Friday, 8 October 2010

Alexis Gross - Drop Some Acid

Alexis Gross confesses that she feels almost too old for her bones, as if by some cosmic imbalance she has somehow been born in the wrong era. Her life so far has been a chaotic disquietude of moments every right wing, flower sniffing, Tory voter would much rather expunge from their conscious drift altogether, let alone document it on colour film for the world to peek at through finger obscured eyesight.

She was born some 21 years ago, raised in Westhampton Beach, a speck of a village located in Suffolk County, New York. A village which had its agricultural consuetude levelled to make way for a rainbow of summer homes and the hotel industry. This dramatic shift in disposition could almost be seen as a tidemark of this town’s suicide, nevertheless Gross found herself growing up with two parents ‘still feeling the affects of an acid trip and a sister that really needed to drop some’ – a combination of what sounds like free spiritedness and brusque sorority.

After several years of regularly exposing her camera to her imbibed underworld of choice; made up of the resentfully beautiful yet fucked up types commonplace when it came to Dash Snow’s Polaroids or Ryan McGinley’s ‘The Kids Are Alright’ series, Alexis made the move to Toronto to further her work. She now resides in Brooklyn, a full two years on from her stint north of the border, where she continues to document the writhing scene of motorcycle oiks and innocuous long haired beer-swillers, as well as taking a closer look at skateboard culture and the associated party overload induced malaise.

Alexis grew up around skateboarders and subsequently her photos reflect a very real way of life - a way of life that she herself has lived by both behind the lens as well as dancing in front of it. Alexis Gross triggers a shockwave of fervour in her subjects, capturing the ardent passion to chase exhilaration that exudes so glaringly from the people around her. She takes photos of life’s ongoing party, documenting her local group of skateboarding friends, a scene almost closed off to any outsiders because of its tribal nature. The prints showcased on her website are tremendously gritty, they strike the senses with an assault of abrasion. A lot of them look as if they have been printed, carried around in a bag for a week, left on a coffee table to collect the stale air of blue smoke and dust for a further few days and then finally scanned in and posted to her site.

I look at Alexis’ work and see striking similarities between her, Laura Lynn Petrick, Nina Hartmann and Ross Farrar. Not only her physical preset to taking photos, and by that I mean shooting with low-grade film, but also kinship by way of the people she is so keen on documenting. Many, if not all of my photographers of choice have an eye for shooting their friends or the contemporaries around them. Quite often these friends are representations of a sub-culture, a counter scene to the capitalist money crunching economy mechanics, a tumult of people more concerned with art, socialising, representation, human nature and enjoyment than anything Ronald Reagan had to say.

There is a rather intriguing collection of photos on her website grouped together under the word ‘FUCKS’, which depicts a series of men and women in all manner of settings, from laying in bed semi nude to cracking open a bottle of beer, strumming on stage or inspecting a fresh bodily injury. The young Gross is as unapologetic as they come in terms of talking about her portfolio of work and in a recent interview with Foam Magazine she happily answered the interviewer’s inquiry about her collection of ‘FUCKS’, stating that ‘“The fuck section is about dudes I've f**ked, my friends who are f**king each other and dudes who are just f**ked!” Clearly Alexis’ intention of honesty knows no bounds, an observation that attracts me to her work in a very strong way.

Gross is progressing further and further along the line of photography infamy. Her fabled shots of situational occurrences have so far led her to a stream of job prospects. Only recently has she successfully completed a printed photozine of her photos, working with Dan Pelissier from Young Healers, further to that she has successfully shot an ad for Glamour Kills which went on to be featured in Nylon Magazine and perhaps most impressively she has taken on a position as contributing photographer for skate magazine Color.

Alexis Gross’ plethora of photographic documentation is more like a recounting of activities in photo form, as if Gross herself is the treasurer and we as viewers are lucky enough to be given a ‘through the keyhole’ glance at life on the other side. I’m sure the obsession with Gross will not taper off anytime soon.

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