Testimony of Simplicity: Jason Kalogiros at UnoSolo

A pinhole camera is a primitive, often homemade photographic apparatus composed of a darkened chamber, in which light sensitive film or photographic paper is inserted and then exposed via a tiny “pinhole” puncture in the wall of the compartment. It is “Photography 101″ at its most basic. San Francisco based artist, Jason Kalogiros constructed his from an Old Fashioned Quaker Oats container, featuring the familiar face of the pleased “Quaker” man on its exterior. He created two apertures in the can, positioned directly in the eyes of the Quaker Oats figure, cleverly drawing a connection between the medium of photography and our own visual perception.

Jason Kalogiros. Double Sunset no. 3, 2007; analog c-print; 16 x 20 in. Courtesy of the UnoSolo.

Testimony of Simplicity, on view at Unosolo Project Room in Milan chronicles Kalogiros’s use of his twin pinhole camera to reconsider iconic pictorial subjects. On exhibit are a suite of photographs of sunsets shot with the device, as well as a number of images of figures in landscapes, and something of a self-portrait, a photo of the Quaker Oats camera most likely captured as a reflection in the mirror.

Jason Kalogiros. Installation shot of all 12 double sunsets. Courtesy of UnoSolo.

Confronted with Kalogiros’s Double Sunset series, arguably the most prominent pieces in the show, I am struck by a pair of glowing eyes piercing through the serene canvas of a darkened sky as two suns descend over a horizon. The sunset, honored subject of many a snapshot elicits a contemplation of the photographic process itself, as we imagine these orbs of light seeping in through the exterior of the Quaker Oats apparatus, via its “eyeballs,” into a darkened interior to create their lucid impression.

Reciprocally, the resonance between the photographic process and human vision is disrupted by the doubling of the picture. The image contains its own copy. It is so obviously recognizable as a sunset and not a sunset in the same moment. Here, seeing isn’t believing. Accuracy of representation has been an issue at stake in photography since its inception. By cloning the image upon itself, Kalogiros reveals an ambivalence toward the medium’s evidentiary claim. Replication becomes a tool for both affirming and denying the veracity of the photographic subject.

Jason Kalogiros. In the Same Place no.7 (Bernal Hill), 2010; analog c-print., 4 x 5 in. Courtesy of UnoSolo.

These contentions of representation and repetition, this vacillation between authenticity and imitation embodied in much of contemporary photography, reaches its crescendo with another piece featured in the show. This photograph, which at 4 x 5 inches is much smaller than the sunsets and characteristically blurry, appears to describe two people, one on either side of a divided frame, each holding a poster-size likeness of his/her counterpart. A copy of a copy. An inverted double. Presumably, the process for making this particular photo, as well as the other portrait pieces in the show, was a bit different from that for the sunsets, as it is impossible for the two halves of this image to have been exposed simultaneously. Questions of timing arise. Which model was exposed first? Which is the underived representation and which its simulacrum? The two converge at once. Here, Kalogiros has created a unique moment of trickery in which the original document is bound up with its facsimile in its own tiny hall of mirrors.

Testimony of Simplicity is on view at Unosolo Project Room in Milan, Italy, through January 29, 2011.