September 2 – October 29, 2006
Perfectible Worlds is a group of 65 color photographs of people with obsessions. Begun soon after 9/11, the series portrays people transported into worlds and activities over which they have near-total control.
The photographs – made from medium-format negatives – are all environmental portraits, that range from people who make extravagant miniature worlds, to those who have extraordinary collections, to still others who immerse themselves in unusual pursuits. Each photograph is the discovery of a particular world an individual has found or created for himself – a private world that few are privileged to see.
The series began with a picture I took of a friend working on his model railroad. Expanding over the twenty years he has owned his house, his railroad has taken over the entire basement. When he goes down to work on it, he leaves behind both his professional and family life. He need satisfy only himself, and exercises total control over his miniature world. This kind of absorption – what we do in an imperfect world to console ourselves – struck me as a subject worthy of exploration.
We’re all fascinated with other people’s passions – what they do in their spare time to satisfy an inner need. These creations, collections, or activities are quirky, often beautiful, and almost always ends-in-themselves. My ambition has been to reveal the particularity and intensity of their acts and creations, and also to capture their engagement in the midst. Their world — for that fleeting instant, and through their generosity — becomes mine, and now, perhaps, yours.
Sage Sohier has been photographing people in their environments since she graduated from Harvard University in 1976. She has been awarded many grants for her work, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowship, and two Massachusetts Artist Foundation Photography Fellowships. She has had one-person shows at the Bernard Toale Gallery in Boston, the Addison Gallery of American Art in Cambridge, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and Gallery Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City. Important group shows include The Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, How Human: Life in the Post-Genome Era at the International Center of Photography in NYC, American Stories, a three person show at the Art Institute of Chicago, and, most recently, Self-Evidence: Identity in Contemporary Art at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in NY and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others, and has been published in New York Times Magazine, LIFE, Newsweek, O, and Discover. She teaches photography in Boston at Massachusetts College of Art and for 12 years at Harvard University. Her work is represented by Bernard Toale Gallery in Boston.