London, The Photographers' Gallery

To inaugurate its new space near Oxford Circus, the Photographers' Gallery is staging a solo exhibition by the American photographer Katy Grannan. On display are 30 images from her series "The Westerns," which Grannan began after her move to the west coast. Taken over a three-year period, they are divided into two sets. Grannan, who has made her name in portraiture, has taken portraits of two middle-aged transsexuals, Gail and Dale, and another group of a young woman, Nicole.

As usual with Grannan, the rigorously staged images capture a sense of vulnerability and ambiguity. There's the impression that the characters are role-playing for the camera, indicative of how Grannan directs those whom she is attracted to photographing, yet their variable feelings about their identity pierce through. Against the natural backdrops, Gail and Dale's attentiveness to their appearance, from their carefully made-up faces, painted nails, groomed hair to their romantic, feminine clothes, suggests a dreamy desire for escapism. By contrast, with the portraits of Nicole, the viewer has the impression of seeing a different woman every time. In a video interview accompanying the exhibition, Grannan comments on how her subject seemed to have changed almost beyond recognition each time they met. The notion of the wild west takes on a metaphorical meaning through people playing with the boundaries of their own self-image.

December 6, 2008, through February 8, 2009
16-18 Ramillies Street
London W1
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