Just because photography is focused on reality and known for its “transparency” doesn’t mean photographers can’t find their own style. Beyond well-established genres such as photojournalism, portraits, street photography and others, it behooves anyone trying to stand out from the crowd of photographers to offer up something original, unique, and—you never know—new.
In this regard, Jan Groover is a shining example. Her images are recognizable from afar: still lifes in black and white or color, where a close-up is often used to de-familiarize the subject. This theme is present throughout her work and gives it consistency without rendering it monotonous. Through her eyes, the kitchen utensils associated with her images reach beyond their humble status to become instruments of light: polished steel turns into a mirrored surface, integrating a complex array of reflections into the modern and sophisticated still lifes. The abstraction is up close, but held at a distance: Jan Groover’s work is built on this polarity, which is one of the fundamentals of the Formalist movement she subscribes to.
One question persists: why this fascination with cutlery? Was it a reference to her German predecessor, Albert Renger-Patzsch, a representative of the New Objectivity, who photographed tools and utensils with the same cold elegance back in the 1920s? Or was it simply out of convenience, because they were so readily available? Unless we can detect feminist subtext in it, a nod to the place in which women allegedly belong (in the kitchen), subverted and sublimated. Jan Groover’s choice remains unfathomable—artists have their reasons… Still, the fork has become her signature. Someone had to think of it!
By Camille Balenieri
Jan Groover, Forms Laboratory
September 18, 2019 – January 5, 2020
Musée de l’Elysée, 18, avenue de l’Elysée CH-1006 Lausanne