Sasha Black

Sasha Black


This collection of images shown alongside my writing are about documentary photography as well as the ruins of the Borscht Belt resorts in the Catskills in New York State, and how both these phenomenons, spurred by the use of a flash unit, highlight the relationality of photographer and subject. When approaching these now-abandoned spaces, I am not struck by the chaos of the ruins, but instead reminded of the rich history of a people that are now absent from these spaces. I see a similar emptiness when looking at the faceless, nameless subjects in Jacob Riis’ images. His images show an absence of a lived experience, as do the abandoned hotels in my own images.

My images are largely of my own body as a means to mirror my experience in researching this material. While these are technically self portraits, I feel they are different as I do not initiate eye contact with the camera in any instance, refusing to pay attention to the attention being paid to me as marked by the constructed nature in frame highlighted with the use of the flash unit. I work partially in digital collage as a means to highlight that which is not there, and the clear disconnect between body and space works to further this end. I place these composites alongside images that have no photoshop interventions, and this puts the work out of the realm of reality. In addition to my own constructed disengagement, every figure inserted, whether that be literal insertion as seen through my interventions in photoshop or metaphorical, lacks an important factor in the history of portrait photography and that is eye contact. Similar to the flash, its presence makes hyper aware of the absence.

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