“I try to leave the meaning as open ended as possible, both as an acknowledgement of my own inability to “define” what we see and the realization that reductive analysis is boring... The pictures are ‘non-events’ both because I see that as interesting and because I want to remove photography’s biggest attraction – the offering of second hand experience.” (P-L. DICORCIA,Quoted in Streetwork 1993-1997, University of Salamanca, 1997, p. 11)
With its hyper-real illumination and peculiarly inert figures, Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s W, March 2000, #12 blends cinematic fabrication with the fortuitous circumstance of documentary photography. The image depicts patrons of a shuttered bar shrouded in a nebulous chiaroscuro elevated by diCorcia’s rich colour. The crowd of people interact with a detached indifference: women stare inexpressively into a distant void as men turn their backs to the viewer. Interaction among the actors is limited to two men interlocking hands in the corner. The formal composition of the scene shares a striking similarity with the disengaged figures and murky lighting of Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks from 1942. Inspired by the films of Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, and François Truffat, the eerie stillness of diCorcia’s work is evocative of a film still’s staged tableaux. DiCorcia assumes the role of cinematographer, bathing the work in a fabricated entrancing light. He orchestrates this mise-en-scène by draping flashlights over lampposts and signs, hidden from the frame. Once diCorcia has composed his lighting, he acts as a modern-day flâneur, observing the unfolding dramas of his unsuspecting actors. However, unlike in films, the mysterious drama that seems to lurk beyond the scene is left to the viewer’s speculation. As an eminent American photographer, diCorcia’s work stands with seminal contemporary photographers Jeff Wall, Tina Barney, and Beat Streuli, united in their incorporation of realism and artificial narration. Rendered with an exquisite technical handling of light and colour, W, March 2000, #12 is a provocative scene that captures the ethereal strangeness of everyday life.