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Justine Kurland’s Female Utopia

Girl Pictures,摄影师呈现一个世界的诱人的幻想中,作为一个年轻的女人是不会引起恐惧,但无限自由的来源。

贾斯汀·库兰,“菊花链”(2000)(所有图片Girl Pictures和Aperture,2020;©贾斯汀·库兰)

When Justine Kurland first started staging photographs of girls play-acting as runaways and castoffs in the late 1990s, setting them loose in woods and beaches and highways to do what teenagers do, she had Holden and Huckleberry on the mind. She was activating an alluring yet flawed mythology of exploration and self-sufficiency, recasting it with girls as the protagonists for once. Her subjects are puckish adolescents at a precipice in their lives. They come in twos or threes or tens; they wear tank tops and baggy jeans, hair loose, sometimes shoeless, their very own band of lost girls fleeing from adulthood itself.

Justine Kurland, “Boy Torture: Two-Headed Monster” (1999)

科尔land’s runaways usually materialize on the outskirts of society. “The Sirens” (1999), for example, captures a group of girls climbing a rocky hill on the side of the road, escaping into the syrupy glow of the setting sun. One holds out her hands to hoist another up as an oncoming car approaches in the distance. In “Boy Torture: Two-Headed Monster” (1999), two girls hold down a boy in the brush under an overpass and dangle a glob of spit over the infiltrator’s face. The woods are deadened and beige, the bare trees framing the trio. Behind them, another girl nonchalantly watches the scene from her perch on a branch.

这些图像 - 1997年至2002年间拍摄,并在新的卷再版Girl Pictures— are so rich with fable they require no narrativizing, but that doesn’t make Rebecca Bengal’s introductory words any less welcome. Bengal links the photos into a single, snaking story, as devil-may-care as the images themselves: “They were Pre-Raphaelite, postapocalyptic; they were punk, they were pastoral. But they didn’t know any of this yet, not back then.”

一种t the time, the notion of girls forging self-reliant communities constituted a strong feminist stance. Since then, we’ve begun to see more women occupying lead roles in art and media — roles with agency and spunk and personality, women who revolve around their own magnetic cores. The young adults in Kurland’s images embody the unstoppable desire to leave from where they came, a desire the artist herself felt growing up poor in upstate New York. In her teens, she moved to New York City to stay with extended family and attended the School of Visual Arts, followed by an M.F.A. at Yale. She travelled west in her van, stopping only to take photos before forging on. “I could find girls wherever I stopped,” she writes in an essay titled “Cherry Bomb” which closes the book, “but they went home after we made photographs, while I kept driving. My road trips underscored the pictures I staged — the adventure of driving west a performance in itself.”

Justine Kurland, “Shipwrecked” (2000)

科尔land has been相比摄影师喜欢佩特拉·柯林斯,构造scenes of youthful angst bathed in moody, feminine lighting. But where Collins shows a contemporary anxiety drenched in irony and technological influence, Kurland’s girls are unencumbered by such self-consciousness. More often, Kurland’s work is traced back to Gregory Crewdson, one of her MFA professors at Yale, who also made a career from shooting atmospheric staged photographs. For a medium that often hinges on the patience and luck of catching a moment as it happens, staged photography gives an artist greater narrative control. Kurland, however, only orchestrated her photos up to a point, letting the girls express themselves in front of the lens. The resulting candor lends the photos believability.

Girl Picturespresents a seductive fantasy of a world in which being a young woman is not cause for fear but a source of boundless freedom and camaraderie. In “Cherry Bomb,” Kurland writes, “At least my narratives were honest about what they were: fantasies of attachment and belonging that sharply diverged from the hardships experienced by so many actual teenage runaways.” Even the grittier images of the girls smoking, eating ketchup sandwiches, washing in public bathrooms, skirting the sides of highways, or crouching under bridges are, in their own way, romanticized. The images themselves are unquestionably beautiful, often softened by natural, late-afternoon light. By and large, the girls appear blissfully unbothered by the precarious situations in which they’ve found themselves.

Justine Kurland, “Poison Ivy” (1999)


一种storyfrom Lauren Groff’s book佛罗里达浮现在脑海。两个年轻女孩被他们的母亲在一个小岛上抛弃,而留给自己照顾自己。他们是免费的,但并不安全。他们告诉对方的故事,在水中游,吃樱桃唇膏,从蛇和猴子和人皮。最终,他们救出,并成长为成虫。姐姐持有到那些“漂亮柔软的日子”和,面对黑暗和成人世界的危险,当她的妹妹嫁给一个坏男人,她有“丑陋的心愿”,他们“把所有这些年前留在岛上;直到它们变成阳光和灰尘,他们会慢慢地消失在他们的饥饿“。有一种忧郁的美的这种渴望,以及制作怀旧与库兰的照片共鸣。这并不是说岛上的一切都很好,但至少这是他们的一段时间。


因为他们一起在库兰的照片上的女孩是艰难的。他们是猎人和战士。他们绑死的动物,它们穿过树林和平原,他们让世界为他们工作。这是谁不需要微笑女孩命令的面孔,不需要看相机在所有 - 他们有更重要的业务趋于。有时候,企业看起来像在闲逛的野花,弹吉他,或对海洋的沙滩边缘的怀抱蜷缩。

Girl Picturesis a variant on runaway boy stories, but while the relation exists, the comparison is not exact. In Kurland’s vision, tenderness imbues the interactions between girls. She depicts intimate friends and lovers banded together, rather than individuals lighting out for the territory. Though there are a few pictures of single subjects, even these, bound together in this book, feel part of a greater collective.

一种s with every fantasy, though, reality presses in from the edges. Implicit in any depiction of utopia is what is left out, the chasm between representation and reality. What about the girls fleeing from real danger, from places to which they can’t return? What about broken glass and disaster? What about the men? The rain? The cold? The realist — and woman — in me imagines every wrong way this can go.

20 years later, one must wonder if and howGirl Picturesremains relevant. Today this kind of escape feels less likely than ever. Teenagers still run away, certainly, but the world they run into looks different. With cell phones and tracking, getting lost is a rarity and going off the grid is almost impossible. The utopian freedom envisioned in this work is a Transcendentalist notion of escape from civilization. But who is privy to this type of freedom? The girls in Kurland’s images are overwhelmingly white, and when one audience member at the ICP event noted this, Kurland admitted she hadn’t actively tried to make the work more diverse. “It’s a weakness of the project,” she said. Some of it she attributed to circumstance. “Most American cities are completely segregated through gentrification and redlining. And it was easier to navigate white communities as a white person,” she wrote in an email. “I remember coming to a black community in Alabama and everyone said no,” she added. “I finally got one girl to agree but her mother came with us. It was the only time I ever shot with a mother present. It’s the last picture in the book. I put it there to signify that there’s still a lot more work to be done.” ThoughGirl Picturesstrives towards a collective ideal, ultimately it presents a limited conception of feminism. Kurland said she hopes someone will pick up the baton and make it anew.


Still,Girl Pictures保留沿小飞侠的线一定神话的魅力:在田园诗般的风景童年的理想主义集,提供不同类型的社区和冒险的,有各种不同的规则。在举办这些照片中,库兰希望体现一个梦想应运而生。“我希望能让女生可见之间的交流,前景化他们的经验主要和无可辩驳的,”她在写了“樱桃炸弹”。如果我们从这些图像学的东西,它不是逃跑就是答案,而我们可能是彼此的答案。“ - 通过欢聚,宣称对新领土的剪切力,他们将乘我想象的世界中,充当女孩之间的团结将造成更加的女孩。”我们可以在这些图像都业的惨淡郊区和波光粼粼的峡谷看到,他们是女孩,谁将会接替他们的那些,阳光和灰尘。

Girl Pictures由贾斯汀·库兰是由光圈出版,网上和your local indie bookstore

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