Gossage to appear at Museum of Contemporary Photography

By The Columbia Chronicle

Sylvia Barragan

Staff Writer

A Moment in Time.

John Gossage captures people and objects in the way a surveillance camera might — unsuspecting and completely natural. Although his subjects vary, they all deal with the same topic: Borders.

“I wished to photograph people who did not know they were being photographed. I did not want to be a presence nor a factor in the equation, and technically I had the ability to do just that … the more a picture looks like it’s been taken with a surveillance camera in a convenience store, the more likely we’ll believe the images in it.” This is John Gossage describing his work. “There and Gone,” Gossage’s latest work, is on display until Oct. 31 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

In the first part of his series, Gossage achieves what he set out to do. The pictures taken on a California beach near San Diego and on the Playa de Tijuana in Mexico with a telephoto lens are some of his most beautiful works. His black and white pictures capture people bathing on the beach, and what makes his work different is that the viewer can’t make out their faces but anyone can see their emotions. One of my favorite shots is of a woman with slumped shoulders standing in the water, looking out into the ocean. She looks lost and is trying to find the answer in the sea. The contrast of her clothes and the water give the picture a mystical look.

Gossage managed to get a couple of group pictures with the distinct faces masked by darkness. The pictures show people holding on to one another for support, reaching out with such tenderness that their emotions are transparent to those who are watching.

The series of 124 photographs shot between 1993 and 1994 is divided into three sections. The first section (my favorite) concentrates on the unsuspecting bathers on the Mexican beach. The second centers on paths running north through the U.S. border while the third focuses on everyday borders no one may have noticed.

Each section has captivating shots. One of the more interesti a road which seems to be unaffected by the river that cuts between it. Car tracks that are clearly visible in the foreground disappear into the water only to reappear on the other side.

In the third section Gossage gives his photographs names that are completely irrelevant to their subjects. One of the photographs, “El Diabilito” (The Little Devil), captures what looks like a garage door with a rope tied around the handle. To me the name has nothing to do with the door or the rope.

In this section the photographs themselves are larger compared to those of the first and second sections, adding to the details. My favorite, “El Arpa,” is a picture of water running down cement stairs.

This collection of photographs has been published in a book called “There and Gone” which is Gossage’s latest book dealing with borders. His other works, “Life of Goethe,” “Stadt des Schwarz” and “LAMF” concentrated on the borders created by the Berlin Wall.

John Gossage will be signing books at the Museum of Contemporary Photography on Thursday Oct. 15 at 5 p.m. and he will also give a lecture at 6:30 on the second floor of the museum.