Jacob Charles Wilson

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The Photographer Subverting the Idea of the American WASP

for AnOther
A group of children wearing matching school uniforms pose around the sofa of a large, colonial-style living room.

Buck Ellison's subject hides in plain sight. The aesthetics of the white, American, upper-middle class - the somehow reserved and simultaneously ostentatious collegiate-colonial - predominate what is otherwise known as as 'western' culture. Ellison has to confront the problem of how to make the visible visible. Rather than facile documentary of actually-existing scenes, Ellison investigates line-by-line the accounts, statements, and genealogies of politicians, directors, and oligarchs. From these he constructs carefully staged simulacra of family portraits. I wrote on Ellison's Tender Option, currently showing at The Sunday Painter for AnOther.

Beneath the refinement of Ellison’s work remains a sense of tension between this presumed respectability and violence. A picture of Erik Prince sitting beneath a tree playing with a kitten while dressed in tactical military gear feels eerie; while another still life of a private school prospectus layered with business cards evokes a sense of the famous scene in American Psycho.