“The problem is the medium’s literalness, so the photographer is not only trying to go beyond subject matter and find subject, she has to take her audience with her. Most people, and this can include people quite sophisticated and well versed in other arts, assume that if the photograph is of a white horse, the photographer is talking about white horses rather than loneliness or loss, or any number of apparently unlikely subjects, as well as the more obvious metaphors like strength or grace. Of course, the ultimate task for any photographer is to talk about the most unlikely things and the white horse, in short, to tell the subject’s tale as well as her own. And that, I feel, is what Susan Lipper has done with conspicuous success.”

Gerry Badger, writing in his essay “Far from New York City: The Grapevine Work of Susan Lipper”, in The Pleasures of Good Photographs

In 1994, when work from Grapevine was shown in the group exhibition Who’s Looking at the Family? at the Barbican Art Gallery, Lipper’s photographs were, inevitably, regarded as documentary—a photographer’s mapping of a specific location and community. Grapevine was seen, almost universally, as a social commentary on a way of life—analysis of a community, who would, inevitably, be seen as ‘other’—poor, different, chaotic, dysfunctional. Lipper saw her work very differently. For her, photography was an expression of the self, a way of manifesting the imagination through the mapping of elsewhere. The series was embedded in both a photographic magical realism and a Carveresque sense of the absurdity of dysfunction.

Val Williams, writing in her essay “Susan Lipper: Collisions of Experience” as originally published in Photoworks, May 2009

Photographs selected from the epochal work Grapevine, by Susan Lipper. There’s an excellent interview with her by Sean O’Hagan at The Guardian.



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