Philip-Lorca diCorcia: A Storybook Life

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In the first issue of Photoworks, Val Williams reviews Philip-Lorca diCorcia's exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2003.

If anyone is the perfect photographer for the late 20th century it is Philip Lorca diCorcia. His cool images of contemporary life say exactly what we want them to say-that modern life is boring, menacing, mysterious and unintentionally comic. Lorca di Corcia’s photographs do not take on any moral imperative — they are not strictly about anything, but rather convey the fragmentary, illusionary effects of isolation, of separateness which became the modus operandi of vogueish photographers in the 1990s. The photographs which were shown in A Storybook Life at the Whitechapel Gallery, and which were assembled for Lorca di Corcia’s eponymous book are deliberate in their avoidance of agenda. Like a story by John Cheever or New york writer Mary Gaitskill, Lorca di Corcia’s photographs are about a frightening ennui, a vacuum world of dislocated souls in which alarm and menace is always part of the scenario.

Philip Lorca di Corcia is an artist who describes himself in negatives. He talks about his photographs by describing what they are not, rather than what they are. In his artist’s statement for A Storybook Life, he discounts, first of all, the notion of this latest anthology as ‘survey’: ‘A number of publishers had come to me wanting to put together the typical survey book which was too passive to be interesting. So much modern photography has questioned our assumptions about the nature of truth in the media that it would be an exercise in redundancy to play narrative games with a bunch of old photos. I started with the working assumption that meaning is fluid and truth is mutable, not to make that point, but to use these qualities to try and produce meaning completely divorced from a critique of the medium.

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Published in Photoworks issue 1, 2003
Commissioned by Photoworks

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