Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Darling Days - iO Tillet Wright

I like this girl. One of the main things I use Facebook for is networking with photographers and artists of all types - from the high and mighty to the just out of school and wet behind the ears to the on the ground and running in Haiti/Afghanistan/Gaza.

Anyway, I think iO Tillet Wright was a friend of a friend (or possibly a friend of a friend of a friend...). Either way I think she is someone to keep an eye on.

For starters, I wish more photographers could be as down to earth in their "ABOUT ME" descriptions:
I have been taking pictures, making films, mugging it for cameras, and writing about it since I can remember. Whatever inspired me, I felt compelled to document and disseminate.

There have been some wildly inspirational characters and places in and out of my world in the last few years, since I discovered film photography and dove deeper into writing, so I humbly hope that, herewith, I can bring you a taste of what I see and feel when I'm with them.
But most of all of course it's her work that grabs me. iO seems the antithesis of the young woman straight out of Bard or Yale or Sarah Lawrence with her fresh MFA, full of enthusiasm and newly inspired by her well known New Topographics, New Colour, old friend of Walker Evans/Lee Friedlander/William Eggleston, Professor while also trying to photograph a concept with her digicam (I know - someone is going to point out she actually went to Yale or wherever; which, of course, doesn't change my point at all)

From the work I've seen, she seems able to take today's (and yesterday's) flavour of the month cliché art photographs and make them her own (or avoid them altogether). That is, the sort of photographs I've grown tired of (and to tell the truth, never liked that much) - the un-ironic ironic girl and/or boy portraits of the unshaven scrawny young guy asleep on a rumpled bed/smoking in a grimy apartment. Or a young McGinleyesque nymph naked or in her cute knickers cycling in soft hazy sunlight or hanging out in the back of a truck. Or the deadpan unreal realist "I'm too hip/mentally challenged/poor to smile" portraits etc. (okay rant over...).

She's obviously at ease in a world which isn't mine (I'm more of a Berlin when it still had an East or the grey North of England in it's doomed resistance to Margaret Thatcher kind of guy, not NYC/Jersey/Brooklyn etc.). And thankfully she hasn't fallen into a Nan Goldin style grim self-absorption.

iO seems to draw elements from all of these approaches and places and then transform them into something else (for one thing, she doesn't seem afraid of feelings and humour). Her black and white work has great style and skill as does her colour work. Among other things, she has mastered the classic tri-x and harsh flash NYC look and she also seems to be able to out-Parr Parr, but she isn't stuck in trying to be the next Parr or Eggleston, Winogrand or Klein.

Best of all is that she seems able combine both black & white and colour almost seamlessly and without jarring contradiction. Something few photographers have been or are able to do. The pairing of work in either different styles (harsh/gritty + soft/"human") or in b&w/colour are some of her best work that I've seen. I think that despite the obvious surface differences in the type of media or style there is something deeper and more personal that runs through all her work and makes connections.

In her about me above she writes that she "discovered film", which I must say is both slightly depressing and a little scary... film really is a historic process now - she could just as well have said she discovered tintypes. What's great is what she seems to be learning and discovering in the process (mind you, I'm not sure if the dust spots on some of her pictures are an homage to and signifier of this old medium or simply that she hasn't managed to find a musty old book in secondhand bookstore on "The Art of Print Spotting" [found alongside "Coat Your Own Albumen Paper"]) :-)

Tillet Wright mentions that she spent some time last summer travelling Europe and took 46 rolls of film with her - what wonderful optimism. Going on travels in the days of film I would easily pack 100 or 150 or so rolls. But her attitude rather contradicts the old grumps sat around in the pub dripping beer on their Leicas and complaining how these folks with digital cameras just take thousands of shots until they get it right - "it's just luck" - not like the old days... bah, humbug.

I think (and hope) iO Tillet Wright will be someone to watch, so I hope she finds ways to continue making her work and staying excited about it (btw, she also has a blog). Oh, and did I mention she can write too. So someone out there give her a grant or a residency or some assignments or a fellowship to help her broaden her range and experience - you might be happily surprised by what come out of it...

(All photographs by and © iO Tillet Wright)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I like the black and white photos. The contrast of the black/gray and white seems to highlight the important aspects of the photos so as to clue the viewer in on the meaning of the photo. The subjects themselves create alot of interest whether it be the style of their pose/clothes, or their facial expression.