Mise en scene photography is now a well established genre in contemporary art and the major practitioners from Cindy Sherman to Gregory Crewdson to Alex Prager use lighting, props, costumes and gesture to portray authentic human dramas within the clearly staged setting. Such obvious artifices can compel real human emotion and suggest the dynamic in real human lives, but to do so they depend on the mastery of the photographer. While subtly and nuance are often an asset, lighting plays the key role in allowing the viewer to transcend the staged imagery and convincingly enter into the drama.
The staged narrative images in “K.Reature”, Alex Koddrip’s exhibition at Think Tank Gallery, ask us to suspend disbelief and accept the characters as conflicted, disturbed or otherwise discomforted with themselves and each other. Each of the self conscious actors tries hard to menace and exploit our fear or empathy but they mostly fail to go beyond a pretentious send up, though not enough to be parody, and therein lies their weakness. Beautiful models with guns and crucifixes are clichés that are easy to play with, but hard to make convincing, and their repeated appearance mars the images without advancing their stories.
One important exception is the photograph of what we would assume to be a dead woman lying in bed with blood oozing from the corner of her mouth. The foreground subject is perfectly coifed and juxtaposed with an out of focus middle ground figure, arms crossed, and seeming content to observe the corpse with smug satisfaction. The images is perfectly staged and lit for dramatic effect and the fractured narrative spins off in as many directions as the viewer can imagine. The highly stylized models, their perfect appearance and fashionable clothes pique the viewers interest and seduce us with their perfection, even in death.
The artist seems constrained in the other images by a repetitious location, and in most cases too much studio lighting. The actors are too aware of their roles to convince us of their angst. They mostly appear as taking themselves a bit too seriously, which I would attribute to the photographer himself.