Hardly More Than Ever: photographs 1999 – 2004
“Letinsky’s generation is heir to modernism’s triumph at making photography a fine art. Despite the cloak of casual disregard show to neglected foodstuffs and dirty dishes, Letinsky’s images are calculated constructions with nary an anxiety about their roots in seventeenth Dutch still life painting”. (Ghez. 2004).
Hanneke Grootenboer wrote an essay to accompany the work. Grootenboer is a Post Doctoral Mellon fellow and lecturer in the department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, New York. Grootenboer offers multiple comparisons to still life, not only painting, but also Nicephore Niepce’s set table (1926). Questioning Niepce’s decision to choose this particular subject for one of the first photographs ever made, Grootenboer asks “was it because of the clear tension of expectation that a set table radiates?” (2004). Grootenboer titled her essay The Posthumous Life of Leftovers and writes of allegory and vanitas to construct a narrative to Letinsky’s work.
Personally Letinsky’s work offers all of the above, but also urges remembrance. Everything ages and changes, and there is a melancholy beauty in that change. I could reference the Japanese process of kintsugi, where the damage caused by age or accident to ceramics is repaired in such a way that the damage is celebrated rather than concealed. These vicissitudes of life are reflected in Letinsky’s still life’s which fugue loneliness, disorder and decay. I’m reminded of Thomas Tallis’s Miserere, something ethereal and infused with pathos. It is rare for photographs to elicit such an personal emotional response, but Letinsky’s work does.
Susanne Ghez is the Director of The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago.