Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Dana Lauren Goldstein - While You Were Sleeping

Dana Goldstein has been one of my favourite photographers for quite a while, at such a tender age she's already received a good deal of exposure not only through her own website and blog but through exhibitions most notably at the Pulse Art Fair by way of the Saatchi gallery. She was born in Louisville, Kentucky yet spent a large proportion of her youth travelling around and living in different areas. Dana currently lives in downtown Manhattan, after completing her BFA in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007. During the intermission between achieving her degree and the present date Dana has worked alongside fashion photographer Kenneth Cappello, assisting him for a year, learning all the while.


I feel like theres such a cool vibe buzzing around New York City at the moment, definitely in terms of photographic artistic output and I see Dana as being a mainstay within that buzz for years to come. Speaking louder than my words are the those of the magazines that Dana has had work published with. Dazed Digital have put out some of her work online, Dazed & Confused have printed her photos within recent years, she's had a great deal of interest and works published by Hamburger Eyes, QVest, Intersection, i-D magazine, even Vice have handed Dana double page spread after double page spread - her feature 'Jailbait-core' graced the pages of Vice's photo issue - an inclusion which initially stoked my interest in her. An interesting side note, it was only a few weeks ago that Nan Goldin was purported to have seen Goldstein's latest Vice cover shot, only to remark that the covers 'were getting better' - an overwhelmed Goldstein posted the conversation on her blog. This set me to thinking, to what degree is Dana Goldstein an extension of Nan Goldin for this decade's not so suited and booted, fun loving downtown Baudelaire's? I can't really come to a just conclusion without either over-vaulting Goldstein, who at such a young age would probably agree herself that she's not taken her best photos yet, to a height that she's not quite reached yet, or trivialising Goldin's staggering catalogue of work which continues to impress even today.

I think, perhaps, that intersections in their work are no doubt going to surface when fancy takes it, the smoke and mirrors of Goldin's anti-beauty photos have been impressed firmly into the static-electric thought process that sparks a great deal of Dana's work. I see nuances of Terry Richardson's encouragement sporadically appearing on every roll of film Dana shoots. Look over the 'commercial' work of Dana's and you'll see a fair few shots of subjects given the freedom to express themselves as blatantly as possible against a no mercy white backboard. Terry Richardson often opts for this candid approach to shooting commercial photos, a formula which he's done well by, it gives him an opportunity to present the subject in all manner of ways without any interference or misinterpretation.


Nearly all of Golstein's work interests me, in particular I want to select a series of photos she took documenting the Punk kids around her. Some are her friends, some are transient teenagers making their way through town, staying, leaving, causing trouble and pissing off the cops. The Jailbait-Core pictures she took for Vice magazine instilled a great deal of excitement in me, I had never seen such a successful combination of punks flying their colours in front of the camera whilst communicating a blend of amiability and close partnership with the photographer. Nick Knight's Skins series took a very observational, third hand look at the Punk pathos and as renowned as that series is, I can't help but yearn for a closer, inner-bubble perspective when flicking through those shots. Goldstein came from within the family when taking these photos, giving her an almost warranted viewpoint from inside the chaos whereas other photographers have merely caught flashes of leather and glimpses of stud through the keyhole.


One such picture, of a sleeveless shirted punk kid of the day, grabbed me outright. I love the sheer laid back nature to this image, I love how seemingly at ease the subject is - smoking his cigarette as a Suicidal Tendencies cap reaches for attention from somewhere above two searching bright eyes. For me, I see this and think how cool that kid must have felt having his photo taken as if he had fronted The Germs or something, I'm almost fully sure 'Man is the Bastard' was pumping through his neurons as Dana snapped away at him. There must be a relationship here, however spoken or unspoken, between the photographer and the subject, this kid is so relaxed in front of the lens as if this was taken midway through a casual meet-up in the park between friends. Looking at the rest of that series it's apparent that a lot of the shots were taken inside, within familiar surroundings. I guess that's an intrinsic factor in achieving the state of comfortability that Dana searches for. The documentary aesthetic to many of her shots almost rely on a known environment of familiarity, Dana draws out whatever she wants from the scene shes taking pictures in, It takes a confident and capable photographer to find the tipping point between overly worked portrait photography and lazy, often discredited snapshot photography.

I want to look at more of Goldstein's portraiture, this is the work which appeals to me most. The photos she takes often steer clear of any theatrics, instead Dana is more comfortable capturing the faces of those around her as they sleep, smoke, daydream, or simply gaze down the lens of the camera. Each photo is like a snapshot release of affection towards whoever she is shooting. Nothing is to detract from the visage of those she wants to capture on film, at the end of the day you're left with an unbridled impression of who these people are without any defilement or poisoning of the well. I'm a huge fan of the Pumpkin Head series she did, whereby she and her friends created a succession of oversized pumpkin heads from Papier-mâché and went to shoot in a graveyard. The results were fantastic, such strength was to be found in pinning this amalgamation of searing orange pumpkin heads and flame against a pitch black backdrop of nothing. I guess another idea she took into consideration was the fact that the pumpkin heads serve to promote the nudity as unidentifiable, however that clearly went out the window when all of her subjects started to take their masks off while Dana continued shooting.


I'm really excited to see what Dana Lauren Goldstein is going to do next, photographers of the same ilk don't quite hold the torch as high as Dana does, at least for me - with exceptions being made for Nina Hartmann, Jimmy Limit, Nicole Lesser, Laura-Lynn Petrick and a few others. I also see a relative kinship between some of the photos Goldstein takes and the ones Hartmann takes, each women takes a sensitive, unique look at her friends and loved ones in ways that other photographers would be unable to do so given the situations. Many of the photographers I'm looking at are still learning themselves I'm sure they'll admit, which is precisely what attracts me to their work. There is a lot of appreciation to be found in trial and error, there's always beauty in the mistake or the error.

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