13 January 2008

Chris Harris

Storm Break, Shirrod Road, Nez Perce County (2003).
Photograph © Chris Harris.

Port Susan #16 (2004). Photograph © Chris Harris

Can You Afford Me? Photograph © Chris Harris.

I found the work of Chris Harris over at Conscientious where Jörg has linked to it. (Thanks!) I find his images striking. Some of his work reminds me of Rothko, other of it brings to mind the images on ECM record covers (like this and some of these). As the commentary on this web page suggests, regardless of whether he is photographing landscapes on the prairie or the seaside or whether he is shooting window displays at the local mall, Harris offers us images of possibility sometimes fugitive because under siege, sometimes ambiguous, sometimes quite dubious.
"The pristine wilderness that often comes to mind when Americans think of the West is far removed from the reality of the region’s pervasive sprawl. True wilderness has now become remote from our day-to-day urban and suburban lives. Still, the West continues to engage us as a landscape of possibility."

"On the coast, possibilities seem to close and open at the same time."

"Mall windows suggest we can make ourselves into something new by buying something more. "Re-invent yourself," declared my local department store in its ad campaign. Photographs of glamorous women and men who have apparently succeeded in transforming themselves fill store windows. "Can You Afford Me?" the T-shirt on the half-reclining young woman asks, signaling both the shirt’s price and the price of passing it up. Buy the goods, adopt the look, and the glamour of mall models can be ours."
I think this is really terrific work and I think the questions Harris raises about the possibilities open to us are crucially important. On the Western landscape, it seems, commercial development threatens possibility, in the mall commerce extends the illusion of possibility (in the guise of putatively transformative products). And on the coast? Is it nature that offers up fleeting possibilities? From my perspective the important question is whether we might, in a non-commercial way create possibilities instead of waiting to encounter them or for them to present themselves. That compels us to confront the central challenge of politics.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh I love those. I've done a lot similar, Rothkoesque blue hour and various sunsets. People usually scoff. I might publish a few. Thanks Jim.

Blogger has locked me out. Ho hum.


13 January, 2008 12:19  

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