6 spring street
artist statements: :: A New American Portrait
In these portraits, my subjects turn away from the camera. Interacting with the landscape, they are stilled in moments of contemplation, the indications of both possible narratives and nature-induced reveries.
In this body of work, I deal with my insecurities about my body image and the direct correlation between self-perception and the way one is perceived by others. Most of my pictures take place in my home, revealing aspects of my life that are private and personal. I am evaluating my self-image as an overweight female in her late 20s dealing with ever-present pressures from the outside world.
My work is solely based on personal experiences that I have re-constructed into photographs, but I believe that it speaks generally to the situation of many women in our society.
There is a great liberty to truly stare at a stranger in a photographic portrait that we lack in daily life. If there were a forensic study of the particulars of a photographed person, one might imagine that we know something about them. On a surface level this may be true, but so superficially that it wouldn’t hold much beyond clues about the pictured person.
What are we meant to see when presented with a photograph of a person we have no knowledge of? How can the most quotidian of devices transmit an idea or deeper meaning that we can ponder about a stranger?
I believe that in the best cases, a photographic portrait should fill us with wonder and a deeper necessity to know more about those around us who the world is filled with.
Wallflower, an ongoing and evolving series of male portraits, is an exploration into the other. Holding a strong interest in psychology, I have turned more specifically to the psychology of the opposite sex, finding the mannerisms of male role models in my personal life endlessly fascinating. It is through this series that I am aiming to confront and question the ways in which both society and those in front of my lens perceive and relate to ideas and stereotypes regarding masculinity.
Each sitting is done one-on-one, with a confined amount of space and my subject in front of wallpaper or a floral backdrop. The dynamic underlines an awkwardness that already feels present in interactions we share with the opposite sex and with each other. Early on in the project there was nothing highly specific about the use of wallpaper beyond a desire to get away from a plain white backdrop, but the more I shot with it, the more I noticed how much the sitter was pushing and pulling against the floral patterns within the wallpaper. The sessions became intense confrontations between the two of us, in which the use of wallpaper served to contrast their masculinity against something clearly feminine, forcing both of our worlds to mix for the lens.
At first, all of these encounters took place in front of the wallpaper, but as the project progressed I started shooting outdoors in front of naturally occurring floral backdrops, playing off of the femininity of the natural world. Some of the newest outdoor portraits in the series were shot on a recent trip to New Orleans, where I went specifically to shoot men who were affected by Katrina and are still coping with the aftermath of such a large natural disaster.
The portraits in Wallflower remain a personal and psychological delving into the other, in which I opt to focus on the beauty, sensitivity and vulnerabilities found in a sex that has long been held to masculine expectations and stereotypes. Women have had lenses turned to them throughout the history of photography. It is through this exploration that I have turned my lens to a sex far less gazed upon.
In lectures I have been asked, "Why do you photograph only women?" To which I respond that in a Creative Writing class in college, our very first lesson was that you should write about what you know. So, I photograph what I know.
To me it is no mystery that we can only photograph effectively what we are truly interested in or—maybe more importantly—are grappling with. This is often an unconscious process. Otherwise the photographs are merely about an idea or a concept; that stuff eventually falls flat for me. There must be something more, some emotional hook for it to really work for me. I tend to photograph things I've had problems with or I have struggled with, stuff that used to keep me up at night. It's the same process with my photographs of houses -- they are about recognizing some mysterious element of my childhood. I've read that sources of terror in childhood often become sources of attraction in adulthood. I've found that true. It's disturbing to me how many of the models remind me of past women that have been in my life—not in terms of how they look but in terms of who they seem to be underneath their surfaces. There is a familiarity to them, something that resonates, something kind of troubled about them that is very recognizable to me. It is endlessly fascinating and utterly simple as to why we gravitate to what we do. Of course this is not stuff that I've worked out completely, which is precisely why it's engrossing to me. That is why I do it. That is the focus.
Bonnie (with a photography of an angel) (From Sleeping By the Mississippi)
Candlelight Hotel (from Niagara)
Peter Haakon Thompson
I record my private relationship to places that are essentially public. Through my work, I navigate my private physical/emotional landscape. These images are part of a 10-year chain of visual self-examination: being by myself, standing still, looking, listening, thinking, and taking pictures. I explore invisibility, aloneness, emptiness, hiding, the overlooked, subtle traces of human residue in a non-human world, and acute isolation.
In 2001 citizens were encouraged to take to the malls to boost the U.S. economy through shopping, thereby equating consumerism with patriotism. The Copia project, a direct response to that advice, is a long-term photographic examination of the peculiarities and complexities of the consumer-dominated culture in which we live. Through large scale photographs taken within both the big-box retail stores and the thrift shops that house our recycled goods, Copia explores not only the everyday activities of shopping, but the economic, cultural, social, and political implications of commercialism and the roles we play in self-destruction, over-consumption, and as targets of marketing and advertising. By scrutinizing these rituals and their environments, I hope that viewers will evaluate the increasing complexities of the modern world and their own role within it.
Copia is composed of several chapters, currently Retail, Thrift, and Backrooms. These further document notions of social class, excess, and corporate ideologies. By combining photographs taken candidly with a medium-format film camera outfitted with a waist-level viewfinder, and studied compositions taken with a large format camera in thrift shops, I can capture lost excitement and overwhelmed, subsumed moments. The large-scale prints allow the viewer to stop and notice with a distanced perspective familiar places and things. Over time these images take on new meaning, ones anthropological and historical of an affluent society at the dawn of the 21st century. What we buy and what we use up becomes the evidence of our experience of this time.
Exploring identity and sexuality in America, Shen Wei's work is created in reaction to his upbringing in "isolated and conservative" China. Motivated by his desire to understand the complexity of almost-nakedness. Shen Wei's portraiture often raises questions about human nature, feelings, desire, instinct, sensuality, and identity. He encourages viewers of his work to make their own discoveries and judgments from his photographs.