Curated by W.S. Di Piero
April 26 – June 2, 2007
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 26, 6-8p
Born in Winchester, England in 1967, Jonathan Elderfield has been working as a photographer for over seventeen years. His book Living Under South Street, documenting the neighborhood of South Philadelphia, was published in 2003 by Kehrer Verlag of Heidelberg, Germany. He is currently working on a new series of color photographs. In addition to working as a photographer, Elderfield is a picture editor who has worked for The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and, most recently, The Associated Press. Elderfield lives in New York City with his wife and two sons. The exhibit at CUE Art Foundation marks Elderfield's first solo show exhibition in New York.
W. S. Di Piero was born in South Philadelphia in 1945. He's the author of numerous volumes of poetry, translation, and essays on art, literature and personal experience. His latest book of poems is Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems, published by Knopf. He writes a column on the visual arts for the San Diego Reader and is a regular contributor of poems and essays to magazines such as Threepenny Review and Poetry. He teaches part of the year in Stanford University's Creative Writing Program and lives in San Francisco.
ONLY Chicago is a series of street photographs taken within the Chicago city limits over a period of more than two years. The project is exhibited as 16" x 20" silver gelatin prints.
Photography allows me to create art from the everyday and mundane. I try to explore new spaces with my camera, recording my observations about those places and creating a sense of order in the final image. For me, the everyday interaction of people with their surroundings creates endless opportunities to stop time with my camera, finding unique moments of joy in the simple, the random and the obscure.
The world of the street is one where strangers collide in random ways in front of the camera lens. I am fascinated with the idea of capturing an interesting moment in a photographic image, from a split-second that would have been otherwise lost. These ephemeral moments continue to exist only because I was there.
by W.S. Di Piero
Jonathan Elderfield follows the street photographer's ethic: reveal what's hidden in plain sight. When I saw the pictures in his photo-essay, Living Under South Street, set in South Philadelphia, I was struck by their fresh vision of a very particular place and culture. I shouldn't have been so struck by the freshness because I lived in South Philadelphia until I was twenty-one, but Elderfield's images (a woman smoking in a rain-streaked phone booth outside a diner, a Mummers' string band dressed as spacemen) made me see familiar things as if for the first time.
In the ONLY Chicago series featured in the CUE exhibition, Elderfield discloses another city's secrets lived in full public view. His camera picks through Chicago's elegantly rough-edged energy, the textures of its airs and surfaces, from wet and windy to prickly and granitic. Good straight photography seems to catch things by chance, but those catches in time take on a formal and social coherence. We see obsessions in play, themes worked out. In the Chicago pictures Elderfield is pulled toward the ways private life-exhilaration, contemplativeness, preoccupation-is lived out in the public eye, in public spaces. Many of his figures are looking for or toward or away from something as yet unknown or out of sight. He makes city life something pressured by accident. If the South Philly series disclosed a culture's intense private rituals, the Chicago pictures, appropriate to the city's flat-land, big-sky expansiveness, make everything look more exposed. Total strangers are sited in a public webbing they're unaware of but which the camera sees.
Like some of his predecessors-Lee Friedlander, Walker Evans, Robert Frank-Elderfield has an eye for the kinetics of urban life caught on the run. But his images aren't only about visual information. A formal structure holds them together, a patterning of information that balances one element against another or crafts a potent asymmetry. The shock of cotton candy that flies from a girl's hand in one of the Chicago pictures tosses us into a graceful perspectival plan. In another, our attention keeps snapping from the central knot of excited young girls to the boy dribbling a basketball coiled tightly in the upper corner of the scene. Elderfield's work, including a New York series in progress, seems almost effortless and casual, but that's only how it seems. Those qualities in fact give the pictures their intensity and scrupulousness and testify to the humane inquisitiveness of this photographer's eye.
YOUNG ART CRITICS: Katherine Jentleson on Jonathan Elderfield