“Rhythm persistently makes itself known to me throughout the day. The cyclical sound of my semi-broken refrigerator, or the beat of my boots hitting the ground when I’m walking fast down the stairs to the subway. The rhythm of a conversation. I try to adopt the repetitive, inane, aspects of everyday life, in my work,” says New York City-based photographer Elizabeth Bick. A trained dancer, Elizabeth now imbues her work with influences from this world to create dramatic, recurring and captivating works.
A large part of Elizabeth’s unique practice involves understanding the gestural nuances of the every day as dance. She positions herself in crowded areas where she can observe unnoticed, as if watching performers on a stage. “I am enthralled with individuals who perform a sort of self-established persona,” she tells us. Elizabeth constantly draws parallels between her training in ballet and modern dance and her love of photography, which began aged 19: “The camera immediately catapulted me back to my formative years of dancing, which also traps dramatic movement, light and shadow, and perfect vignettes inside a rectangle.”
Visually, Elizabeth’s work is full of the drama of the stage, free from the soft light and shallow depth of field that pervades contemporary photography. But these aesthetics also reflect the concepts she keeps coming back to: “Light and shadow. Frozen bodies in space. Performance of oneself. Detail.” It’s these elements combined that make Elizabeth’s work so striking, drawing you in with its high contrast and sense of occasion.
Nowhere is this truer than in Elizabeth’s series Every God. A decade-long observation of The Pantheon (“Pan: Every; theo: God”), the project began when she was a summer resident artist at the American Academy in Rome. She has since decided to photograph the former Roman temple every year on 21 June for ten years, of which five have so far been completed. “It’s a proposition of sorts,” she outlines, “an endurance piece, to see how my gaze changes from year-to-year, whether the visitors in the space change, our relationship to technology as it rapidly changes, and whether such an ancient space and its response to light, can change too.”
In turn, the series will become, and already is, a rumination on the “current photographic space we occupy in our every day lives, sharing through handheld devices and social media”. Through her lens, Elizabeth captures the diverse bodies, ages, cultures, races and genders that flock to The Pantheon during the summer solstice. “All become a spectacle through the camera, in a certain vantage point, in this light, with a certain posture,” she concludes.
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