Strangers in the evening light

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Brent Booth; 21 years old; Des Moines, Iowa; $30, 1990-92

If Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Heads series tells us little of real substance about the people in the pictures then perhaps his Hollywood series tells us too much, though these are pictures that straddle that blurry line between fact and fiction. In Hollywood, as in Hollywood, anything is possible. The series – also known as The Hustlers – was made on a part Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood with a significant population of drug addicts and male prostitutes; for each picture, diCorcia prepared the scene including positioning camera and lights before looking for a suitable subject for the image. Those who agreed to be photographed were asked their name, age and where they came from and these details, along with how much diCorcia paid them to pose, became the titles for the pictures.

Mike Miller; 24 years old; Allentown, Pennsylvania; $25,1990-92

In a way theses pictures are pure Hollywood: they are perfectly staged and beautifully lit artifice. Even working on the assumption that the information they gave diCorcia is correct, we have no way of knowing who these young men really are. Some, none or all may be prostitutes; that aside, what brought them here is something we aren’t party to. All we know is that for the duration of making the picture, each is an actor playing a character in a scene prepared by diCorcia. It is up to us to fill in the narrative should we choose to.

Ralph Smith; 21 years old; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; $25, 1990-92

DiCorcia’s use of lighting is again what makes this series work. The pictures are taken in the evening, either at twilight or a little later. There is a feeling that this is time of day when nothing is quite real, when dreams – and nightmares – can be played out; the pictures carry that sense of magical expectancy, perhaps of belief in the dream of Hollywood. The men seem pensive, as though readying themselves for the night ahead. We can only guess whether they face it with optimism or trepidation. None holds our gaze; they are lost in their own thoughts and their own world.

Ike Cole; 38 years old; Los Angeles, CA; $25, 1990-92

There are visual metaphors aplenty here. In the way Ike Cole appears trapped by the cars surrounding him, for instance, or Brent Booth and Ralph Smith sit alone in the street, or the way Mike Miller stands facing a pay phone as if waiting for a call, diCorcia is dealing in stereotypes. But this is Hollywood. Stereotypes are, I suppose, only to be expected. They’re part of our way in to the narrative.

2 thoughts on “Strangers in the evening light

  1. Pingback: Philip-Lorca DiCorcia | repangharadluker

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