The Daily Pic

12.16.13

Capturing Contingency

Barbara Probst snaps single scenes from many angles – none seem to catch the truth.

This diptych by Barbara Probst is called “Exposure #109: Munich studio, 09.19.13, 5:31 p.m.”, and it’s in her solo show closing soon at Murray Guy gallery in New York. Probst’s work is built around a simple but fertile conceit: She sets up cameras in different positions around a single staged scene, then releases all their shutters at the same time. Sometimes the photos only vary in viewpoint; sometimes they are shot on very different kinds of film, with very different cameras. In today’s Daily Pic, the difference is at its most minimal: Probst’s two matching cameras must be just a few feet apart, with one looking into each of her two sitters’ eyes.  Gaze normally seems a natural and necessary part of any photo’s essence, but here it’s revealed as deeply contingent and artificial. Other photo grids by Probst give much more varied views on her subjects: one self-portrait diptych consists of an extreme close-up on one of her feet, and also a view from a ladder that shows her taking that shot of her foot. The sense of contingency can be so extreme it’s disturbing; it can feel as though there’s barely any stable world out there for Probst’s photos to document. Her world seems utterly dependent on how it gets recorded.

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