"Relationships", curated by Helena Kaminski, 2011

Relationships

Relationships

Curated by Helena Kaminski

We are conceived and born out of a binary system of two individuals.

The understanding of this beginning creates a longing for companionship of our own. The hunger for attaining an orbiting star from which to plot our own geography is a defining factor in developing a sense of self and determining our worldview. Therefore it should be no surprise that historically artists have continuously revisited this theme, whether it be an investigation of their relationship with themselves, others, or the divine. This topic has been explored in the form of observing and capturing other couples’ interactions, photographing one’s own partner and loved ones, and restaging critical or intimate moments. The three photographs on view here symbolically articulate what I perceive as the defining stages of being, with regard to our need for independence, togetherness, and separation.

Louis Faurer (1916 – 2001) was a fashion and street photographer during the 1940s through the 1960s. Though not as recognized publicly as some of his contemporaries, he photographed for such publications as Life, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue. However he is best known for his personal work photographing the streets of Philadelphia and New York. “Eddie” is emblematic of his style. Meticulously composed, Faurer carefully isolated his subject, placing him within a perfectly typical urban setting. The man is blind and shown alone but holds only a newspaper and a few sprigs of flowers. His face shows shyness, and the perspective is slightly withdrawn, observant. There is no suggestion of another individual in the photograph, creating a sense of loneliness.

Elinor Carucci’s (b. 1971) intimate portrait “Bite #2” is an eloquent study of her relationship with her husband, from the series Closer. The series describes personal moments, demonstrated by a very intimate perspective throughout, between the artist and her family. Gently closed eyes and lack of strained muscles on the face implies the couple in this photograph is at ease with each other’s presence. The bite suggests the push and pull of many relationships: the wants and needs of one partner versus the other. These intersections can lay the foundations for a strong relationship or destroy it completely. Or, the bite is simply a sign of affection and an affirmation of their familiarity with each other.

“Betty Field, 1944” is an unusually quiet photograph for fashion photographer Phillipe Halsman (1906 – 1979). Famous for collaborating with surrealist painter Salvador Dali and pioneering “jumpology” (photographs taken while the subject is jumping into the air), Halsman’s photographs are highly constructed. This photograph is of film and stage actress Betty Field, who at the time was two years into a fourteen-year-long marriage to the first of her three husbands, Elmer Rice. Also in 1944, Field was working on The Great Moment, a film by Preston Sturges, which ends with the death of the protagonist, mourned only by his wife. Halsman references the film by using distance to create an atmosphere of removal, both of subject to lens and subject to subject (Field to painting). The window has been left open, suggesting both a sense of escape and absence.

These three photographs individually engage the viewer in specific and distinctive ways. Faurer and Halsman both visually create a sense of detachment, Halsman through his use of distance and symbolism, and Faurer with his choice of subject, while Carucci’s approach to depicting intimacy exemplifies physical togetherness. Unlike Halsman and Faurer, Carucci also utilizes color, which makes her images feel more immediate and relate-able. Faurer observes his subject and photographs to highlight subtle emotion isolation while Halsman uses staging to suggest distance. Working within the different photographic genres, street, contemporary fine art, and commercial, these three photographs illustrate the inevitable stages of our most important interactions.

– Helena Kaminski, Arts Administration Intern
2011