Sunday, October 10, 2010

the mind's eye

image (c) Jane Huntington

Perhaps it’s a symptom of the insistent Recession, perhaps it’s a broader admission of cultural defeat, but much of the photography I’ve recently observed is heavy with abandoned spaces, peeling paint, cracked concrete and rusted infrastructure. Indeed, these works comment on a broken identity, a failed system, or even the existence of lead paint as a larger metaphor for the conspiracy of capitalism. Occasionally a photographer transcends these usual admonishments. Such is the work of photographer Jane Huntington. Within her work, Huntington manages to locate that same sense of desertion in those sites still in use. Sometimes she conjures an entirely different set of responses within places customarily limited to social commentary.

My path intersected with Huntington’s at Pratt Institute, where we were fellow graduate students. I am quite familiar with many of the locales she selected.  The worlds she implies are very different from the actual places that I passed through or inhabited for two years. Her photographs revise them, navigating meaning between fact and fiction, accessible and forbidden, coded and arbitrary. Huntington has stated, “I walk around taking in the world around me, trying to apply lessons learned, fixating and assessing potential for either hazard or joy. Places where I’m not allowed and are unfamiliar are of particular temptation. Chance encounters lead me from one thing to the next.”

Though she has an extensive editorial CV, Huntington brings these same qualities to her portrait photography. It is only her subject’s contemporary attire that reveals their present day existence. They lack and are laden with history. They are still, quiet, timeless and essential.

It is this transformation of site and individual that activates an unlearning of the places, individuals and assumed histories that I formulate every day. Huntington’s work provokes my imagination. I am anxious to see more of it as she unveils the hidden or imagined histories of an under-noticed and richly packed world some have only dismissed as failure.

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