Posts Tagged ‘Enid Crow

19
Nov
09

26 Interviews: (E)nid Crow…

 The majority of New York based artist Enid Crow‘s  photographs contain little more than a tightly cropped  self portraits of the artist wearing different costumes and posing. Despite the seemingly simple and repetative nature of her work, Crow has managed to create a body of images that says quite a bit about American culture and politics.     

 

 

 

 

 

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Jon Miller: What initially drew you to self portrait photography?

Enid Crow: Around 1979, my parents sent me to the Wendy Ward School of Charm. I took classes from when I was eleven until I was about thirteen. In addition to learning things like how to answer the phone and good grooming, part of charm school is learning how to be a fashion model. This involved collecting photographs of good poses from magazines, going to the front of the class, and posing like the model in your photograph. Then we were supposed to get professional black and white photographs taken and start making fashion model portfolios. My mother seemed to think this was either a scam or totally pointless since I had a mouth full of braces and bad skin.

So, I made my own studio in the basement by taping white paper over the wood paneling and photographed myself with my mouth closed, copying poses of the fashion models in Better Homes and Gardens. That was the only magazine my mother subscribed to. When I was a drama student in college and grad school, I started acting as characters in the self-portraits and working with costumes more.

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  JM:  Your early series, “Disasters” features characters on the brink of, well, disaster. Their faces all share a similar look of fear, shock, and disgust. In contrast, your newest series, “Happy Workers”, is nothing but smiles and happy faces. Clearly, these images comment on disaster as well, but on a more subdued and personal level. What are your thoughts on this shift in the way your ideas are presented?

EC: After photographing all the tragedy in Disasters and in the midst of the financial collapse last year, I needed to photograph something to cheer myself up. So I photographed myself as people who still have their jobs. Granted the characters in my photographs don’t have health insurance and their 401(k) plans tanked, but at least they aren’t working in a child factory in China. America really knows how to treat its workers!

Seriously, in my pictures, I try to address social issues like sexism, homophobia, and the exploitation of workers. Often I think a strong way to get a point across about a painful, controversial topic is to use humor. So in that sense, I haven’t shifted too far from Disasters even though my facial expression has changed and I’m now using text beneath the photographs to help tell the story.

JM:  I love your “Faggots” series in which you and your real life partner at the time play the roles of queer men, in both graphically sexual moments as well as quieter and even mundane situations. Though you had been doing drag self portraiture as men for some time, this series seems to have developed later and contains the only overt sexual imagery in your catalog. What inspired these images?

EC: When I first came to New York City in 2000, I worked for an attorney who has an extensive photography collection of men loving, taken from the latter part of the 19th century to today. The International Center of Photography featured some photographs from his collection in a show in 2001. My boss would show me new pictures as they were sent to his office and I’d see them scattered around his desk when I delivered papers for him to sign. The subjects ranged from stiff studio portraits of male couples, men sharing beds in rooming houses, to beefcake pictures from 1970s porn magazines. So in my series, I tried to reflect the scope of the images that I saw in his collection.

JM:  Queer sexuality in art is almost automatically processed as transgressive and political. What were you trying to say in creating this work? 
 

EC: Faggots is my favorite series. Justin Duerr, my ex-boyfriend who plays my lover in all the pictures, helped me shoot some of the pictures in the Disaster series around 2005 and 2006. Justin is bi and he would get aroused and want to kiss me when I was dressed as a male character for Disasters. We decided scenes of us kissing as men would make interesting photographs themselves so we started our own series together and ended it just before we broke up in 2008 when I decided to grow my hair long.

The photos comment on issues that I care about very deeply—the arbitrariness of gender and homophobia. I don’t think there’s any need for me to get into a long soap box sermon about why those issues matter because this is, after all, Gaycondo. But briefly, being in love with someone who loves men, and knowing he could engage in certain social rites with me because I am a woman (like marry me or display my photo at work) but not a man he might fall in love with after me, is in my mind, one of the greatest social tragedies there is.

JM:  Any future projects currently being fleshed out?

EC: I am going to my parents’ condo in Florida in a week for a vacation. I am going to finish the Happy Workers series and start shooting a very short self-portrait series called Beauty Queens in tiaras and heavy makeup on the beach. In December, I am going to start shooting a series of portraits of vegans in New York City. I would also like to do a serious series of pigeon photographs. I love pigeons and I take a lot of snapshots of the cute ones I see on the street and the sick ones who I take care of in my apartment.

JM:  Pigeon photographs? That seems like a pretty grand departure from your regular aesthetic! What type of images are you planning on creating? 

EC: I am as fanatical about pigeons as Nikola Tesla, and these pictures will be like poems in their honor. I will take photographs of ordinary street pigeons loafing and flying and manipulate the images so that they are monochromatic and simple. Then I will take the individual, simplified versions of pigeons and use them as individual design elements, like the way the artist Tae Won Yu manipulates letters of the alphabet to make fancy designs. I have been doing this a little with pictures of pigeons I’ve found on the Internet, but I think the pictures will be better if I start from scratch with my own pictures. 

 But I am not moving away from self-portraits. Sometimes I just need a break to come up with a new idea. As I age, my face is getting saggier and more comic, so I think that the photos will probably get funnier and sadder.

For More: www.enidcrow.com

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26 Interviews  by Jon Miller

365 days.

26 interesting people.

1 alphabet.

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17
Mar
09

Jon: Enid Crow’s “Happy Workers”…

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NYC photographer Enid Crow’s newest body of images continue to be based around playing with the contortion of her own self image. However, she has pushed her own personal artistic boundries within this format into new territory by choosing to create self portrait characters that are (seemingly) happy. In her previous series, most notably the Disaster photographs, her characters were caught in what is perhaps the worst moments possible: the moment immediatly preceding tragedy.  In Happy Workers, Crow has instead chosen to comment on life, and the choices we make (or are forced to make) about how we spend 40 hours a week of that time. The characters are not having tragedy happen to them, instead it would seem that there happiness is the tragedy.

Each of the image in Happy Workers is a “snap-shot” of an employee melodramatically smiling in front of their place of employment. Included below each photograph is an overwhelming positive quote from the character about the job they do. Most of the jobs Crow has chosen to base an image around would be considered lower end jobs (retail, server, blue collar). Crow gives no commentary about whether these images are meant to be read as a positive, scathing, or a simply sarcastic response to the current conditions of most working class jobs. Based on the almost cartoonish nature of most of the images as well as the unrealistically perky wording of the quotes though, it would seem that Crow’s commentary falls more with the latter.

To see the entire collection of photographs, head over to Enid Crow’s website.

To read an article I wrote for Gaycondo about her previous series, click here.

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Click thumbnails for full image.

09
May
08

Jon: Photographer Enid Crow is not a man…

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…but does “it” with her boyfriend like one!

   

(click thumbnails for full size)

 

New York City renaissance woman, Enid Crow, is perhaps most famous for her fairly referential (but still interesting) series of photographs entitled Disasters. This popular group of images, which Crow began work on in 2001, are all self portraits featuring the artist in the guise of different women and men. In each photograph the featured character is dramatically reactting to a looming disaster outside the frame of the image. The assumptive leap can be made that since these images began to be created in 2001 (and the artist is based in NYC) that they are commenting on the overwhelming “unknown” fear that many Americans had internalized in the wake of September 11th.  While it is true that Crows first series is visually jarring and thought provoking, the images tend towards the melodramatic and repetative. While this is most likely the artist’s intent, it quickly begins to feel stale and boring upon repeated viewing. Even though Crow is perhaps the first artists to explore this idea, it is hard to view this series and not thinks to one’s self, “I have seen this done before.”

Crow’s latest series The History of Moustaches, revisits several themes from Disasters (self portrait, drag), but brings to them a more freshly contemporary thematic sensability. The majority of the photographs feature Crow posing alone as the archetypical middle-american blue collar working man. We see images of factory workers, farmers, consruction crew, and hunters. The subject matter within these images is very mundane and the images ressemble everyday snap shots. This begs the question “What exactly is Enid Crow trying to say with these images?”. The unremarkable nature of the photographs forces the viewer to focus of the one thing that is unusual: Crow herself. The costuming and sets are dead on accurate, but it is hard to not notice that Crow (mustache and all) is just not very convincing in drag. And this, of course, is where the true depth of the images comes into play. When you view the pieces, you are not supposed  to be fooled into thinking you are looking at a man. Given Crow’s earlier works, and her clear fascination with internalized fear, one begins to understand her true intent. This series is a statement on masculine fear of the feminine. The fear that outward presentation may not reflect one’s inherent and uncontrollable inward dialogue. Or inner gendered desire.

Which (yes, finally) brings me to the images posted above in this blog entry. They are a small subset from The History of Moustaches, entitled Faggots. Each of the seven photographs in this subset explore gay male desire (from the chance meeting, to the sexual encounter,to the longterm relationship). The characters are portrayed by Crow and her real life partner Justin Duerr.  This group of images takes the next logical step in the series by studying perhaps the ultimate masculine fear, homosexual (feminized) erotic attraction. Where in Disasters we had a looming tragedy out of frame, in Faggots the “tragedy” is front and center. This shift in representation creates a strong statement when looking at the entire span of Crow’s artistic work.

This new work shows a lot of promise for Enid Crow, and it will be interesting to see her future creative trajectory. Perhaps, as one of her self proclaimed (and obvious) influences Cindy Sherman did, she will begin to explore human representations without the conventional use of human models. As far as studies of fear go, there may be nothing more appropriate than a self-portrait photographer giving up total control and stepping out of frame.




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