Through a Glass

Tyler Coulton
Apr 2, 2013 4:30AM

Ken Holden's oblique angles and views show his subjects as tangible spectres of in front of the lens.  It is a treatment that is not altogether flattering to the 'subjects' of his works (if one could call them as such), but one that is infinitely and immensely gratifying for the curious viewer.  The first two images (Couple Standing Contemplating Where to Sit and Woman Standing in Café During Rainstorm de Young, both from this past year) are works in Holden's recent portfolio, "Photographic Impressionism".

On the one hand, these images remind me of that kind of social connection presented in Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Die Sinphonie der Großstadt (1929), where glances became mechanically unfolding transactions, 'played out' in an economy [in two simultaneous senses, referring to the city's capitalist richness and to the thriftiness of the subjects' interactions].  In a midday scene that lasts but seconds, a woman and man pass one another about a sidewalk in leisured, measured steps; at two corner windows opposite their crossing, they ready their glances.  Prepared for one another, each subverts the inherent 'interiority' of looking out a window, by holding the glass captive for their own devices.

Holden's own unmistakable interest in photography's intersection with technological potential and the nature of human visual perception leads him to some truly unshakable pictures.  The artist himself writes on his project as rehabilitative of the overlooked, with a focus on the ephemeral that can be traced back to some of the earliest known captured photographic images, such as the windy trees just outside Louis Daguerre's apartment window, in Boulevard du Temple (1838).  But though they may both share an "impressionism" in a certain sense, Holden's rainy quotidien is not Caillebotte's in Rue de Paris; temps de pluie (1877), nor is it the consistently indescribable 'work of work', Les Raboteurs de Parquet (1875).  Holden writes:

"The images that I make are drawn from everyday life, in the moment, often on the sidelines of our peripheral vision that often go unnoticed.  Here, in the obscured boundary of our sight, is another reality adjacent to the one of direct experience.  The photographs are fleeting and momentary.  They appear, then vanish in a heartbeat.  By shifting my attention to this “other” reality, I witness a motion picture in time and space. [...] By presenting the viewer with a different interpretation of a subject I hope to bridge their natural biases, thus, educating the viewer to a different means to visualize their own environment and what they see to bring a deeper experience into their everyday lives."

 To 'locate' these works is pedagogy itself, pedagogy as potentiality (or, for worse, pedagogy as pitfall).  We must be willing to suspend our attempts at an immediate understanding of Holden's subject in favor of a fractured, fragmented approach, until we too--through the glass of his lens--catch a quick glimpse at one another, and learn, to understand.  This is 'to grasp' at its most fleeting, its most flirtatious.

Tyler Coulton
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019