“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous!”Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
by Sarah Cooper & Nina Gorfer
Sarah Cooper & Nina Gorfer are unusual portraitists. They portray the spirit and soul of a people rather than those of individuals – the individuals in Cooper & Gorfer’s portraits transcend their own personal stories, turning into symbols of an entire nation, as seen with the beautiful Shola in the now almost iconic images from the Kyrgyzstan-project, My Quiet Gold, or the anonymous burka-clad women from the Qatar series.In the series I Know Not These My Hands, the artists show Argentina’s self-image as one marked by open wounds. The brutal colonization and ongoing neglection of Argentina’s native population and the merciless military coup in the 1970’s that has traumatized generations of parents and children, have left their unmistakable traces. In this project, Cooper & Gorfer for the first time, leave the 2 dimensionality of the printed picture, breaking up the surface of their photographs. They address the layers of wounds and the issues of identity that arise, through physically destroying or mending some of the images. Consequently, the method itself becomes a metaphor.
Sometimes Cooper & Gorfer’s references are apparent, as in Sewing Girls to Trees, where the children in the images disappear into the environment, or wander away from their mothers, as in Luciana Above Mother. In other works, the references are more general. In Mending Vanesa, the many threads seen in the woman’s costume are there to mend what is torn.Cooper & Gorfer are photographers in origin but strive away from realistic representation. Using an advanced collage technique, they construct their photo-based works like paintings. They distort proportions and shift time and space, stage rigorously, and use stylized poses and gestures to break up the world into parts and rearrange them into an enigmatic and exaggerated ensemble. Like art history’s Mannerists, Pre-Raphaelites, or Surrealists, Cooper & Gorfer strain observable reality through a complex psychological filter of dreams, moods, fears and wounds, both their own and those they have encountered. They move intuitively, sometimes illogically, always hitting the right tone.