Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

American beauty: Vanessa Winship’s photos of still, small-town US life

Winship used her Henri-Cartier Bresson prize money well: to fund a book, She Dances on Jackson, in which she has captured the silence at the heart of a clamorous nation

Sean O’Hagen writes in The Guardian When I first wrote about Vanessa Winship in 2011, she had just become the first woman to win the Henri Cartier-Bresson award since its inception in 1988. Her new book, She Dances on Jackson, is the end result of a number of road trips she made across the States, funded by the €30,000 grant from the Cartier-Bresson foundation. It is a thing of still beauty that gives a glimpse of another America, both quotidian and luminous.

Vanessa Winship She Dances on Jackson

The first image sets the tone: an almost stationary river with concentric ripples at its centre, where a fish could just have broken the surface to catch a fly. Beyond the river lies a reeded bank, a row of dark trees and a sky as grey as the water. The stillness is palpable, yet you can almost hear the echo of a soft splash. Another image shows a flock of birds in flight around a leafless tree, as if they have been startled by the shutter click of her camera. Again, the silence of the image is somehow amplified by the suggestion of sound.

Vanessa Winship She Dances on Jackson

With the title She Dances on Jackson, Winship suggests both reverie and a fixed sense of place, as well as the fact that the US is a continent so vast that locality equals identity. To this end, her portraits also evince a small-town America where people tend to stay put. They are mainly straightforward, head-on shots of people who stare back at her lens without giving much away.

Vanessa Winship She Dances on JacksonOn the road … all pieces untitled, from Vanessa Winship’s She Dances on Jackson (2013). Photographs: Vanessa Winship, 2013 courtesy MACK

 

 

An exhibition of Winship’s work is currently on display at Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris until 28 July.

 

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