Saturday, June 2, 2012

Running on Empty? Tabitha Soren's Photographs

When I was little, I used to make up mini musicals in my parents' bedroom and act them out in front of their mirror.  I rememebr writing one song called "Running" and turning over the performing honors to my favorite Barbie, a 1976 Miss America modeled on Tawny Godin.

The song was a dud; it wouldn't even pass muster on Smash, the TV show that makes Melrose Place look like Downton Abbey--but I still remember every lyric, though I've repressed them.

The song came rushing back when I learned via Vanity Fair's Twitter update that Tabitha Soren was mounting a show of her "running" photographs.  Gentle readers may know that I not only love running (though I am confined to an elliptical until an injury heals) but also enjoy looking at photos of runners (see post below).

Soren's photos are not athletic, however; rather, they capture a manufactured panic akin to the films of David Lynch (Mullholland Drive comes to mind) or the images of Cindy Sherman.

Note: Sherman, who photographs herself, is much more effective with "facials," a term I just learned from glimpsing a ghastly episode of Toddlers and Tiaras after a late-night copyediting binge.  She articulates just the right expression in each image, whereas Soren's models often hide their faces with their hair or look behind them. (Or both.)

This strategy reminds me of when Sean Combs played Walter Lee Younger on stage opposite the brilliant Audra McDonald.  When he'd have to convey a powerful emotion, he'd bury his face in his hands.

Critical tangents aside, Soren's photgraphs do project a certain kinetic appeal.  But they remain earthbound, instead of soaring.

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