Experience 35: GROUNDED, John Divola and Zoe Crosher Approach LAX from Different Directions – is about the work of two prominent Southern Californian photographers: John Divola and Zoe Crosher. Each has done a major project very different from the other’s, but with a common theme: LAX.
Zoe Crosher and John Divola have each done a major project on Los Angeles International Airport, although their approaches couldn’t be more different. The difference in the ways that they have looked at this subject is in part a result of their being from different generations (Crosher was born the year Divola made the photographs in his LAX NAZ project, and she completed her project, Out the Window [LAX], 30 years later, in 2005.) This difference in their visions gives us the advantage of a two-point perspective not only on this subject, but on the history of photography.
Like the New Journalism of that era, the new art photography transformed a tradition dedicated to objectivity into one in which personal interpretation and inspired intervention were implicit, though the attitude of detachment remained. The insistence on a comprehensive, indeed repetitious record of his subject makes Divola’s work both his subject’s ultimate document and a parody of obsessive thoroughness. It is in the careful construction of such ambiguities that the soul of art is usually found.
Just as Divola’s project was a fellow traveler with the New Journalism of that era, so does Crosher’s work adapt the imaginative style of the movies in the digital age to the fixed vision of still photography. “My intention,” she says, “is to conceptually map what I call the ‘imaginary’ of Los Angeles, a place that primarily exists in people’s imaginations, inspired from what they see in movies, read in books, hear from other people.” The real subject of “Out the Window” is not the objective places and spaces we see in the frame, but the subjective point of view that she takes in each image. These are the sort of ‘point of view’ shots that directors use to show us how the movie’s hero or heroine sees the world at some crucial point in the plot.
Having checked into a hotel or motel the night before, Crosher could be up the next morning as the early flights began coming in to land. Because she is an accomplished photographer in control of her medium, the amateurish mistakes in these photographs must be intentional – a point of view she uses to characterize the heroine of her still-picture movie. The room is out of focus, thereby suggesting that the heroine is unfocussed herself in some way. Due to fog, smog or motion blur, the planes on which she might hope to get out of here are apparitional too, a forlorn dream of escape.
Crosher’s mother was an airline stewardess, as was the subject of Crosher’s project after Out the Window, which was a four-volume limited edition of personal photographs she was willed by a woman named Michelle du Bois. As a sideline du Bois was a call girl among whose archive were bare-breasted self-portraits and other provocative images that she presumably used as promotional photographs for her sideline as a prostitute. The fictitious character whose point of view we see in Out the Window must be an airline stewardess, too, for who else but a stewardess with a lay-over would have had to stay in such rooms 31 times? And is the heroine of this movie also a prostitute on the side? That might explain why, judging from her photographs, this woman seems so disconsolate as she awakes in the morning, alone again in a tacky hotel or motel room.
Experience 35: GROUNDED is curated by Colin Westerbeck.