo whether the effect is from the wood’s figure or, as I suspect, from machining on a shaper/router.

The second photo shows a plane with a laminated base. At least three of the planes are of this construction. This is very typical of European planes made around the time the photo was taken (1968). It also indicates that the planes were made with significant machine work. The third photo shows the profiles of the three wedges to be identical and more importantly, they haven’t been mauled by a mallet.

ball_detailIt’s hard to tell what these spheres are made of. I can’t see ridges on any of them like a croquet ball, but they do have rings. My best guess is that they are wooden and turned to this size from a very clear wood. There was a suggestion that these might have a symbolic anatomical reference. While certainly possible, I don’t ‘see’ that in the photo, especially with six of them lined up on either side. They may be abstractions of a plane’s knob: simplified, dis-proportioned and placed off-balance for visual interest. As these are fore/jointer planes, they shouldn’t really have a knob and the construction indicates they weren’t made with one. Perhaps this was a kitsch addition to satisfy non-Galoots’ desire for a knob, but I have one more idea on this which I’ll get to shortly.

Note: The book on the chessboard is the photographer’s own:


Book is Titled “Man Ray”, illegible, “VII/VII”

If you look over the whole image again, there is a distinct woodworking theme. Start with the planes, what do planes make? Shavings of course. Take a close look at her earring and the ornament in the back upper-right:



What do those remind you of? Yep, wood shavings. Clearly the coordination of elements wasn’t an accident and the planes were part of a bigger motif. I also find it interesting that the earrings have basically three twists and there are three planes on each side ‘supporting’ the ‘shaving’ earrings.

plane-overviewThis brings me back to the balls mounted directly in front of the plane’s throat. As plane users know (esp. users of woodies) it’s quite common for the shavings to gather up in front of the throat and curl into tufts/balls. Given that Man Ray was clearly aware enough of shavings and woodworking to subtly reference them throughout the photo, it’s certainly possibly that the balls on the planes are an elemental take on the gathering of shavings.

The blog will now resume with it’s normal non-arty programming.

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