Danziger Gallery (Los Angeles) is pleased to present “Approximate Joy” by Christopher Anderson. Following in the honored photographic tradition of Walker Evans’ “Subway Series” and Harry Callahan’s “Women Lost in Thought” the primary element these series have in common is that the subjects of the photographs are unaware of being photographed. While this is a common occurrence in photography, it asks moral and ethical questions of the photographer, the viewer, and the curator and requires decisions on what to photograph, what to view, and what to show.
As the owner and director of the gallery, where one draws the line is of great importance and for me Anderson’s work is respectful, insightful, humanistic, and beautifully modern. As with Arne Svenson’s “The Neighbors” photographs with which “Approximate Joy” is presented, the photographs are telephoto enabled observations of the human condition unimpaired by the self-consciousness of posed moments.
Anderson’s photographs of metropolitan men and women on the streets of Shanghai and Shenzhen, China taken in 2017 and 2018 picture a world that is largely unknown to most Westerners. Shenzhen, China’s Silicon Valley, barely existed thirty years ago but today has some twenty million inhabitants. Shanghai, China’s biggest city, has a population of over 24 million. Between the smog and constant development a grey/blue light hangs over both these cities providing an almost surreal or theatrical illumination to Anderson’s portraits. Whatever our preconceptions, Anderson presents an up to date image of the reality that is modern urban China.
Working almost invisibly, and focusing in on tight close-ups that exclude all context except the unusual light on the faces of his subjects, what struck Anderson was that people around the world have begun to look and act the same. In the face of this observation he felt compelled to wonder "Who are these individual people? What do they dream about? What truth do these pictures convey?”
Mysterious and visceral, Anderson’s China pictures could not have been made without the recent technological developments of digital cameras and lenses that allowed him to not only make color pictures in the ambient night light (when most of them were taken) but also to record the subtlest details of features and shades of color.
In a medium that is so often a complicit one, there is a both a beauty and a shock to seeing people's outer details so nakedly exposed. Anderson’s photographs record the surface while asking questions about his subjects’ inner lives.
Born in Canada in 1970, Anderson grew up in the West Texas town of Abilene before roaming the world and finally settling in Paris with his much photographed family.. He first gained recognition for his photography in 1999 when his images of the rescue of Haitian boat refugees won him the Robert Capa Gold Medal. In 2005 he joined the renowned Magnum collective where he has proved to be one of its brightest stars.