Fine Art Photography Daily

Pelle Cass: Strangers

I am a long time fan of Pelle Cass’ work.  His photographs are inventive, conceptual, and manage to reinterpret what is right in front of us by using multiple images to create new realities.  Pelle just opened a show at Gallery Kayafas of his new project, Strangers.  These portraits are made up of numerous close-up photographs, when combined, reveal minutely observed facts add up to something new and strange. The exhibition runs through November 24th, 2012.

Pelle has had solo shows in the Boston area at Gallery Kayafas, Stux Gallery, the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, and Harvard’s Fogg Museum print room. He has also had solo shows at the Frank Marino Gallery, NYC and the Houston Center for Photography in Texas. His work is owned by the Fogg Art Museum, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Polaroid Collection, the DeCordova Museum, Lehigh University Art Galleries, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He was Winner: Top 50, Critical Mass, Photolucida, Portland, OR, in 2008 and 2009, and was awarded Yaddo Fellowships (Saratoga Springs, NY) in 2010 and 2012. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Two of my favorite series are Selected People and Pins.  In Selected People, Pelle “orders the world and exaggerates its chaos.” Taking dozens of photographs of the same location, he selects what color palette or point of view he wishes to present. With Pins, Pelle rephotographs images from Architectural Digest and covers them with pins to create a new way of looking at space.

image from Selected People 
image from Pins

Strangers:I think of these pictures as non-portraits. They say nothing of the personality or psychology of the people who sat for them, even though they are very detailed and closely observed. So why bother? At first, I was simply curious about what a portrait is. I thought it might be revealing to remove the variables of personality and identity from the portrait. 

The sitter is basically unrecognizable, even though each picture is nothing but a set of photographic facts about that person. This emptying of identity happens when, after taking dozens of extreme close-ups of a particular person’s face, I blend the fragments into a new face. The shiny noses, wrinkled foreheads, and swirls of hair, take on a strange intensity when reassembled. 

My aim is to use extreme photographic precision in a spontaneous, almost messily expressionistic way, to discover, perhaps, a whole new set of human emotions housed in a new anatomy, but also to discover something about the nature of the photographic portrait.


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