philadelphia

Zoe Strauss, Billboard 9: “Matt Tune,” Morgan City, LA, 2009, installed on Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, 2012.

Zoe Strauss

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Zoe Strauss, Billboard 9: “Matt Tune,” Morgan City, LA, 2009, installed on Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, 2012.

The photographs in Zoe Strauss’s recent retrospective read like a photo-essay without the text. Her portrait subjects—glaring or shy, rail thin or obese, scarred or bleeding, partying or parading—are mostly from around Philadelphia. Her landscapes offer up empty parking lots, terse signage, insulting graffiti, and glimpses of the Gulf Coast region after Katrina and the BP–Deepwater Horizon spill. Other images are lyrical abstractions or sweeps of some allover pattern found in nature or in the city.

At first glance, Strauss’s images seem to fall headlong into every trap that the history of photography since the Progressive Era has set: exploitation of the suffering person, romanticization of the postindustrial landscape, voyeurism of the lower classes, and so on. Looking at Monique Carbone, who appears in two very different images—first pregnant, heavily made-up, and

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the April 2012 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.