Tender Option by Buck EllisonAt The Sunday Painter

Photography complicates questions of race and class considerably. A medium between documentary and fiction.



On left: Buck Ellison, Sierra, Gymnastics Routine, 2015.
On right: Buck Ellison, Dick and Betsy, The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, Texas 2019

The Sunday Painter Gallery presents Tender Option a personal exhibition by Buck Ellison.

Photography complicates questions of race and class considerably. As a medium shifting between documentary and fiction, it both reaffirms the dynamics of social, political and economic power and at the same time places them out of reach. Ellison’s pictures are enigmatic in the way that they both “image” and “imagine” a certain kind of reality. To look at the family group is, as Philip Stokes writes, ‘to add the assumption of a whole thicket of connections between the sitters; most viewers allow themselves the pleasure of extravagant supposition.’ We, as viewers, do not know who these people are, but we can suppose who they remind us of, if not directly ourselves.

Google Image search “family portrait”. The algorithm offers us a picture of white familial normativity. Perfect teeth, rose-tinted skin, wavy locks of hair. Race is also a question of class, of course. The same algorithm delivers us a picture of wealth: three of the first ten images in the search return a photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their two young children. Immaculate teeth, snow white skin — human “perfection”. Where does this image come from, why does it appear so avaricious and white, and what happens if we turn it against itself?

Daniel C. Blight

“Tender Option” at The Sunday Painter
Until 13th April 2019
Discover more about the exhibition