Photographs by Katy Grannan. Essay by Jan Avgikos.
Aperture, New York, 2005. 112 pp., 70 color illustrations, 11½x9¾".
Photography is a subtle agent of our interconnection
and our dislocation. The frame can glue together disparate,
transient components in time and space, and
then provide us a pathway to a sort of impersonal
camera can yank a
moment out of a flowing
current of life, to lay
it trembling and fluttering
on the bank, pitiful
in its disoriented vulnerability.
working method is to
seek out portrait subjects
want ads in (mostly)
small-town newspapers. The photographer manipulates
the space and the lighting, but the sitters choose how
and where they want to be portrayed. Occasionally, she
photographs the same person over time, but many of
her portraits are “one-shots” of cooperative strangers.
These choices result in a stylized profundity, somewhere
between a pose and a discovery. The resultant
pictures are an unusual form of collaboration, in which
the camera simultaneously peels and cocoons
Grannan’s sitters, revealing the transparency and opacity
of the individual persona. The viewer is left to wonder
not only about the enigma of human identity, but
about the impulse that drives people to reveal (or at
least present) themselves to a stranger, to undress
themselves with our minds, and about our need to fulfill
our part of the bargain by looking. This work is also
an uncomfortable look at how the desperate desire to
be acknowledged, visible in many areas of contemporary
culture, makes for a sort of visceral, corporal
democracy: we all own a body, and it can signal our distinctiveness
even when other means of making ourselves
heard seem to be out of reach. Somewhere
beyond issues of authenticity, anonymity, ambition and
anomie, Grannan seems to be posing the question:
what are the basic foundation stones of our identity,
and who can know us? And when they know us, what
do they know? - PHIL HARRIS
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