Jen Bekman Projects


6 spring street
new york city 10012
tel: 212.219.0166

jen bekman

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Beth Dow :: images | statement | bio | press release   | press mentions  

artist statements: :: Beth Dow | Ruins


These are the first photographs in a new portfolio that looks at the ways we appropriate and approximate the romance of ruins into modern American environments, and what this says about our longing for historic precedents. While genuine ruins remind us of our own mortality, they also suggest the opposite by showing it’s possible to endure, even if only in a reduced and degraded form.

We fake antiquities in curious ways, preferring them to spanking-new models. This places the counterfeits at a curious point in time - somewhere between pristine original construction and the present, indicating that we value our nostalgia for something lost over what was actually lost. This circular thinking about authenticity is the biggest draw for me.

I have been looking at Victorian photographs by Francis Frith, Felix Bonfils, and Giorgio Sommer, as well as sepia ink and wash drawings by Claude Lorrain, a 17th century artist who used classical ruins to create ideal scenes of pastoral splendor. My pictures of faked antiquities are an attempt to evoke nostalgia for inaccurate history, to wrestle with ideas of authenticity, and to question the value we place on Classical ideals. It is natural to challenge the relevance of nostalgic longing, and I exploit this dynamic in my contemporary landscapes.

I approach these pictures as a tourist. These real sites are all shot with a hand-held medium format camera, and include whatever clutter exists around the actual subjects. I also use a slightly wide-angle lens to exploit the sense of disorder through converging verticals. People mill around as they do in Frith’s photographs. Life goes on. Unlike the heavily retouched wet-collodion/albumen originals, my film records clouds and other details, so I leave it all in. As my original references are beautiful objects, I honor that beauty by using the Victorian hand-coated platinum process. Platinum is rare, precious, and the most permanent photographic printing medium - an apt metaphor for my search for the authentic and enduring.