Anne Doran

Barbara Probst

Collector Daily


JTF (just the facts): A single multi-image work hung across three walls of the gallery’s exhibition space. Each of its 12 panels is an ultrachrome print on cotton paper mounted on Dibond measuring 44 x 66 inches. The piece, which is dated 2000, has been newly printed for this exhibition and is available in an edition of 5. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: On the evening of January 7, 2000, New York-based photographer Barbara Probst set up twelve film cameras on a midtown rooftop, opened their lenses, and, as a strobe light flashed, made a short running leap in the air before closing the cameras’ lenses again. The resulting work, Exposure #1: N.Y.C., 545 8th Avenue, 01.07.00, 10:37 p.m. (2000), consists of twelve photographs, each capturing her jump at the same instant, but from different angles.

Hung in a grid to underscore their simultaneity, the photographs variously show the artist from above and from the side, in black and white and in color, close-up and from a distance. In one, taken from above, the artist, in a baggy white sweatshirt and black pants, is suspended mid-jump at the roof’s center, the city spread out below her. In another image, only her legs are in the frame; in a third, she’s glimpsed through a forest of water towers, skylights, and bulkheads.

For Probst, who had already been exploring photography’s ability to alter perceptions of depth and scale—notably in sequences of images gradually revealed to be photographs of other photographs—Exposure #1 was a seminal piece, launching a still-ongoing series that now numbers over 150 works. It is currently the focus of a single-work show, co-presented with photographer and gallerist Janice Guy.

Despite its apparent simplicity, Exposure #1—like the others in the “Exposures” series—carries with it profound philosophical implications. By presenting quite different pictures of the same scene, it suggests an infinity of additional views, in effect exploiting the indexical nature of photography in order to challenge the authority of photographic “truth.”

Equally intriguing is the relationship of the “Exposures” to other forms of expression, including literature, film, and sculpture. Since the invention of the medium, photography has been allied to sculpture through a common concern with space. But while photographs are monocular, presenting a single point of view, Probst’s works invite the viewer to experience their subjects from multiple perspectives, much as three-dimensional artworks do.

At the same time, Probst has spoken of her affinity for the fragmented narratives of French New Wave cinema and “new novel” literature of the 1960s, which she compares to Cubist painting. But though her works feel cinematic—particularly later pieces in the series that use models as “actors”—they are not time based. Rather, her “Exposures” photographs, while they might at first appear to be sequential, freeze the action.

In the two decades since making Exposure #1, Probst has applied the method used to produce it to a wide range of subjects, from street scenes to studio setups and from still lifes to portraits. Her concern, however, has remained virtually unchanged from what it was in January 2000: the question of what constitutes the “reality” of an event.

Collector’s POV: The single work on view is priced at $95000. Probst’s work has very little secondary market history; the few lots that have come up for sale in recent years have ranged in price from roughly $4000 to $23000.