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Larry Gottheim, Be-hold, Inc
Press release on Ellen Carey's 2001 series Stopping Down.
Larry Gottheim (2016)
Carey takes a casual straightforward image of her face and passes it through a precise series of nine diminishing exposures in the Polaroid camera. As the images are exposed through these apertures her features disappear into the darkness. This creates a visually fascinating sequence of Polaroid textures. There is no sense of “proper” exposure. Each stop is given its due. This progressive obscuring is also a visual metaphor on aging as a process, from light to dark, birth to death. In creating this work with the soft-edged brilliance of the Polaroid materials, Carey was unaware of Polaroid’s own impending decline. The company went bankrupt in 2008, doubling the series sense of heart-breaking reality to the aging photographer and her beloved instant process.
The face has nothing of the expressive self-revelation that is often the goal of self-portraiture. The expressionless face gradually disappears into the nothingness of almost blackness. This exhibition presents series of two or more images, some in black and white, some in color. Each exposure, each color, has deep implications. Carey’s presentation of the works provides added photographic and symbolic significance to the Polaroid process. For the first time these framed Polaroid positives will be positioned above their “negatives.” These negatives are the packs that are usually thrown away once the positive has been pealed off. Carey’s paring of these positive and negative images poignantly speaks to the history of photography, and the haunting remains of the purportedly instantaneous Polaroid image.