Katy Grannan’s fallen stars on the highway
Photographer’s new series looks at the fortunes and misfortunes of the overlooked and undervalued
We’ve all taken the odd wrong turn in life, yet few of us have landed on as unfortunate a path as those depicted in Katy Grannan’s latest series of photographs. The American photographer’s two current projects The Ninety Nine and The Nine, on display soon at Amsterdam’s Foam Gallery, both take their titles from the Californian roads on which Grannan found her subjects.
For the benefit of our European readers, State Route 99 runs north to south along the Californian Central Valley, linking such towns as Modesto, Fresno and Bakersfield. Meanwhile, downtown Modesto’s South 9th Street, known locally as the Nine, is a shorter, rundown urban route, renowned for vagrancy and prostitution.
Grannan, who relocated to California in 2006, focusses on the mythic American ideal of The West and its pioneers, and has photographed similar subjects before, most notably in her brilliant Boulevard series, photographed on the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is the first time she's shown outside the US.
She exploits the West Coast sunshine again in The 99, capturing subjects in the harsh white of the midday sun, which give her colour portraits an intensely vulnerable feel.
The Nine, meanwhile, is a black-and-white study, befitting a town once photographed by the great Dorothea Lange, and still home to levels of poverty and deprivation not so dissimilar around the edges to those witnessed during the great depression.
There is hope too, however. Grannan’s film, The Nine, currently in post-production, captures moments of dignity, humour and community resilience, proving that, for the residents of The Nine, their road may not be quite the dead-end it may appear to be.
For more on the show, which runs 26 June – 23 August at Foam in Amsterdam, go here; for greater insight into Grannan and her work, buy Vitamin Ph, our contemporary photography overview, which features her work alongside many other practitioners.