October 27, 2006

Holly Lynton's Solid Ground

This evening I heard photographer Holly Lynton speak about her current show Solid Ground. We happen to work with the same printer (Ben Diep at ColorSpace Imaging on 20th Street) so I had seen some of her images a few months ago around the print studio before I knew anything about the show. They are luminous prints, each one exotic and yet familiar. Taken together they put the viewer in a distinctly feminine and mysterious dreamworld full of blossoming life but also full of hidden dangers and even death. Looking at the images and having heard they had all been taken in the artist’s backyard, I formulated what I thought was a strong theory about the motivation behind the work. I was certain that the artist was trying to show us a child’s perspective where the back yard is indeed the entire world. The low angles, tight crops, short focus and subject matter all seemed to confirm my theory.

For me the work recalled the deep forest I remember behind an apartment that was our home for about a year in the 70’s. I was 5 then and would go exploring with my 3 year old brother. Each journey like all good adventures was fraught with giddy joy and perceived danger. Would there be trees to climb, wild blackberries, or kidnappers and snakes? The trips often ended with us running full tilt, simultaneously laughing and yelling at the top of our lungs, back home.

A few years ago I returned looking for the forest and was puzzled to find only a grouping of tightly bunched thin trees. Convinced the forest must have been leveled I looked back at old photographs to find the scene virtually unchanged, a small stand of trees behind a parking lot ... and yet even with irrefutable proof, it is hard to resolve the memory of the deep dark forest dimly illuminated by occasional shafts of light.... endless.

All this is a roundabout way of saying I had convinced myself I knew what the artist had intended... and of course I was totally wrong. In her talk this evening she said the series had been inspired by a trip to Tanzania shortly after September 11th. In Africa she found death and beauty lurking all around in a real and visceral way. The unresolved feelings the trip inspired, as well as returning during a time when imagined boogiemen were being touted daily led her into her backyard searching for the kind of beauty and danger she experienced in Africa... and to this project...

And yet like that stand of trees, even knowing the truth, it is hard to resolve my original conception of the project. Both narratives remain in my head and both seem equally true.

posted at 01:58 AM by raul

Filed under: photographers


10/27/06 03:33 AM

Thank you for taking the time to introduce us so many excellent photographers. It makes the photogeek in me wish that I had just moved to New York instead of New Zealand, so I could see the shows you mention here. But I'm on my own photo adventure, I suppose. :)

10/27/06 11:01 PM

Thanks for the thoughts on last night's talk and my work. All I have to say is both narratives ARE equally true and maybe they both were in my head too, I just didn't know it. (the house I grew up in is dwarfed to what it seems in my mind too)

But for me rather than seeing it as going backwards to a time when things seemed that way, it is more going forwards to being able to look beyond how it first appears now (with the low angles, the tight crops etc) to discover what a child finds, because it IS there, we often just don't know where to look.

As I said last night, my inspiration isn't important. I love reading more where it took you.

10/27/06 11:21 PM

just to add i'm new at this blogging

...and was thinking, that what I also think is that as adults, we can also get caught up that way, if we let ourselves.

holly golightly cause I was named after her

10/28/06 08:29 AM

we invite this photographer to visit our back yard a jungle with countless secrets

O'Clery Family

10/28/06 09:47 PM

I'm not sure what I think about the questions you're all discussing, but I know one thing...this is a helluva Halloween picture!


10/30/06 01:14 PM

You wrote so nicely about this that my boyfriend and I went to go look at the show. All the images work so nicely together and have such a cumulative effect that I wonder how they would stand on their own?

Kate and Mike

11/16/06 02:48 AM

Yawn... I am sorry but i tried to like her work, seriously but I honestly can't. I hate to be a downer but I don't understand what all the excitement its all about. It looks like a good art school portfolio, nothing more.

11/16/06 11:50 AM

The appeal of the images wasn't obvious online but on the wall they worked for me. I was intrigued by the world they presented... and they worked together as a show. I'm not really a photography nerd, but they certainly hit me more powerfully than any art school portfolio. I wonder if anonymous spends much time with kids. I don't think I would have appreciated the images as much had I not recently been spending so much time with my young niece lately. The pictures felt like a window into her world.

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