Looking at: Aneta Grzeszykowska

May 20, 2010 at 10:51 am (art, culture, interesting, other sites to see)

I’m generally not the biggest photography fan and I definitely don’t pay as close attention to what’s going on in the photo world as I should. But occasionally I see work in photography that is so smart and just so unbelievably good, and that I’m blown away.

I was thrilled to learn about Aneta Grzeszykowska’s work from a friend. The first series I saw was her set of Cindy Sherman film stills. Here’s what the artist does: She is taking this series of photos that are well-known, iconic, and much revered and she’s rephotographing them, painstakingly capturing the original photograph down to the tiniest detail. But two major things are changed: One, the artist produces color photos when the original was done in black and white (more on this in a moment). Two, she incorporates tiny details that refer to the fact that these photos were taken in Poland, and not America.

the "original"

Grzeszykowska's "copy"

Looking at Sherman’s originals, there’s plenty of things that I just sort of glossed over and never questioned because I assumed (with my American eye) that they were “universal.” So of course (I always thought) the signage behind her character in a particular shot was going to be written in English, or of course her grocery bag that spills out onto the floor will have food in it that’s familiar to me. That’s the kind of chauvinism that the training (art school, etc) I have has instilled in me, and it’s so rare to see something that rattles me out of it. And what first tips you off that something really amazing is going to happen is the very simple trick of changing the stills from black and white to super saturated color. Looking at Grzeszykowska’s series, you immediately get that something is wrong, or that something is very different, and it’s the effect of the color on an image you’re so used to seeing in black and white. And then all this other stuff gets revealed, and it’s a real treat.

The artist has also done some other projects I much admire, including one where she went through old family photographs from her childhood and edited herself out, and a riff on the work of Thomas Ruff, where, using Photoshop, she creates portraits of completely nonexistent people.

Now I want to go to Poland. A lot.

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