Monday, March 10, 2008

Katie Kingma -- Dreaming close to home

"Lindelem 1," Katie Kingma, All rights reserved

The tireless Jorg Colberg's blog Conscientious led me to the work of Katie Kingma. Recently included in PDN's top 30 emerging photographers of 2008, Kingma says her pictures are "...tableaus which depict my subjects in moments of casual interaction with their environment, suggesting a place just beyond the back yard, far from danger, and close to home." I'm struck by the specificity of her phrase -- "just beyond the backyard." It evokes my own childhood roaming through suburban-frontier Connecticut woods with a gang of boys & dogs. Except for the occasional copperhead snake, those woods were safe, but our adventures seemed wild; our imaginations never ran hotter.

Kingma's most successful photos are utterly specific and undeniably strange . She suggests that "...perhaps [the pictures] reflect a world found in dreams or in the mind of a child." Like dreams they suggest complicated narratives, but the dreamer isn't allowed to know them. The dreamer suddenly finds herself in a place -- just there! A girl looks out the window & notices that the glass is teeming with ladybugs. A boy looks into a cave entrance & sees mysterious men in feathered headresses

"Indian Council caves," Katie Kingma, All rights reserved

Freud wrote that "the uncanny" draws its power from its similarity to the familiar. Thus, a doll can be uncanny because it looks so much like a real child -- we dread it in some sense because we fear it could "come alive." All statues have a whiff of the uncanny. So too, to a lesser degree, do all photos. Kingma seems to understand this. In the best of these pictures she delivers a shock in the dappled sunlight "just beyond the backyard." I look forward to seeing what she does next.

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