Tracy Lindner Gander in collaboration with Katherine Bull
The images are the result of both the model and the photographer's response to a specific environment. The locations are significant in that they are largely uninhabited, or 'lost', public spaces, yet are known to us all - an oasis alongside the highway, a deserted city, a shadowy forest.
What is most striking about these images is the use of a single model, resulting in a familiar and repetitive subject. This singular subject forces the viewer to question some of the foundations of portraiture, especially in relation to photography. Photography has the dual ability to:
The intention is to foreground photography's ability to carry both real and fictional elements. Exploration of the slippage between the traditional genres of photography (reportage, portraiture, fashion) force one to engage with our collective fantasies and contemporary life.
What is also apparent in this work is the almost surreal disjunction between the figure and the environment.
The images demand questions as to the intent of the model within the environment, why she appears almost awkward, out-of-place. Why wouldn't it be normal for a woman in her nightie carrying her pink-panther toy to be walking down a deserted highway at 5.30am? Would we look twice if the model were a street-cleaner standing at the edge of the highway at dawn?
Avedon describes portraiture as performance; as implying "some kind of artifice which conceals the truth behind the sitter". He continues:
The point is that you can't get at the thing itself, the real nature of the sitter, by stripping away the surface. The surface is all you've got. You can only get beyond the surface by working with the surface. All that you can do is to manipulate the surface - gesture, costume, expression...". 2
Is our subject then projecting varying 'personas' of her personality, the 'personas' being aspects of her personality that are not necessarily revealed in her everyday existence, the unusual activity and setting acting as encouragement for self- expression? Does the personality captured by the camera fit in with others' expectations of the model? Are the collaborators 'manipulating the surface', in Avedon's sense, by employing over-the-top wardrobe, unfamiliar location, and gesture, to reach the 'real nature of the sitter'? Or is it all an act, is she merely performing for the camera, for no other reason than to create an arresting image?
The awkward pose, moment & choice of model all heighten this sense of displacement, and cause one to pay attention to these details, heightening their sense of mystery.
1. Juergen Teller in C. Cotton, Imperfect Beauty: The making of contemporary fashion photographs, V&A; Publications, 2000. p123
Tracy Lindner Gander in collaboration with Katherine Bull at João Ferreira, Paul Edmunds, ArtThrob Issue No. 60, August 2002
Art South Africa