Photographs specialist Jude Hull profiles four rising stars, with works offered in our 18 May sale in London
Julie Cockburn’s unique practice supplies found photographs with new narrative possibilities, deploying a range of techniques to transform her images into surreal, hybrid visions that cut across time and space.
Turning to older images from the middle of the 20th century, Cockburn embroiders her photographs with geometric patterns in vivid colours, or produces kaleidoscopic digital edits that obliterate her subjects’ identities. The figures and landscapes at the heart of her photographs are put into dialogue with her new forms, haunting art-historical movements and styles with faded memories and lost biographies.
From her celebrated 2007 project An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Taryn Simon’s White Tiger (Kenny) displays the photographer’s ability to expose the unexpected and the unknown lying beneath the surface of everyday life.
Here, the artist turns her camera on Kenny, a white tiger bred for showbiz events in Las Vegas, but whose inbreeding has left him scarred by a number of mental and physical defects. Simon’s work draws out both the strangeness and pathos of her doomed subject.
An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar established Simon as one of the leading photographers of her generation, debuting to great acclaim at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Since then she has been nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2009 and exhibited at the 2015 Venice Biennale, while her 2011 solo show, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, travelled from the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin to Tate Modern, MoMA and MoCA, Los Angeles.
Her work is now held in the public collections of all of these museums, as well as the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the V&A in London.
Slovakian photographer Michal Pudelka is a rising star. His gorgeous, eerie images — impeccable girls posed as if for fashion editorials, but tinged with a surreal and sinister flavour — take cues from Soviet and high-fashion aesthetics.
A distinct sense of humour and a keen eye for arresting interplays of colour instil his images with a hazy, dream-like beauty, reminiscent of the cinema of David Lynch or Sofía Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides.
Conjuring this uncanny elegance isn’t easy: Pudelka’s strictly analogue approach requires careful preparation, and he often designs and makes outfits specifically for each shoot. ‘Thinking is the most important part of my work,’ he says. ‘I like to make images that are thought provocative. Images should be quietly arresting — I hope my images allow someone to reflect on them and return to them again and again with the same curiosity.’
Norwegian photographer Anja Niemi explores facets of female identity through atmospheric, carefully constructed scenes, which she stages, shoots and acts in entirely alone. Artifice and hyperreality jostle in her images, which are often undercut with a sense of mystery or unease lying beneath their immaculate surfaces.
The Backyard is from a series called Darlene & Me. As Niemi explains, the story ‘started with the content of a suitcase from 1959 … The case belonged to a beauty counsellor named Darlene and contained make-up samples, brochures and the receipts from her sales. Most of the samples appeared to be untouched, but there were clear traces of her fingers in the two lipstick colours Strawberry Festival and Princess Pink. In August 1960 Darlene sold a jar of Liquid Beauty and one Temptress’s Hairspray — both were to herself. After that she made no more sales.
‘The case left me with a feeling of a woman’s failed attempt at success, and a strong sense of who got in her way,’ Niemi continues. The woman I envisioned became the only character of my next series, Darlene & Me. Isolated in a rented house in the Californian desert, I took on the part of Darlene to tell the story of my fictional character’s intricate relationship to herself. Darlene & Me portrays two women, photographed together in displays of conflict or simply in each other’s company, whether in agony or comfort. The two are, of course, the same woman.’