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Alex Prager’s Photography: Off To London With The Big Valley

Annie From The Big Valley by Alex Prager 2008

She’s witty and sincere. There’s a pleasantness about her that’s charming and genuine. She has no formal education past 8th grade but is articulate and of raw talent and vision. Alex Prager is a color photographer and was an eruption into the art scene with her Polyester exhibition last summer out at Robert Berman’s Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. Prager’s London exhibition, The Big Valley is currently at the Michael Hoppen Gallery and is no disappointment after Polyester.

“The London show is going really well. It’s surprising how well people are responding to my work over here. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go because I’m so used to showing in my hometown of Los Angeles. This is only the first time I’ve really ever shown in Europe. I love the scene over here. London is the perfect contrast to L.A. for me, my second favorite place in the world,” said Prager in an interview about her London show.

“I’ll be back in LA in September maybe or August, not actually sure. I’m in London working on my new series. So, I guess I’ll stay until I feel like I need to be back in L.A. to finish it. I prefer shooting in L.A., because I get more done when I’m out there. But, there’s nothing in the world like being in London for the summer.”

Prager creates iconic voyeuristic images of women steeped in sometimes hypnotic, sometimes classic Hollywood cinematic moments. Her models wear retro costumes and obvious polyester blonde wigs with fake gigantic eyelashes and eerily perfect make-up. The poses are staged to create an even further thriller feeling. These are Barbie Dolls about to be lost to some horrific ending. The influences of Hitchcock and David Lynch are evident yet not so that they are mere replications or rip-offs. It’s the lighting that makes her photography so fantastic. She manages to capture the intricacies of a dark night coupled with the vivid foreground of a car’s overhead bright light. The two create a disturbing scratchy awareness of impending doom.

The works are a series of narratives with a sense in each of more story than what is seen. Her storytelling expertise is clear as the imagination is pricked to continue the image after the frame and wonder vis-à-vis before the shutter closed. Even one piece to the next there is a connection of sorts. There are missing frames between but a disquieting relationship exists between the pieces. A French jump cut, maybe, but certainly La Nouvelle Vague. There is a subconscious dismissal of landmark cinematic form, an abundance of childlike iconoclasm and evident Godard deep focus.

Prager got into photography at the age of 20 after visiting a William Eggleston exhibition at The Getty. It is even more flooring to know she is self-taught. There was no formal training for Prager. The images are pure raw talent.

Prager is the recipient of the 2006 London Photographic Award and has shot for such notable publications as Rolling Stone, Elle Japan, I-D, Flaunt, Complex and MOJO.

Topanga Journal
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