An exemplary figure in a generation of artists that used photographic procedures to redefine both photography and art, Prince was at the vanguard of experimentation in his use of the radically postmodern method of appropriation known as ‘re-photography’. The constant appropriation and re-presentation of magazine images highlighting consumer culture’s rapid turnover of images, lead to a juxtaposition of fiction and non-fiction and a confusion about definitions of “real”. Prince’s philosophy can be located in the context of Baudrillard’s concept of the simulacrum, which surpassed representation and reproduction to produce a synthetic “hyperreality”, “ a real without origin or reality” (Solomon-Godeau in” People Keep Asking: An Introduction”, Lisa Phillips, Exhibition Catalogue, Richard Prince, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1992, p. 28.)
Prince’s ‘Girlfriends’ explore the uncanny slippage between the way people wish they could look and the reality of their appearance. In leaving every photographic fault visible and almost emphasizing the awkward lighting and colour, Prince imbues these images with a sense of melancholy and transforms the everyday into a meditation on identity and truth.
“That’s the way we want to look. To be pictured. A portrait. The Girlfriends (…) were pictures of the way I wished I could be. Maybe it’s a kind of stupid desire. Passion. Is passion what we are? Is that what we are in pictures? Is what we are in pictures almost real? Maybe it’s become the ‘most’ real thing. I mean, the picture I take has already been taken. I take it again. My picture is seamless. No cuts. No scissors. The camera as electronic scissors. It makes the magazine picture a photograph. The photograph is ‘close’. It’s real close. Close to the real thing.” (Jeff Rian in conversation with Richard Prince in Rosetta Brooks, et al., Richard Prince, London 2003, p.16)
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