Clarissa Bonet: City Space and Stray Light
There are not a lot of photographers who can create work that is at the same time complex and simple. The complexity of her compositions marry figure and space beautifully, yet still allow for breathing room and quiet contemplation of simple gestures. Those qualities take a special photographic artist who is willing to put in the time and observation it takes to find ordinary moments that become transcendent in their framing. Clarissa Bonet is not a street photographer, though her subject matter might reflect that genre. Her process is as follows: Walking for hours, Clarissa uses her phone to photograph the interactions between people, architecture and light. Later, she revisits these places and recreates the feeling she first experienced, hiring models to play specific roles at the precise time of day when the light was perfect for her City Space photographs. The resulting photographs are carefully staged memories that appear to be snapshots of everyday city life. As she states: “The urban space is striking. Its tall and mysterious buildings, crowds of anonymous people, and endless sea of concrete constantly intrigue me. The images I create provide a personal interpretation of the urban landscape.”
In 2014, Clarissa embarked on a second ongoing project, Stray Light, which looks at the anonymity of people in their homes at night. Bonet photographs once the sun sets, capturing the colorful glows from hotel and apartment windows. Back in her studio, she carefully constructs each image from multiple photographs, transforming the urban cityscape into a constellation, as the mind tries to organize the information presented. Ultimately, the viewer is left dazzled by the glow emanating from windows that fill the city skies, much like the stars do on a clear night, far away from the lights of an urban landscape.
An exhibition of City Space + Stray Light will open at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago next Friday, September 9th and will run through October 29, 2016, coinciding with the Filter Photo Festival. As part of the festival, Clarissa will be presenting an Artist Talk on Friday, September 23rd at 6:30 at the gallery. In addition, Catherine Edelman has created a web series, Chat Room, where she has discussions with curators, artists, and industry professionals. The episode with Clarissa can be found here.
Clarissa Bonet Lives and works in Chicago. Her current work explores aspects of the urban space in both a physical and psychological context. She received her M.F.A. in photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2012, and her B.S. in Photography from the University of Central Florida.
Bonet’s work has been exhibited nationally, internationally, and resides in the collections of JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Photography’s MPP collection, the Southeast Museum of Photography, and the Haggerty Museum of Art. Her work has been featured on CNN Photos, The Wall Street Journal, The Eye of Photography, Photo District News, Juxtapoz Magazine, and many other notable online and print publications internationally.
Bonet has received recognition and support for her work from the Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events and Albert P. Weisman Foundation. Recently, she was chosen as one of PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 2015 and selected as a 2016 Flash Forward Emerging Photographer by the Magenta Foundation.
Clarissa is represented by the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago, IL.
The urban space is striking – its tall and mysterious buildings, crowds of anonymous people, the endless sea of concrete. City Space is an ongoing photographic exploration of the urban environment and my perception of it. I am interested in the physical space of the city and its emotional and psychological impact on the body. These photographs reconstruct mundane events in the city that I have personally experienced or witnessed in public. Stark light, deep shadow and muted color are visual strategies I explore to describe the city. I use the city as a stage and transform the physical space into a psychological one. The images I create do not represent a commonality of experience but instead provide a personal interpretation of the urban landscape.
Building facades melt into darkness, their architectural details vanish, leaving only glowing windows in a sea of pitch black, like stars in the night sky.
Stray Light is an ongoing photographic project aimed at imaging the nocturnal urban landscape. We have all but lost the night for our progress. In its place we have formed a new cosmos, one of vanished surfaces and flecks of light. Carefully constructing each image from multiple photographs, I reform the urban landscape in my own vision – one that seeks to reconstruct the heavens in its absence above the cityscape. Light emanating from each window references a world unknown, evoking a sense of mystery and awe. We no longer look up to the night’s sky with awe. Instead, that is how we look out at the city.
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