Untitled (Girl) is a portrait of my childhood friend’s daughter, I visited and took photos for years, unsure what I was looking for, it took a while to crystallise. Untitled (Girl) and Untitled (Boy) were first shown in Interior Life, a solo show at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in 2004, curated by Alistair Robinson, Director.
“Melanie Stidolph’s new photographs find moments of quiet revelation in the details of everyday life. Stidolph distils an unexpected drama from low-key subjects into still images which range from landscape to portrait compositions. Working spontaneously in a documentary fashion, but with a medium format camera, Stidolph’s people, animals and places become quietly transformed into luminous, highly loaded moments.
Stidolph’s practice is a highly distinctive and original cross-breed between the documentary and staged traditions within photography. Specifically, her area of investigation lies in forging a dialogue between the humanist documentary tradition recently exemplified by Rineke Dikjstra and Helen van Meene and the cinematic tradition. Like van Meene, she is driven by the desire to record exacting observations of her human subjects; like Jeff Wall by whom she was taught, she brings an acute understanding of historical picture-making to photography.
Her works establish a point midway between what Michael Fried labels the ‘theatrical’ and ‘absorptive’ traditions of picture-making. Stidolph’s figures confront the viewer at near-life-size and feel to enter our own space, and yet the viewer is placed into the position of the photographer’s own intimate encounter with the subjects, who are captured as being entirely unselfconscious.
Though Stidolph shoots spontaneously on medium format, her exceptional dexterity with the medium and compositional gifts mean that chance encounters and scenarios become unexpectedly iconic, monumental or ‘made strange’. Often what initially appears to be staged is slowly revealed as the record of quotidian circumstances.”
Alistair Robinson, Director, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art