Thursday, November 17, 2011

Along Came Polly

Polly Borland was given her first camera, a Nikkor, by her father at the age of 16. In an article written by Will Self for The Independent back in 2008, she explains, "I saw the work of Diane Arbus and Weegee--and a little bit later an exhibition of Larry Clark's work. There were these photographs of kids on the edge, shooting up--dressing up. They were just tacked to the walls with drawing pins. I knew then that that was what I wanted to do."

Borland pushes boundaries with her odd yet strikingly beautiful photographs. Her work is very edgy and different from other portrait photographers in which she explores the surreal and abstract. It is quite a bizarre collection of images that is undoubtedly suggestive. The models pose in awkward positions, bare naked or are dressed in odd 'stage-like costumes' and incongruous props such as tights and wigs. Here is a fun fact. She designed most of these provocative costumes herself, stitched by prisoners!

The Australian-born photographer (a.k.a. 'snapper' in her own terms) is currently based out of London, a place she refers to now as home. She came to the UK in 1989, building up a reputation as a maker of excitingly fresh, yet disturbing images. Her work is oddly appealing to an extent that it screams ambiguity. You are never quite sure what it is or what she intends on implying, but I find it quite fascinating that the identity of the models are undisclosed. Undergoing such performance-like process, she distorts the bodies of its subjects--creating images that are both evocative and disconcerting. As disturbing as it may sound and despite highly judgmental viewers out there, her extraordinary portraits are never explicit. Yes, it is intimate, however, they evoke vulnerability and are curiously non-judgmental and honest.

Sure, some of the images may appear disturbing, fetishized or highly sexual, but strangely enough the way they are photographed is very theatrical. I find it disheartening when I hear that people do not appreciate her unique vision that goes beyond the regular, everyday portraits we often come across. After all, she is, I believe one of the most sought after photographers. One must give her credit for taking these highly playful photographs, exploring the grotesque and the beautiful. Moreover, I agree with Will Self that I too, personally find that her series, Babies, Bunny and most recently Smudge (produced in 2011) are considerably her finest pieces.

Salute to her astonishing achievement!

Artist/Photographer: Polly Borland | Represented by Paul Kasmin Gallery

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