Monday, July 9, 2007

A New American Portrait

Of definite interest if you are in the New York area is the show "A New American Portrait" at the Jen Bekman Gallery. Co-curated by Jen Bekman and Jörg Colberg, Conscientious Blog Editor, the show takes a look at America’s contemporary portrait photographers.

The work in the show is emblematic of current trends in the genre, documenting a wide range of ideas within the portrait genre. Included are posed shots, environmental portraits, and self-portraits.

For myself, the work that truly shined through in this show was that of Alec Soth and Jen Davis.

Soth has established himself as the pre-eminent figure of today’s environmental portrait photographers. His work, although oftentimes representing marginal circles of American culture always has an overriding honesty and beauty to it. In his portraits you can feel his compassion for the people and places he photographs, which I feel separates him from many of his peers who have set out to shock audiences or exploit their subjects.

Jen Davis’s self portraits confront America’s obsession with surface beauty. Davis uses her own body to confront our ideas of what someone is supposed to look like, and what we are supposed to be attracted to, as well as her own aspirations and happiness. This nation’s obsession with being young, thin, and desirable leave Davis a lot of room to work with, and personally I find her work to be much more poignant than work of Laura Greenfield, who is working on similar themes.

Also of interest to me was the work of Todd Hido, and Brian Ulrich. I feel that my own familiarity with Soth and Davis’s made them easier for me to connect to, but I was definitely intrigued by the work of Ulrich and Hido, and I hope to see larger bodies of their work soon.

I only wish this exhibition could have been larger to incorporate larger bodies of work and more photographers, but as it is I found the show to be very thought provoking. This show and many others have proven Jen Bekman to be a very important gallery for emerging and contemporary photography. We need to support venues like these that are breathing new life into our medium.

-Eric Watts

"A New American Portrait"

Jen Bekman
6 Spring St. New York, NY
June 22nd –August 3rd
Wednesday-Saturday Noon- 6 pm

From Top to Bottom:

Alec Soth, Candlelight Hotel

Jen Davis, 4 AM

Brian Ulrich, Untitled (from the Thrift Series)

All Images Copyright the Artists