In Incidents 005 a girl looks at us from the passenger window of a 1970s shooting-brake. With her hand to her head she holds an uncertain pose, a puzzlement of fashion affection and consternation. Henry Wessel’s title doesn’t give much away – an incident, something occurred, Wessel was there, he took a photograph and here it is. Now it’s down to us.
Wessel first came to prominence in William Jenkins’ seminal exhibition New Topographics in 1975, bringing together ten photographers chronicling the mundane landscapes of the suburban world. Wessel has continued photographing (Tri-X film on a Leica with a 28mm lens) the landscapes and people of California and the West Coast, walking the streets or from the window of his car. His soft, low contrast prints highlight the brilliant quality of the light in which everything can be seen, every surface described.
Looking for meaning in a photograph there is much we might consider: the photographed event, the photographer, title and text, but Wessel suggests that meaning arises from a different event – from the play between the appearance of the photograph and the viewer’s experiential knowledge and imagination.
a girl looks from the passenger window of a 1970s shooting-brake
three time streams emanate from inside the car
the driver looking forward, waits for a gap in the traffic – the future
the children in the rear seat look backwards – the past
the girl in the centre looks straight at us – the present
as in a dream
the car is travelling backwards
behind the girl
another figure watches
Incidents 005 is currently on show at Tate Modern, London in Incidents, a series of 27 black and white prints by Henry Wessel.