Tales of the uncanny

Loretta Lux, Dorothea, 2001

Children are weird. Well, in the world of Loretta Lux they are anyway. It’s hard to work out exactly what’s wrong, but clearly something’s up. It’s partly the washed out colours but there’s definitely more. These children don’t seem entirely real. They have a doll-like quality and though they lack the telltale golden eyes, there is perhaps something of the Midwitch Cuckoos about them. At very least, they seem to be in a trance of some sort.

The Fish, 2003

The child in The Fish looks somehow frozen in that time and place. The picture is altogether a strange one. As is the case with most of Lux’s images, the location and the girl don’t quite seem to fit one another and put together they suggest a curious narrative. What is the role of the bath? Where has the child found the fish? The whole scene is uncomfortably static.

Lux constructs her pictures carefully to create strange unrealities, an uncanny world. Though on one level they are portraits, they tell nothing of the children who have modelled for them. Features are adjusted so that nothing fits quite convoncingly; backgrounds are added in in post-production. This is photography, but it’s also fiction.

The Walk, 2004

The girls in The Walk are dressed in strangely formal clothes unsuited for a walk in the country. Though the position of their feet suggests walking, it’s hard to see them as anything other than still. Though the colours are muted, the girls’ hair and shoes provide a contrast that punctures the uniformity of the rest of the colour palette.

At the Window, 2004

Both the composition and the use of colour seem very painterly so it comes as no great unsurprise that Lux trained as a painter, switching later to working with photography. For me, the pictures are all the stronger for their use of a medium that we still see as carrying some level of truth. There is reality here, but not as we know it and it’s all the more strange for that.

7 thoughts on “Tales of the uncanny

  1. Very interesting works. Perhaps they are descriptive of a young child’s experience of the world – what I mean is the images contain simple elements rendered in extreme detail, but the backgrounds seem strangely empty. Like a child telling a story.

    • That’s an interesting analysis; the combination of the lack of information in the backgrounds and the apparent self-absorption of the children does help to bring us into their space.

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