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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Joe Leavenworth

Images from "Numb" and "Pictures from Home"

The work of Joe Leavenworth unfolds like pages in a book. I was viewing his “Numb” series and noticed that with every image, there was this uncontrollable habit of processing every detail to assure its acceptance into the group of work: proof that they belonged. There are many ways that a certain feeling can be expressed, and when we are presented with a single word or even just a handful of them, every letter becomes vital in the process of understanding. In his series, “Numb,” the photographs expose an environment that is void of warmth in both the literal and figurative sense. The icy weather casts a sense of loneliness in pale shades of blue throughout his images. With snow that suffocates the ground and plastic subjects that pose for eternity, any evidence of life seems so frozen that it would calmly decline the chance to gasp for air. He creates an interesting juxtaposition with the liquor display in the store window that is colorfully decorated for the holidays: celebrating a time for making memories and presenting a means for destroying them. The title of the series also coincides with the physical affects that alcohol can have.

“Pictures from Home” possesses a stronger presence, at least in the narrative sense; with an immediate recognition of the human presence, there exists a relieving possibility that we are more willing to accept it as reality. The suburban setting invites us to investigate the idea of family, and the clutter that represents life in the absence of those who created it. These spaces are intimate because each subject seems unaffected and almost willing to participate in the image-making process; therefore, the camera seems to offer a sense of security and perhaps even the illusion of association. Although the viewer is permitted to enter these personal spaces, we are still not fully able to access their contents. The faceless portraits presented in the third image allow the full attention of the viewer to be placed on surroundings (context clues) to identify with these unknown subjects. It is an interesting technique that I think forces us to react to the environment, instead of merely processing or mirroring the reaction of the subject within that situation. The people in the living room are more aware of the consequences of a photograph, and that could explain the awkward posing and odd distance from the camera. The way the coffee table inhabits the foreground physically separates us from the subjects, inhibiting our vision. As welcoming as this setting may be, it is too bizarre to feel comfortable; I feel apprehensive because their smiles are identical.

Joe Leavenworth photography (collaborative)

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