rachel-kessler

Andreas Feininger (American, Born France. 1906-1999), “Bat Flight”

1952. Gelatin silver print, 15 13/16 x 19 9/16” (40.2 x 49.7 cm)

Selected By Rachel Kessler

            Feininger’s image is overwhelming. The viewer’s eyes bounce around the image, not sure where to focus.  This photograph is taken from inside a cave pointing towards the outside world. Shadowed black trees and the top of the cave becomes the frame pulling the eye into the center. The rest of the frame is full of flying bats. The bats are chaotically covering the entire sky. The swarm of bats is anxiety provoking. Why they are there? Some bats are close to the camera where as others are far, causing tension in the scene.  No clues are given as to where this place is. The image is dark with no highlights; everything is black against the grey sky. Feininger captures the scary feelings associated with bats through this image. 

“Having babies shouldn’t change anything. I would write down my profound thoughts while the kid napped, right?I should have known better—I had babysat kids. I had younger sisters. I unionized daycare workers, for chrissakes. I knew from experience that no baby or toddler simply lies about while its caregiver writes poems. As soon as it can, a baby inside the uterus will look for a vital organ and start kicking it.” -Me and You and Everyone We Know and Miranda July and Postpartum Depression by RACHEL KESSLER

Tina Barney (American, Born 1945), “swimming”

1991. Chromogenic color print, 10 7/8 x 13 15/16” (27.7 x 35.4 cm).

 Selected By Rachel Kessler

            Barney’s image is simple and orderly. The focus is placed on a young girl in a swimming pool. Her arms are fanned out above the water with her eyes squinted closed as if she is in pain.  Her mouth is not screaming for help but no clues are given on her status. Surrounding her the water is rippled showing she had just jumped in. Blurry in the foreground there is a figure in a red coat with her hand reaching towards to girl. These potent gestures draw in the viewer. Lack of other people in the frame causes tension, a sense of emergency. What could have happened? This image is anxious. The hard blacks, deep reds, and vast turquoise water make the eye jump from subject to subject with no flow. This moment is ambiguous leaving the interpretation to the viewer. Barney’s gift to capture carefully prepared charged moments shows true through this unique image.

Lise Sarfati (French Born 1958 ),” Kelly, West Sunset Blvd”, 2010

15 and 3 artist’s proofs Image Size: 13 3/8 x 9 inches Paper Size: 17 3/8 x 13 inches

Selected By Rachel Kessler

            Delies, bodegas and gas station stop and shops are in every town and city. Such places sell the necessities although are not known as a classy place to buy your groceries or toilet paper. This image features the interior of a quick shop’s grocery area showing drinks beer, and bread. The main figure is a woman with her back facing the camera peering into the glass. A reflection of her body is shown in the glass although her face is still hidden. Through this girl’s skinny body type, daisy duke shorts and high heeled boots it is obvious that she is young and not well off.  The color pallet is a bit skewed using the green tinted lights the scene held. This off color pallet adds to the obscurity of her placement within the frame. The way she is standing leads the viewer to believe she has been standing there staring for a while, staring.

Eugene Atget (French, 1857-1927), “Hotel de Sully-Charost, 11 rue du Cherce-Midi”

1904-05. Albumen silver print, 8 1/2 x 6 9/16 (21.6 x 16.7 cm)

Selected By Rachel Kessler

              Starting at the bottom of the Eugène Atget’s Hotel de Sully-Charost image, the eye follows the elegant railing of a staircase.  The lighting on the staircases fades from shadow to highlight and back in a lovely gradient with the detail revealing its dynamic beauty.   The sculpted railing in the foreground plays off of the soft and distressed background. In the corner the walls seem to have cracked over time. The same light that shines on the railing flows over to the back wall creating a crease in the corner, darker then the rest of the wall. The natural window light paints the room as if it were a canvas.  It is elegant and refined.  Atget uses light to open up the small space.  It seems calm not claustrophobic.  The mundane is elevated.

Robert Adams (American, Born 1937), “Garden of the Gods, El Paso County, Colorado”,

1973-83. Gelatin silver print, 9 3/8 x 11 13/16” (23.9 x 30 cm)

Selected By Rachel Kessler

            A single light shines on the paved road from the bottom left of the frame. The light reveals mysterious stains on the street leaving the viewer to question the markings and where they came from. The watermarks add texture to this otherwise dark image. The source of light is unknown forming more mystery. The light leads the eye fluidly to the background. Behind the road are black raggedy mountains laid against a dark grey sky. With almost no detail present the viewer searches in the deep shadows for answers. This image is shot at night concluding a long exposure upon capture. The image is shot from the first persons’ perspective creating anxiety between the viewer and photograph. Through this dark image Adams transforms a scenic view into an ominous space full of unknown.

Alex Prager (American Born 1979), “Susie and Friends”

2008. Chromogenic color print, 48 x 76 1/2” (121.9 x 194.3 cm)

 Selected By Rachel KEssler

            Prager challenges gender roles through this image. During the 70’s in American women were not supposed to be drinking beer or smoking cigarettes in a party scene. The women of the 70’s were supposed to be housewives. Six females are featured around the edge of the frame surrounding one woman in the center. The girls are inside a hot tub drunk in their bathing suites. The featured girl is lit separately sporting yellow glasses of a working girl at the time. Each character sporting a unique outfit and wig draws the viewer in closer to study them individually. The relationship of the characters is unknown through their variety of contradicting facial expressions. All the woman seem to be calm and enjoying their party except for the girl in the black bathing suite. Why is she staring at the center subject with such hate? Although this photograph was made in 2008 through Prager’s use of costume and esthetic the image seems to be taken in the late 1970’s. Through the woman’s placement and harsh shadows formed from an external light source this image has a cinematic feel.

Garry Winogrand  (American 1928-1984), “Austin”, 1978-83.

Gelatin silver print, printed 1987 by Tom Consilvio, 8 3/4 x3 1/8” (22.2 x 33.3 cm)

Selected by Rachel Kessler

            Airports are complex, the chaos of traveling mixed with the excitement of exploration. Winogrand captures this odd essence of the Austin airport. Five figures fill the foreground of the frame.  From his vantage point we see the detail of body language and apparel.  Three people appear to be traveling separately. Our eye skips from one subject to the next.  The travelers’ physical closeness yet separateness creates tension. There is a mystery as to who these people are.  Where they are traveling and why? Humor is found through the toddler’s odd placement and expression. Viewers are left to create a story of their own. The physical contrast of tones makes the image pop while the skewed angle creates movement among the still figures. In the 1980’s air travel was still something new. Looking at the image today we recognize how our experience of it has changed, but the impact here is Winogrand’s ability to capture a sense of dislocation and unease, and boredom. 

Simone Nieweg (German Born 1962), “Path with Puddles, Meerbusch-Buderich”

2001. Chromogenic color print, 14 1/16 x 19 7/16” (35.7 x 49.4 cm).

Selected By Rachel Kessler

            The eye moves fluidly through the image. The sun kissed grass filled with long parallel puddles merges the foreground with the background.  It leads the eye from the bright reflection of the water to the dark line of trees on the far left. The trees create a gradual S-curve where most other lines are straight. The plant life gives detail to the location. Through the group of black tree’s and puddles the eye is pulled to the center. Such crisp detail and natural light lets the viewer easily study and enjoy Nieweg’s image. The green and brown gradients elevate nature’s palette. This land is pure, only slightly touched by human hand. The bottom half of the image is calm and serene. With the grey sky brings anxiety to this beautiful scene. What will happen to this natural place next? Nieweg flaunts natures beauty within this photograph.

Mark Steinmetz (American, Born 1961), “Venice, California”

1994. Gelatin silver print, 12 1/16 x 17 5/8” (30.6 x 44.8 cm).

Selected By Rachel Kessler

            Steinmetz’s photograph explores the complex relationships between teenage girls. Three girls are featured. Two in the background slightly out of focus and one is closer to the camera. The girl in the foreground stands in beautiful light facing the sun. Her expression is melancholy. The cellular phone she clutches brings a time to this black and white image. The girls in the background look mischievous. There have eye contact with the camera and display identical grins. These expressions are charged.  All three girls are connected by the same lip color. This image moves the viewer’s attention back and forth between the two groups of girls searching for a conclusion. Esthetically cinematic this photograph tells a story. The expressions Steinmetz captured are dynamic and intriguing.   What is the dynamic? The on point contrast and artful street photography skills makes the image stand out, holding our attention.

Adolf De Meyer (German, 1868-1946), “Princess Miguel de Braganca”

1921. Gelatin silver print, 9 3/8 x 7 5/8” (23.8 x 19.4 cm)

Selected By Rachel Kessler

            A dream world is created through this image. Meyer features a young woman sitting at a table with her profile towards the camera. Her hands are tangled together and her posture hunched, showing her soft demeanor. Her expression is stoic as if she is waiting on something. Playing off her princess title she is draped with pearls and surrounded by flowers giving hints to her social class. The background is smooth, drawing focus to the small details in the foreground. The creamy grey color pallet and smooth light create a grey film over the image. Was this intentional or created over time? Her skin appears unworldly as if porcelain. The halo effect from the lighting creates a spiritual tone, as if she is an angle. Through light, color, and print quality an ordinary photograph was transformed to an ethereal image.

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999), “Eleanor, Port Huron”

1942. Gelatin silver print, 3 1/4 x 4 7/16” (8.2 x 11.2 cm)

            Selected By Rachel Kessler

            Callahan heightens the human form. The figures arm is shot up-close becoming the main subject. This image is cropped before the shoulder and at the wrist drawing the eye back and forth along the arm. The vantage point is from above as if someone is standing over the figure. This creates an eerie feeling. Is the subject alive or dead? The skin appears soft and hairless telling the subject is female. Her arm is lying in detailed sand creating tension between the simple foreground and complex background. The strong light tells us its summer. You can feel the heat of a day at the beach. The deep shadows created by the sun mimic the shape of the arm adding depth and flow to the image. Having no hints of era this photo becomes recognizable creating a feeling of déjà vu.

William Eggleston (American, b.1939- Present Day), “Untitled”,(St. Simons Island, Georgia), 1978 from Morals of Vision, 1978, 15-¾ x 19-15/16; Dye transfer print

        Selected By Rachel Kessler

Eggleston’s photograph taken in Georgia is a symbol for a southern household. With his use of an overly warm color palette  a sense of heat is felt throughout the frame. You can feel a sense of humidity through the soft focus and opacity. As the frame is washed clean of almost all significant colors Eggleston uses the beams of light shining through the window to accentuate the minute details. Through this light he is teaching the viewer more about the scene. He highlights the clutter of the kitchen showing the space is lived in. The soft light used within the frame creates a melancholy feeling. Although there are objects in this image a sense of loneliness lingers, the human presence which was once there is now gone. The way in which every item is put in a place although its placement is insensible causes discomfort. This photograph captures the natural southern esthetic in a beautiful way.