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Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Jennifer Garza-Cuen - Imag[in]ing America

Dec 13, 2017

Imag[in]ing America depicts a series of locations in the United States as a residue of cultural memory, an inheritance. It is a metaphorical memoir, a narrative re-telling of facts and fictions and it is also my discovery of the dreamland that still is America. 


Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.
Untitled - Club Ladies

Imag[in]ing America

Dec 22, 2017 - Jennifer Garza-Cuen

Images have the ability to expand and compress time. They speak of what was, what is, and what will be. We look to photographs to remember and often reenact what we see, pushing old images into the future.

 

The real folds in upon itself.  A play of opposites: then and now, here and there, truth and fiction, theater and documentation.

 

 


Untitled - Plains View

Imagin[in]ing America depicts a series of locations in the United States as a residue of cultural memory, an inheritance. It is a metaphorical memoir, a narrative re-telling of facts and fictions and it is also my discovery of the dreamland that still is America.

 

 


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Thanks to Der Greif for this opportunity to share my work and for all that you do to promote dialogue within the international photographic community. Special thanks to the Ucross Foundation and the Historic Occidental Hotel without whose support this series, ‘Buffalo, WY,’ would not have been possible. 


Untitled - Young Man in Bedroom

Reenactments

Dec 21, 2017 - Jennifer Garza-Cuen

At the historic Occidental Hotel and in other places in and around Buffalo, Wyoming time has seemingly paused. They are contemporary spaces so steeped in the past it’s disorienting.

 

Buffalo is one of numerous towns in America where people have rejected aspects of contemporary society in favor of a simpler and often more rural life that includes aspects of historical reenactment. It has been called histo-cinematic simulation or the Disneyland effect in which sanitized ideas of the past are mixed with everyday contemporary life in a nostalgic new romanticism that is both enticing and unsettling. Perhaps this is the result of our legacy of images and their narrative power to provide definitions in a world that is still shifting too rapidly for many to keep up.

 

 


Untitled - Trophy, Buffalo, WY
Untitled - True Value

Titling the Document

Dec 20, 2017 - Jennifer Garza-Cuen

The titling system I use is an acknowledgement of two traditions in documentary photography: One of refusing to use words to define visual work and the other of subverting definitions through the use of neutral descriptors. Both of these traditions are attempts at objectivity and yet documentary images are never objective. By using both ‘untitled’ and a ‘neutral description’ I attempt to call attention to issues around the assumed objectivity of documentary photography.

 


Untitled - Man in Lobby

In most cases photographic images land on a spectrum from real to staged. In journalism, there exists a kind of factual imperative whereas in other areas such as advertising there are expectations of fantasy and invention. Documentary images have a long history of riding the line between these two extremes, frequently depicting reality as reenactment. They are simultaneously real and staged.

 


Untitled - Exhibition Room

Photographs tell you far more about the person who made them than whatever they attempt to depict and so I approach my work as a kind of metaphorical memoir, a document of my cultural inheritance.

 


Untitled - Man on White Horse

Untitled – Man on a White Horse

Dec 19, 2017 - Jennifer Garza-Cuen

With barely 600,000 residents Wyoming is the least populated state in the union. Its idea of State selfhood is one of abundant natural splendor, rugged resilience, and self-sufficiency.  The main economic drivers are mineral extraction and tourism. Agricultural commodities include livestock, hay, wheat, barley, and wool. The climate is semi-arid continental, it is dry and windy with extreme shifts in temperature.

 

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the American West was a place where identity was often the creative result of entrepreneurial self-invention, fiction, and theater. It is telling that some of its most famed residents such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Sitting Bull, and Calamity Jane made a living later in life by acting out their own legends.

 

To this day the Wyoming state website proudly boasts of ‘the untamed spirit of the West’ and its ability to ‘open your mind and invigorate your senses to release your own inner freedom and sense of adventure.’

 

Alan Watts said ‘A myth is not something simply untrue but rather a myth is an image, in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.’ Imag[in]ing America is my personal investigation into some of those myths.


Untitled - Formation

Reverberations

Dec 18, 2017 - Jennifer Garza-Cuen

Documentary image-making is by definition relational. It requires that photographers engage with the world. When I begin a series, I do what many photographers do: I drive a lot, stop and knock on doors. I immerse myself in the landscape and familiarize myself with the people and place as a whole.

 

As I begin to create images I search for archetypes, for the recurring themes that have come to define that place in historical documents and popular culture. Using my own experiences and those I have inherited from films, literature, and historical documents, I create an idea of place as I imagine it.

 

The first images I make are invariably landscapes. I look for ways in which the land is echoed in the people and the places. Untitled – Formation and Untitled – Downdraft are examples of that process.

 

 


Untitled - Downdraft
Untitled - Bingo Caller

Untitled – Bingo Caller

Dec 17, 2017 - Jennifer Garza-Cuen

My search is for a kind of memory place. America as inheritance.

 

Contemporary American life is tinged with familiar modern conditions, the consistent movement of people and a corporate stranglehold on commerce so that everywhere is also anywhere or nowhere. I’m looking for what remains of place-based distinctions while also trying to capture an essential Americanness.


Untitled - Floodlight

Buffalo, WY

Dec 15, 2017 - Jennifer Garza-Cuen

Our society often treats place as a central defining characteristic, second only to name and followed closely by profession. We all have a catalogue of images in our mind that we call upon when a city, town, or country’s name is mentioned and those images help us to form an opinion of place, and those we meet from there.

 

 

What is it that makes us ‘of’ a place?  As a former American expatriate and one who has lived my adult life essentially placeless this is a central question in my work.

 

 

In my ongoing project Imag[in]ing America I am interested in investigating national, regional, and local identities as well as ideas of otherness as they relate to place and documentary photography.

 

 


Untitled - Livestock