Stan Douglas’s photographs and videos use principles of portraiture and eerie Lynchian narrative to produce work that straddles fact and fiction. Last night, the man himself turned out in an atmospheric rain-soaked London to celebrate the opening of the first European showing of his latest body of work Midcentury Studio.
Midcentury Studio is a series of 28 black and white photographs made using authentic equipment and props from the 1950s that mimic the work of 1940s crime photographer Arthur Fellig, who was known as Weegee. The Midcentury Studio body of work is typical of Douglas’s documentary-style snapshots of fictional events, presented as if it were a genuine collection of crime photographs shot by an anonymous Vancouver photographer between the years 1945 and 1952. In fact, they were made in 2010.
The people in the Midcentury Studio photographs look completely of the period. Douglas attributed this to casting extras, not actual actors. “Actors often have a specific look and are afraid to look unusual and odd,” he says. “Getting people who reflected that 1940s diet, say, was difficult, but we were able to find them by going through a thousand or so headshots.”
Douglas inhabits the character of his fictional photographer to such an extent that he can trace his influences and technical development. In reference to the shot Shoes, 1947 (2010), he said, “He’s done various genres by now. The artist’s method was influenced by old Life magazine commercial shoots, for which different lighting, models and backgrounds were tested with the same product." Commenting on the unusual pose of the model he said: “The fists just happened. I saw what was going on with the model, her difficulty holding the pose, and thought it would be appropriate to include that, although of course, typically, that would have been cropped out.”
Stan Douglas by Phaidon is the most comprehensive book on the artist’s career. Following Douglas’s career from his early dramas for television to his spectacular large-screen installation, Der Sandmann, exploring childhood trauma, the book features a survey by Scott Watson, an interview by Diana Thater and writings by Douglas himself.
Stan Douglas, Midcentry Studio is at London's Victoria Miro gallery until May 26.