The Midwest Photographers Publication Project.
Individual titles by Kelli Connell, Justin Newhall, and Brian Ulrich. Essays by Rod Slemmons, Karen Irvine, and Natasha Egan.
Aperture, New York, 2006. 168 pp., 75 four-color illustrations total, 8x8¼".
One would think that we, as a collective culture, would be
tired of photographers parsing the bleak landscape of
American consumerism and revealing, again, our horrid
excess, our big-box bravado, our credit card camaraderie
and, by extension, the deficiency of our collective and
individual spirit. But we're not. Especially when it’s
captured as capably as does Brian Ulrich for his collection
Copia, released alongside Kelli Connell's Double Life
and Justin Newhall's Historical Marker as MP3, a three volume
box set from the Museum of Contemporary
Photography's Midwest Photographers Publication
Project. Ulrich's unerring eye for the bleak power of multiples—
whether pistols or Target check-out stands warps
through this series against the weft of hard ironies posed
by the ridiculous language generated from herding consumers
and the actual people searching a netherworld of
products and services for something that will fix, satiate
or somehow solve. His view is the longest range of the
three collections: We see ourselves through a distance
almost unrecognizable. In Newhall's work, documenting
visits to historic landmarks and the inevitable bronze
obelisks and riders on horseback that signify importance,
we glimpse something a little more personal—a search for
universal meaning and a way, if a flawed way, in which to
find connection to one another through a common past.
Connell provides the even less comfortable search for
personal identity and intimacy. She digitally duplicates
her model to create twin images playing out different
aspects of relationship in each frame—shooting pool
together and wondering how the night will end up, or
one cradling another's head over the toilet after a night
of excess. The metaphors are obvious, but the work is
not: each exposure is a surprise, an intimate moment,
almost a nostalgia for moments of our own that we finally
see from an outside perpective. The three photographers,
and the three depths of insight, are as revealing
and commanding a group of contemporary documentarians
as one is likely to find in a single collection.-ZANE FISCHER
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