The Eyes of Talia Chetrit


Talia Chetrit, Public Billboard, LAXART, Los Angeles, 2014

Looking at Talia Chetrit’s photographs feels like being catapulted on the set of a 1970s thriller, think 3 Days of the Condor, presumably shot in New York’s exteriors and favouring birds’ eye views to scan someone in the crowd or singling out a detail among the choreography of people moving on the streets below. Frozen time is photography’s prerogative yet in Chetrit’s work the settings and the choice of the grain give a sense of an explicit temporality, which depicts a reality as well as constructing a fiction.

The camera device, as the veins on one’s hand, are not dissimulated; in her work the artist incorporates glass reflections, adopts partial crops of -for the most part- female bodies and gives flesh to the pictures drawing from her biography. A recent body of work takes Chetrit’s parents as subjects: in some photos the artist has repurposed rolls of film she took at 13 when enrolled in her first photography course, in others she has portrayed her folks in these last years showing without hesitation the passing of time on the faces and bodies of her mom and dad. When commissioned to do a billboard for a public project in Los Angeles by Laxart in 2014, she decided to blow up a photo of her mother sunbathing in a white swimsuit, the creases on her neck visible and defiant. In the age of hardcore HD manipulation, Chetrit is excited by the potential offered by the medium of photography and its analogue platforms; hers is very much still a studio practice that doesn’t disdain film, darkrooms and scannerbeds. Artist and photographer become interchangeable terms here: a Talia Chetrit’s image retains the same crispness and stern grace whether produced for a show in a contemporary art gallery or from shooting campaigns for fashion brands. In both contexts, art and fashion, Chetrit excels at creating a tension in the way she constructs an image. Bottom, nipple, vagina are some of the features that become object-like through the sculptural treatment and the relish for repetition favoured by Chetrit. In the retina of the viewers the images are registered as flawless displays of isolated objects contrasting with askew representations of people, at once severe and passionate.

Taking a photo is an implicit act of power over the portrayed subjects: Chetrit has played, dissected and overturned this dynamic in her images, either portraying herself bottomless in the studio – like she did in a recent photographic series- or capturing fashion garments and working with models for commercial shoots. Talia Chetrit has been testing her ability to seize and relinquish control from the photographer to the subject of the photo, like diastole follows systole, employing reflective surfaces to mirror the photographer’s at work and making it part of the representation. In a recent solo show in New York, Chetrit has asked her parents to pose for her in their home but as well as taking photos, she has been recording on video the build up, the in- between moments, and with them the awkwardness, the clownish gestures and faces, which precede and follow what is captured in a photograph. The artist in an accompanying text, explains: “I wanted to expose the vulnerability in the private moments I had witnessed between takes – moments that the photographs had failed to represent.”


Caterina Riva, 2015

Written for FORGET THEM issue 08 Fall Winter 15/ 16

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