Harley Weir’s “Function” Examines the Difference Between Sex and Being Sexy

Weir’s newest project traverses the body and its oddities, from its inherent sensuality to its biological logistics.

There’s something inimitable about Harley Weir’s photographs, which exude a sense of romance that’s at once nostalgic yet direct. With a portfolio including everyone from i-D to AnOther, Balenciaga to Calvin Klein, Weir is practically a household name (if you only cohabit with the fashion forward). And while she captures a diverse range of subjects, it’s faces that dominate Weir’s imagery — Rihanna, M.I.A., Chloe Sevigny and Adwoah Aboah are among the visages celebrated in Weir’s intimate, light-infused portraits. Moving Southwards from the heads that comprise her portraiture, Weir’s newest project, “Function”, traverses the body and its oddities, from its inherent sensuality to its biological logistics.

Conceived for the fifth edition of Baron magazine, Weir’s “Function” lives up to its title in more ways than one. The curated volume — which draws on text and found imagery alongside Weir’s never-before-published photographs — questions the multiple purposes of the body, and how they’re manifested. In keeping with Weir’s preoccupation with the erotic, the images bring the biological and social into opposition, as they consider sex in the sense of a reproductive function, an intrinsic desire and a social phenomenon.

It’s true that this is not Weir’s first departure from editorial photography. Her book published by Loose Joints last year, “Paintings”, was a three-year surface study devoid of the living subjects that had previously characterised her work, and explored photography as a process of immediacy. But “Function” is different still, characterised not by its style, but by theme. In amongst its 152 pages, Weir documents a live natural birth, and reconceives the image of Madonna and Child with models Lily Newmark and Jess Maybury. The ever-controversial female nipple (which apparently still isn’t free) is revisited as a site both for nurture and provocation, while the notion of what it means to be “sexy” is confronted through still-lifes which question the body’s commodification. At its core, “Function” allows us to re-examine how we think about our own bodies and sexualities — and those of others, too.

Baron No.5, “Function” by Harley Weir, is available to pre-order now. It’s limited to 1000 copies, so act fast!

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