Text: Alec Coiro
All Images Courtesy of 47 Canal
There is a quote by Hervé Guibert associated with the show Elle Pérez’s show at 47 Canal, and it declares, “Photography is an act of love.” This sentiment holds true for everything from your personal snapshots of your literal loved ones to the narcissist’s selfie. In the case of Elle Pérez’s work (according to press materials), the photograph is a lie that helps “hide this love, so it can be acknowledged and hidden at the same time.” On exhibit in In Bloom are Perez’s many techniques for beguiling this dichotomy between what is hidden and what is apparent.
There are instances where their lens is pushed in close to their subject in a way that both obscures it and reveals its fullness through its details.
There are subjects bathed in varying degrees of shadow: the old renaissance approach to showing the interplay of what is hidden and what is brought to light that Pérez achieves beautifully.
Then there a binder in the photograph of the same name, hanging to dry in the shower, that is both suggestive of the absent person but also evidence of the trace the wearer left on the fabric as well as the intimacy of finding it in this private space.
And there is also a person caught in the midst of tossing a scarf in such a way that the face is obscured. Shot from an unexpectedly high and confounding angle, this was my favorite in an all-around excellent show. Captured in motion but without any blur, the fleetingest of instances becomes sculptural.
How this connects back to love for Pérez, we can only speculate, but for the one viewing the show, there is a stark reminder of how the best photography fills you with a sense of longing to know more about the subject photographed, to understand more fully the context that is presented. And, this feeling — the longing for ever more intimacy — is what is at the core of love.
What makes the richness of Pérez’s approach possible in every instance is their complete mastery of composition. Like the bebop practitioner whose total proficiency with their instrument frees their to improvise and explore while remaining within the confines of a song, Pérez’s frame is composed with such apparent facility that they is left free to imbue their subject matter with a meaning in a way that few other photographers are.