“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break it, in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule.
I never want to see another picture of an artist and her lover in bed—à la Nan Goldin and the cover image from The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (Aperture, 1985). Goldin’s influence on younger generations of artists has been immense, and her diaristic approach to photography is often imitated. Nonetheless, Haley Jane Samuelson’s images tell the story of her life with her artist-husband, Michael, in an intimate, compelling, and truly original fashion. And it is the story (casually written passages which read like journal entries and bittersweet recollections) paired with the tender and atmospheric photographs themselves that jointly supply the power for the new series titled Year of the Beast.
Haley Jane Samuelson’s art paradoxically addresses her renouncement of art making—sort of. In a story far too common, Samuelson and her mate moved to “the outskirts of Brooklyn” with dreams of making it big in the art world. “At thirty,” she writes, “I was supposed to be a great artist.” Nonetheless, with the pressure of a brutally high cost of living in New York City’s trendiest borough, Samuelson’s time in the Big Apple was spent working a potentially mind-numbing job which left her too exhausted to develop and promote much new art. Bruised and battered by a cliché—a city which today often feels like a place built on cash rather than creativity—Samuelson and her partner eventually faced up to reality and decided to pack a U-Haul truck and moved back to Denver, Colorado to live in the basement of her parents’ home. In her catalogue of the same title, she opens with: “This is the last picture I ever took of you. Right before we stopped being artists living in New York and started being something else.” Of course, by documenting the journey through honest words and imagery, Samuelson’s art certainly continues—simply a half continent away from where she always thought it might be created.
—Brian Paul Clamp