CRACKERFARM

In its second collaboration with emerging artists, Gramercy Post is pleased to present Crackerfarm, an artist collective comprised of photographers Mike Beyer and Lindsey Rome. Their photography is a strange brew, a kind of self-reflective ethnography that evokes Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”. Like Sal Paradise’s strong desire to see and be on the road, Crackerfarm thirsts for this way of life. Their photographs read like a thinly fictionalized autobiography, filled with a cast made of friends, relatives and strangers encountered in their travels, at times permeated by photographs of each other.

Playing out feelings and visions, they compose very personal scenes which are left rough so that the viewers can puzzle out their own stories. Recalling the narratives constructed by Lewis Carroll or when taking on different personas Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills, their photographs have a plush, cinematographic look, often imbued with an old-fashioned beauty.

Poetic, open and raw, Crackerfarm’s timeless portraits are unflattering yet weirdly seductive. Each one is recorded with affection regardless of who the sitter is. Whether shooting a toothless bodega proprietor from the Lower East Side, rural outbackers, or bands such as “Franz Ferdinand” and “Bloc Party”, every image conveys a sense of intimacy and sincerity giving a voice to each individual.

Sexier than Chuck Close and more humanistic than Arbus, Crackerfarm’s photographs combine a stark sense of compassion with a playful earthiness that is as welcome as it is unexpected. The duo also manages to achieve an extraordinary timelessness that leads one to wonder if their black and white studies of faces were shot in 2005, 1955, or 1915. Intimate without being intrusive, candid without being undignified, Crackerfarm invest their subjects with a majestic quality that overrides the bleak context of their surroundings: crumbling walls, chipped paint, ripped wallpaper, wood-paneling. Indeed, bleakness is a powerful presence in their work, lending their photographs a touch of gothic darkness that smacks of addiction. “Sadness is a compelling storyteller,” remarks Beyer. “Our work is colored by human hardship and an appreciation for life through it all.”

Beyer and Rome met three years ago at Manhattan’s prestigious School of Visual Arts (SVA), where both were pursuing a BFA in photography, earned in 2004. Brought together by a common aesthetic and a shared experience in overcoming personal demons, the duo began collaborating on portraits not only of each other, but of dolls, mannequins, and a range of similarly humanoid inanimate objects. Encouraged by SVA alum and rock and roll photographer extraordinaire Clay Patrick McBride, Beyer and Rome began shooting portraits of anyone they could get their hands on – family members, friends, musicians, and strangers.