Sunday, October 12, 2008

A brief review of Justine Kirkland's recent lecture at Oberlin College

The thing I enjoyed most about Justine Kirkland's work were the landscapes she found to host her stagings. While I thought some of the character arrangements worked better than others, and some didn't work for me at all, my attention was consistently held by the environments in which she shot. The burnt forests were particularly impressive in my memory, and I wish she had shown (or shot) more pure landscape photographs alongside the staged ones. The underpasses also carried a lot of weight for me, and did more to shape the mood of those scenes than the teenage girls arranged under them.

Before I went to this talk I had never heard of Justine Kirkland. All I knew about her was what I could gather from the fliers advertising the event. Besides her name, it featured one of her photographs, a picturesque mountain landscape with a naked family of humans communing in a circle among the wilderness. Thus, my first impression of Justine Kirkland was: hippie. Sure enough, she is totally a hippy. About 2/3 of the way into the lecture we got to her documentary photographs of communes from around the country. They weren't particularly interesting, though now that I have begun shooting a documentary project myself I have a bit more respect for content-before-style photography.

Her themes deal with girlhood and motherhood primarily, which made them interesting but not particularly relate able to me. In the end I just wanted more of those beautiful landscapes.

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