The Painted Photograph

Dean West


Real in depiction and imaginary in association, The Painted Photograph contains a set of rigorously composed, scenic character portrayals that merge the pictorial traditions of cinema and documentary photography. The works owe a great deal to the staged imagery of Philip-Lorca di Corcia and Jeff Wall, embedded with a system of signs, visual cues and biases that can assist but not explicitly define what exactly is happening.

In the exhibited photographs, West reconstructs personal experiences and encounters in an ongoing investigation of his surrounding environment. Through the sampling and deconstruction of these moments, the surreal images explore how memory “is not a video recorder [but that] it’s a constructive activity that is in many ways accurate but prone to interesting errors and distortions”. [1] Directly relating this to photography’s ability to both record and deceive, West’s allegorical simulations force the viewer to consider the relationship between narrative meaning and their own subjectivities.

Utilizing the power of aesthetic force, the works displayed use a similar 16:9 format commonly used by the film industry and by doing so, draw upon Hollywood’s stylized aesthetic to captivate an audience’s attention. West is not interested in being referred to as a photographer as such, but rather someone who uses the medium to explore his own, constructed realities. With this distinction, West feels that people can move past the medium's association of journalistic representation, and interpret the works as the artist’s vision alone.

[1] How Memory Works: Interview with Harvard Psychologist Daniel L Schacter - http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/152111#sthash.QeWZRghl.dpuf