The naked truth

Summer's here, the sun is out and so are all our wobbly bits. Photographs by Mischa Haller. Words by John Walsh
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Indy Lifestyle Online
ou can see it arrayed across the metropolitan greensward of St James's and Hyde Park like a bad-taste art exhibition on an emerald carpet: both bulky, round-edged sculpture and pale, stretched canvas imprinted with tiny signs. Its many shades are all colours of food - salmon, tofu, shelled lychees, speckled eggshell, smoked Wensleydale, game biltong ...

Flesh. It spreads out before us in the park as if for inspection, a landscape of skin, dotted like some Arizona valley with crevices, bluffs and sand- blasted caves; a whole unexpected world of muscle and curve and strap- bisecting bulge, suddenly revealed to us without comment, excuse or preamble. It invites us to look at what's usually kept hidden until brought out by the summer heat - and having looked, our first impulse is to look elsewhere. The flesh that is the outward sign of our common humanity, that clothes us all in a pink-to-brown uniform, repels our senses. It's just a little too animal. Some dark linguistic tribal impulse makes skin still cognate with sin. It displays elemental forces and spells out eternal verities in a complex package: gravity, age, sexual allure, health, excess, decay. This is hard to take in all at once. Humankind cannot stand very much unadorned body.

For the photographer whose subject is non-erotic flesh, the challenge is to make it resemble something other than the pictures illustrating eczema or shingles in a doctor's surgery. Mischa Haller takes risks with featureless tarpaulins of summer-parkland skin. He catches the alarming qualities of amplitude; the mile-wide, coming-at-ya threat of a huge, halter-necked bosom. He has a virtual fetish for creases, in folded limbs and baby's bum. The hunch of freckled shoulders turns a dozing office worker into a leopard; the Brillo-pad of hair peeping from a goosefleshed male armpit which suggests the hidden wiring of homo sapiens. You think you know flesh like the back of your hand? Take a closer look.

Alan, 36, artist

Naomi, 24, student, and Gillian, 26, architect

Tim, 28, freelance director

Maria, 27, administrator

Jackie, 22, mother

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Nathan, 23, unemployed

Albert, 61, retired

Jerry, 39, unemployed

Adam, 32, actor

James, two

Jo, 26, film location scout

Matthew, 27, cabbie

Graeme, 28, research scientist

Okezwe, 27, sales advisor

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