Alex Prager captures the face in the crowd
Large scale photos shot on an LA soundstage form part of the photographer's most ambitious work to date
You may remember we brought you an interview with the LA based actress turned photographer Alex Prager last year around her photo series La Petite Mort (The Orgasm). Prager's 1960s suburban America-influenced photographs bring to mind the work of William Eggleston (a chance encounter with whose work inspired her to pick up a camera in the first place). Since our interview, Prager has been signed up by the Lehmann Maupin Gallery and seeing her work in their gallery booth at Freize London last year was one of the highlights of the fair for Phaidon.com.
Face in the Crowd, on view at both of the gallery’s New York locations until February 22, is a two-part exhibition featuring large-scale photographs of elaborately staged crowd scenes at 201 Chrystie Street and an immersive three-channel video installation at 540 West 26th Street. Her large-scale photographs of crowd scenes expose the disconnection between individuals while the new film Face in the Crowd explores the unspoken connections among individuals and is a much-needed reminder that we are part of something larger than ourself.
Shot on a Los Angeles soundstage last year, Face in the Crowd is Prager’s most complex and ambitious work to date. The artist directed hundreds of actors on constructed sets to create portraits of large crowds at airport terminals, lobbies, beaches, movie theatres and other public spaces. For each scene, Prager taps into a shared cultural memory to create images that are familiar yet strange. The characters, clothing, hairstyles and poses were all carefully chosen by Prager to convey a range of time periods from mid-century to present. They bring to mind cultural references drawn from street photography and classic Hollywood cinema.
The ambiguity of the eras and locations suggest a sense of timelessness while also creating a world that synthesizes fiction and reality. The crowd of individual characters are connected by their close proximity yet, at the same time, isolated in their own private worlds. The way that their facial expressions are directed towards no one in particular suggests unshared thoughts and solitary emotions. In an age of increased communication through technology Prager’s scenes of disconnected characters within the crowd remind us of the decline of meaningful interpersonal contact.
You can read our interview with Alex here and learn more about the new show at Lehmann Maupin Gallery here. Meanwhile check out our forthcoming book Photography Today which surveys the current state of photography and its most interesting artists through eleven thematic chapters on subjects such as street photography, portraiture, landscape photography and documentary.
Photography Today traces the development of photography as an art form in each of these genres individually and also looks at the ties and links between them. What is revealed is a complex story with numerous tangents. Mark Durden's narrative, combined with rich illustrative content and an easily accessible design, guides a clear path through the story, showcasing the work of great individual photographers while also being able to place this into the larger narrative of the medium's development.