Sunday, February 22, 2009

On one of my more meandering type strolls through the internet (from facebook to Rachel Bank to Helsinki Biennale to Erin Jane Nelson) I came upon the works of a young student in New York. Nelson's blog is odd and charming in that sort of very young way that seems not to have particular thoughts about ego. It just exists in that nice way that things can just be done quietly.

While going through her images I came across several series that I liked but the ones that struck me were her photographs of rainbows, or more particularly, refracted light through glass, on the faces of what I assume are friends or close acquaintances. They have a lightness and looseness that suggests a keen awareness of the moment. They seem to be composed entirely of the moment, like, 'hey, wait a minute, there's a rainbow on your face. Let me take a picture of that.' You can almost hear the silence in One Way I Could Never Touch You - which I desperately hope is the title of the work (it is at least the title of the jpg.) But just as you can feel that calm during the instant click, you can almost imagine the young girl turning towards you, eyes fluttering open and giggling back into whatever everyday conversation she was having.

Erin Jane Nelson, One Way I Could Never Touch You

It is extremely hazardous to shoot your friends as a photographer, because you often fall into one of two camps. One, you're not as unique and special as you think and neither are your friends, which makes for dull and empty pictures, or, two, you end up exposing some sort of shallow self reflection in the vein of early Tillmans work or Elizabeth Peyton's recent foray into photography. Nelson's thankfully skirt both these pitfalls, and in the end, feel honest and not amateur.

Erin Jane Nelson, from continuing (I hope) series of photographs of "Valerie"

They reminded me of Tracey Baran's work. I first came across Baran's Suck and Blow image a long time ago. In doing some research on it, I feel like I must have picked up something from the MoCP back in 2002 when I was interning at flatfile. Karen Irvine, Associate Curator at MoCP said of Baran's work, that she "creates visual journals, using color photography to record and refine her experiences into images that reference fundamental themes such as love, death, and regeneration. Rarely preconceiving her pictures, Baran works in an intuitive manner, casting her photographer’s eye on the world until something sticks."

Tracey Baran, Suck and Blow, 2002

Her images are at once beautiful and sad. They feel like when you can't remember the details of a dream but you can remember the emotional content. You feel like you have lost something, but the visual exchange gives you something back. Its rare than an image will stick so hard in my head but that I can't hold onto the information. The image was seared into my mind the second I saw it, but I was too involved with other things to really pay attention. I never saw the show at the museum. I remembered the image and had thought about it often until last year's Volta fair where a gallery from Berlin was highlighting her works. I was very excited to see someone commit to her creations that way.

So I was very sad to find out today that on November 11, 2008 Baran passed away at the age of 33 due to complications from seizures. I felt like I was just rediscovering her works and now the feel lost again. She will be missed.

Tracey Baran, I Miss You Already, 2004

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