The 47 images by Curran Hatleberg at Higher Pictures are 12-by-15-inch prints in neat white frames, hung close together in a single line that wends around the gallery. This suggests they are to be read as a continuous narrative—but if so it is an episodic tale, rich in detail and compelling characters, whose true meaning seems always to be found one step further down the road. All the pictures were taken in a six-month period in 2014 in Humboldt County, Calif., and are titled “Lost Coast” with a number in parentheses.
They make effective use of the snapshot style; the casual way in which what might be important elements are cropped by the frame adds to their ambiguity. In the foreground of No. 6 is the back half of a black dog that seems to have nothing to do with the men working on a car engine on the other side of a cyclone fence. In No. 7, we see the hands of a man who may or may not be connected to the young girl picking flowers, who is the picture’s central occupation.
The narrative is interrupted periodically by scenic pictures—forests, sunsets—and by situations that are undecipherable. If the young black women in the passenger seat in No. 28 is afraid, then of what? In No. 21, the elderly woman’s expression is intense, but why? And why is the boy in No. 17 lying on the sidewalk beside his bike?