CRIME SEEN – A Travel Portfolio

In the spring of 1998 I turned my camera on myself. Combining photography’s documentary nature with its conceptual possibilities, I began to weave together elements of portraiture, landscape, travel snapshots and self-portraiture. I juggled connotations of desire and fear, beauty and horror, voyeurism and objectification to construct fictional sets for murder mysteries, playing on—and out—our cultural fascinations with the American landscape, the female figure, violence, crime, and death.

Armed with a 4x5" camera and a ten second self-timer on the camera lens, I create each scene using two fictitious but recurring elements: the dead body (played by me) and the cocktail dress (three dresses used over three years). I use the cocktail dress as the sole costume for the femme fatale, with a matte black dress for the first year; a shiny, strapless, middle gray (gray when translated into black and white, though actually red) in the second; and finally, an off-white dress in the third and final year. My three costumes have spanned the full range of the Ansel Adams constructed gray scale/Zone System to accentuate the fastidious rules of traditional fine art black and white photography. Furthermore, the dresses represent the bizarre and unsettling arbitrariness, anonymity, and sexual connotations of looking at violence and death.

The works are titled by location, date, and time in which the camera’s shutter was tripped. Playing on the assumption—in fine art, journalism, as well as portraiture and snapshots—that photographs illustrate a particular and objective reality, I intentionally heighten the interplay between fact and fiction in this work to call into question ways of viewing and interpreting photographic representations.

Ri Anderson, January 2001

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