Mindy Solomon Gallery presents ‘The Way We See It,’ a new exhibition of photography by Scot Sothern and Muir Vidler. Both artists exemplify the photographer as observer and reporter by choosing subjects that are unique and fully authentic, living lives that exist in some instances outside of the cultural mainstream, finding comfort in neighborhoods and communities where individuality can be embraced.
« I know a place not far from here where I can take your picture. I can give you twenty bucks. » Scot Sothern
Sothern is inextricably bound to the street. He follows the comings and goings of the unnoticed with his eyes and his heart. In Lowlife, we learn through his photographic narrative to understand and empathize with the struggles of a community of people often harshly judged and overlooked.His newest body of work, ‘Sad City’ focuses on not just the women and she-males of the night, but the discarded and disenfranchised that dwell in plain sight: “It’s 1978 and I’m renting a clapboard dump high on a Silver Lake hill looking out toward Hollywood. The guy next door, on the other side of the wall, tells me he used to be a Black Panther and he did time for murder and he steals cars for a living. I ask him if he can get me a car in the two hundred dollar price range and he tells me he’ll keep an eye out. He lives with his sister who is a whore and totally blind. I ask her if she’s ever accidently climbs into a cop’s car but she doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. Late one quiet Friday night I’m reading and have the door open when the sister next door starts screaming. It’s not my business but it continues for a while so I go next door and knock. The Black Panther opens the door and apologizes for the noise. His sister is on the floor in the middle of the room pulling her hair and beating on her head and screaming. I ask him if she’s alright and he says she will be in a little while. I go back to my place and open a beer and a little while later she stops screaming.”
What inspired the shift in Sothern’s newest works, changing focus away from photographing prostitutes in hotel rooms to examining the often unseen parts of life through another lens? He says: “After years of dark one-on-one impromptu portraits it was time for a change: technologically, by spurning film for digital—and physically, by moving to the periphery of the action. My task now is to find from a distance what I previously found in eye contact and my own interference with my models. I’m looking for single-frame noir movies in Technicolor with bittersweet endings.The words accompanying the images should open an interior dialogue like a flashbulb opens shadow. Personal confessions and bare-naked exploitations are used to elicit empathy with bright and pretty colors to soothe the guilt. Sad City is a place where no one wants to live and the population never stops growing.”The particulars of each image and story might be unappealing to those of us who live in communities of affluence or even middle class comfort, but the struggles of life on the street have a logic and a grittiness that is all around us. Sothern cares about his subjects, legitimizing their histories of anger and frustration.
Muir Vidler loves humor and irony. A photojournalist by profession, he observes locals while on assignment—searching for the real rather than the staged. He likes to contradict preconceived notions about what we (the outsiders) view a culture to be. One example: while traveling in Thailand, he visits Pooky’s Salon on Soi 6 in Pattaya. This is a place where transexual prostitutes go to have their hair and make-up done. They pay a set fee for the initial work in the morning and a couple of touch-ups during the evening. Vidler embraces the vibrancy and beauty of his subjects. He highlights their efforts to embrace hyper-feminine sexuality, allowing them to be provocative and demure simultaneously.The challenges of each subject’s daily life become less apparent through the humanizing lens of our visual guides.