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3 August 2009

Jack Pierson, Jerusalem

Here are some new pictures. They’re big, they’re eleven of them, and they’re folded in eight, and are attached to the wall with pins. I’ll tell you how they came and give you a list of things I’ve been thinking about in the midst of making them. Over the Christmas/New Year holidays this year I visited my parents, on the west coast of Florida. New Year’s Day I travelled to Cape Cod to spend time with my dear friend John Derian who has a lovely old captains, house in Provincetown. Following that I visited my own house in the California desert. I had a camera with me, the serviceable workhorse slightly better than a point + shoot Fuji 6 x 4.5 I use in general these days. It had one roll of film that stayed in it over the three week period, it holds fifteen frames. I guess I shot about five pictures in each location. I don’t mean to sound as if this were premeditated or ‘a concept’. I just mean to explain; I don’t shoot that much film. I ‘cover’ a subject from a couple of angles and maybe with a horizontal or vertical frame, and call it a day.

These new pictures are eleven of the fifteen frames. I‘ve always shot that way except when the subject is human. Part of it is habitual; when I was a student, film and its processing was a considerable expense and as glamorous as the whir a motor drive sounded in movies it was not an option in my youth. Neither was framing, pins seemed to me, then as now, the most elegant solution. A frame on a large colour photograph always seems to me, even in cases when I have succumbed to them, too much.

Pictures on a wall if they are not silver prints should be torn out of magazines or ‘posters’ these should be pinned or scotched-taped, otherwise I just don’t know. I think photography is best presented in books and magazines or advertising. In any case peccadillos such as these, whether mine or the medium of photography, have created within me a certain ambivalence toward exhibiting photos. I only do so when impulse conquers my defences and the time seems right. If this is not obvious by now, ‘making’ a photograph for me occurs more so after taking the picture than during.

During the picture’ taking process, a few minutes at a time really, I may think things like these: Pretty palm tree. People like my pictures of palm trees, why not take a few? Ocean glistening in sunlight, what’s not to like? Sand, so like a Larry Poons painting, so packed with metaphor. The sky a cloudy sky or a sky with birds, so corny but what about an empty sky so full with meaning? I hope the X-ray machine doesn’t fog this film.

In a book as I’ve implied things seem easier; the endorsement of the printed page gives authority to the image. Its very book-ness implies a narrative. Starting with, usually, a title. On the wall these things have to be achieved by scale, presentation and materials, I don’t want you to have to read a press release or an essay. That said I will tell you how this new series arrives with the portentous title: Jerusalem. My wonderful friend Walter said he thought the group had a ‘biblical’ quality. That it had the ring of grandeur and squalor I hope to associate myself with, which is why perhaps they’ve shown up in this exhibition I’ve been so honoured to be asked to participate in by one of my favourite photographers in the world, Nan Goldin.

Jerusalem is a nexus of three of the world’s most profound religions. The three locations in this body of work are geographies that have held me in thrall over the years. Florida, Massachusetts and California. Various places outside of New York that I call home.

Jack Pierson


Jack Pierson is represented by Cheim & Read Gallery, New York.

Exhibition venue: Atelier de Mécanique, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2009.