Tuesday, May 21, 2024

In Justine Kurland’s Photographs, a Mother and Son Hit the Road

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There’s a lot of tenderness in Kurland’s portraits of herself and Casper, who, throughout the book, grows from a diapered toddler into a kindergartner. In “Go Dog Go” (2010), the van is pictured with its back doors open to reveal the pair, both naked, on the mattress they appear to use for sleeping. Kurland is lying on her side, her head resting in her hand, gazing at Casper, who is seated with his back against her, leafing through a children’s book. His feet are curled in childish concentration; soft sunlight dapples the scene. In “Dirty Dishes” (2009), Casper is resting on a rock at the edge of a river, while Kurland, who is washing a dish in the water with her pants rolled up, once again trains her eyes on her child. The two look to be in mid-conversation, and, although they aren’t physically touching, their psychic connection is palpable. These portraits have an Edenic quality, as if Kurland is asking: What if my kid and I were the only two people in the world?

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