Comments/Context: In our celebrity crazed culture, we have been trained to wait obsessively for images of our favorite bold faced stars and froth at the mouth with frenzy over outrageous pictures of the famous and important. As a result, a veritable army of talented and creative celebrity photographers has sprung up, continually pushing the edge of the visual envelope in the name of ever increasing publicity and promotion. This is what makes Chris Buck's Presence project so unexpected. The big name celebrities are here all right, but they're hiding from view, leaving us with empty rooms and vacant spaces, a sly conceptual middle finger raised to the audience.
My first, and admittedly infantile reaction to these pictures was to try to break the code, to locate the place where in the bathroom where Robert de Niro was concealed or to figure out how Jay Leno hid behind his car in the parking lot, my brain still wired to maniacally search for the star, to hit the button for the endorphin reward. As I circled the gallery and frustration gave way to failure, I began to see the real power of the images. We subconsciously attribute value to places graced by the presence of celebrities, going all the way back to the George Washington slept here phenomenon. Somehow David Lynch's back yard, John Hamm's cinder block parking space, or David Byrne's office (complete with a flat packed Big Suit) seems full of some kind of special essence; we care more about a hotel foyer because Russell Brand is hiding there or are suddenly more interested in a striped shower curtain because Weird Al Yankovic is standing behind it. This is, of course, completely crazy, and yet, the weird aura effect remains - we absolutely see these places differently. The photographs are therefore both of the celebrities and not, simultaneously pictures of their obvious absence and their lingering influence.
I think Buck's inversions are clever and will likely be durably insightful; I can certainly imagine a big museum exhibit of celebrity portraiture ending with one of Buck's images, deftly pulling the rug out from under the previously contented viewers. It's a great example of photographing the unphotographable, exposing the quirky passions and fixations that lurk in our minds.
- Artist site (here)
- Book site (here)
- Features/Reviews: A Photo Editor (here), Telegraph (here), Cool Hunting (here), ArtINFO (here), Huffington Post (here)
Chris Buck, Presence