The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randall

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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:13 pm



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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:14 pm


Ted Polhemus

How people choose to present themselves has always had a profound fascination for me. It's much more than simply a question of aesthetics. I yearn to know what is being 'said' why this particular person walking towards me on a city street or in front of me at the supermarket checkout has chosen to 'package' themselves in this particular way. It has always seemed to me that a person's chosen image is a more effective resume of their inner self than anything they might put into words.

I find conventional, 'natural' beauty extremely boring. In that I'm more enticed by the packaging than the raw, untouched body which lies beneath it you could say I'm fetishistic. At the same time, however, it isn't strictly true that I am stimulated by the trappings of appearance in and of themselves -- it is people and their patterns of relationships which ultimately interest me. The packaging is just a way of seeing what lies beneath; a means to an end but, in my view, one of the most important.

As I look at the wonderful photographs which Housk Randall has taken for this book I find myself entranced by these dazzling individuals. (Just as I remain captivated by those -- sadly so rapidly disappearing -- tribal peoples who first demonstrated the extraordinary extent to which the human body can be transformed into an artistic medium.0 By comparison my own appearance styles are hardly noteworthy but I do strive to include myself within the ranks of the customized ape as much as possible. This takes two forms. On the one hand I attempt to do my bit to stand up to that epidemic of casualness which seems to threaten our age, more often than not finding myself the only person wearing a suit and a tie in business meetings or social gatherings. Alternatively, for example at a fetish club, I might be found in a rubber corset proudly showing off my nipple piercings. A large, post-modern tattoo incorporating a wide range of styles has been planned and re-planned for ages. Friends increasingly doubt that this will ever be accomplished but I like to image that one day I too will be a suitable subject for Housk Randall's camera.

Ted Polhemus studied anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia and at University College, London -- specializing in the expressive possibilities and meaning of the human body.

His books include: The Body as a Medium of Expression (co-editor), Social Aspects of the Human Body (editor), Fashion & Anti-fashion (with Lynn Procter), Body Styles, Rituals of Love (with Housk Randall), Streetstyle and -- most recently -- Style Surfing: What to Wear in the Third Millennium.

He is also a photographer, an exhibition organizer, a lecturer and a frequent guest on radio and TV.


"We would like to thank Maria de Marias for her meticulous assistance in the preparation of this manuscript, Adrian Gray for his sensitive and careful design of this book, Jo Brocklehurst for her drawings, our families for their support and encouragement, Sara Lloyd for her continuing help., Ilford Aniitec Ltd. for their photographic materials, Simon Rogers for his magnificent body painting, Alex Binney and into you for so many of the exceptional tattoos represented within and especially all those body artists who have allowed themselves to be photographed for this book.

Ted Polhemus * Housk Randall


Housk Randall

Wouldn't it be easy, or possibly more comfortable, to dismiss the preoccupation of many of the people included in The Customized Body as unimportant, ridiculous or even mad? It might be, but that would be to only focus on the form rather than delve into the impulses which lie behind it. My experiences -- both as photographer and psychotherapist -- have led me to the view that there is a common sub-text behind the myriad expressions of adornment and body modification which I have documented although often unacknowledged, most people's actions are propelled by a search for identity and/or desirability. We need some proof of existence during (and perhaps after) this brief dream and in customizing our bodies in distinctive ways we accomplish this. To tattoo my skin, to pierce my flesh, to shave my hair ... all these things give both a feeling of control over one's life and mark against the obliteration of that life.

So why now? Why are these particular avenues -- of customizing the body and of self-realization through that process -- being explored to such a great extent in the 1990s? My personal opinion is that as Western society becomes increasingly computerized and technological the importance of individual experience and input seems diminished, possibly lost. Ancient rituals and 'primitive' practices offer an increasing number of people a focus, a vision of where we've been, something to hold onto as we rush towards the millennium and an uncertain future.

Housk Randall is a psychotherapist and one of the leading observers in the new field of erotic anthropology. Through the medium of photography, he presents the extraordinary individuals who populate the visually distinctive subcultures of our time. Housk joins and becomes an integral part of the worlds he researches and then, from an informed and compassionate perspective, documents their fantasies, attitudes and lifestyles.

Housk Randall is the author of Revelations and co-author (with Ted Polhemus) of Rituals of Love. The powerful imagery he creates is regularly exhibited in galleries around the world.


'Crammed with photographs of people whose bodies have been variously tattooed, pierced and otherwise decoratively mutilated. Keep on your coffee table for when there's an awkward lull in the conversation' -- Cosmopolitan

'An utterly stunning book of mesmerising pictures and lucid, informative text -- the cutting edge of contemporary body art' -- Fetish Times

Starkly beautiful alongside ominously outrageous, the photos in The Customized Body make you pause on every page -- whether you like what you see or not -- because you have to look' -- Alabama Forum

'An imaginative array of body graffiti where artistry and politics sit alongside anti-establishment bravura. This is pointed fashion' -- Scotland on Sunday

We are the only species which deliberately alters its appearance. We get up, peer into the mirror and ask ourselves 'What should I wear today?' But this customizing of our bodies goes far beyond the clothing which we wear as a second skin. Flesh can be tattooed, pierced, scarred and adorned with anything from flowers to precious jewels. Hair offers infinite possibilities for creative modification,. Even the actual shape of the body can be compressed with corsets, padded out in the 'right' places or physically redefined by cosmetic surgery.

The Customized Body presents the most comprehensive review of all forms of body art -- past, present and future -- ever assembled. A celebration of the most extraordinary and creative, it offers us all a chance to consider why we choose to decorate, adorn and dress as we do.
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