American photographer Philip Lorca diCorcia is without question, one of the most influential photographers working today. You might know him for such projects as Heads (often imitated by other photographers, but never matched), in which he featured engrossing, voyeuristic portraits of New York commuters, captured unknowingly as they passed under a pre-built complex lighting setup under a scaffolding structure through Times Square.
Photographs, 1975-2012, is diCorcia’s largest UK exhibition to date, chronicling over 100 photographs from six of his most major series. While diCorcia has often played with the process of making photographs, he is perhaps more categorically known as a ‘scenographer’, creating narrative images, heavily staged and theatrically lit (not unlike fellow Yale teacher, Gregory Crewdson).
It comes as second nature for me to write so fondly of diCorcia, having been a die hard admirer for many years and a natural obsessor over cinematographic self-interpretation. diCorcia is not for everyone. Although conceptually reminiscent of a 20th century American documentary project, the self-conjured ‘reality’ of his creations lie on another plane entirely. Despite what your eyes might tell you, there is no realism in his photographs. What may appear as authentic, captivating moments – captured with perfect timing and a keen eye – are in fact highly constructed, from the subject’s facial expressions right down to an empty can of coke lying on the floor in the background.
What diCorcia’s photography does do, is challenge the idea that there is a decisive moment, that there is some kind of photographic-reality-slap that’s going to nail some kind of human experience. It’s exactly why his characters are always waiting for something, expecting something, and why the viewer fondly replays this moment of anticipation with them.
Above, Lucky 13
If you missed out on his East of Eden exhibition last year at London’s David Zwirner Gallery, you’re in luck. Select pieces from East of Eden – along with Streetwork, A Storybook Life, Hustlers, Heads, and Lucky 13 – are all showcased in unison at Photographs. If you’re ever going to see a diCorcia exhibition, this one is unquestionably the holy grail, and not to be missed.
Above, Photographs 1975-2012 – The Hepworth, Wakefield
Photographs 1975-2012 runs at the Hepworth Wakefield from 14th February – 1st June 2014 with free admission.