The Absence of the Subject

Earlier this week I went to see Michael Somoroff’s “The Absence of the Subject.” In this series of photographs and video installations, Somoroff has taken the photographs of turn-of-the-century German photographer August Sander and removed the people, the subject.

What remains is a haunting sense of waiting. A table set for tea, an open gate, a pot on a stove.

Yet the sense of something missing is largely unconscious. If we had not known the human faces had been removed, would we still react to their absence?

In the video installation room, three photographs have been animated. Pages of open books subtly lift and fall, the leaves of ivy rustle. And where once, according to the original photographs outside the gallery, a pater familius stood surrounded by his large brood. a lone butterfly meanders across an empty expanse of lawn. Tips of branches bend into the frame, and out again.

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