Jeff Burton works across conventional photographic hierarchies that characterize fine-art photography as the medium’s “highest” form, fashion or commercial photography as a “lower” form, and pornography as “lower” still. A rigorous attention to detail and composition merges with a sense of seduction in his images, which often include a part of—but seldom the whole of—a naked body. A drama seems always ready to unfold or, more accurately, is already going on—it is simply happening outside the frame of the photograph, beyond our sight. The viewer acts as voyeur, taking pleasure either in looking at the sensuous body on display or in contriving the narrative that might surround it. Pointedly, Burton never offers the sexual, or even pornographic, act in his photographs; that is not to say that such acts are not happening, but that the photographer and the viewer are on the sidelines of such doings.
Burton began his career on the sets of erotic films̬films that reveal everything in a way that can seem crude or obscene, even if titillating. By turning his camera and attention to the periphery, he captures the actors' oiled bodies at rest, unstaged. In doing so, he creates photographs that are more mysterious, more ambiguous—and therefore markedly more seductive—than the images recorded for the films themselves. Burton relies on dramatic lighting, highly saturated colors, and low or unusual viewpoints—as in Untitled #124 (reclining nude man) (2000)—when photographing these fragmented scenes and making them the catalysts for personal memory, desire, and fantasy.