KATY GRANNAN was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, in 1969. Her works predominantly in portraiture and strives to embody the subject’s personality. The artist’s first monograph, Model American, was published by Aperture in 2005. She received the 2004 Baum Award for Emerging American Photographers. She lives in New York City and San Francisco.
Katy Grannan relies on documentary photography as a point of reference in order to merge reality and fiction, while capturing the subtleties of her sitters’ psychologies. To find subjects for her often unsettling photographs, Grannan has sought ordinary, nonprofessional models. In places such as upstate New York and Wisconsin, she placed a classified ad in local newspapers: “Art models. Artist/photographer (female) seeks people for portraits. No experience necessary. Leave msg.” The ad yielded two series of photographs, Dream America (2000) and The Poughkeepsie Journal (1998–99). Grannan’s subjects posed for her in their own nonspecific, suburban American homes, complete with banal, often dingy furnishings and shopping-mall-purchased accessories. After arriving with only a fan, a light, and a camera, Grannan altered these settings by moving furniture and selecting a few “props” from around the house; sometimes people were photographed with their pets. Her process was swift and spontaneous—each portrait was completed within a period of three hours.
Although people of varying ages replied to Grannan’s ad, including couples and women who posed with their children, most of the images in The Poughkeepsie Journal depict young women in their late teens and early twenties, many photographed at their parents’ homes. Often they are clad only in underwear or completely nude, shown in varying degrees of modesty and exposure. Grannan captures their desire to appeal to and entice viewers (including themselves and the photographer) while also eliciting a certain melancholy. As the figures of The Poughkeepsie Journal pose uneasily in their bedrooms and living rooms, they are captivatingly present, and indeed, what Grannan captures is the seductiveness of being photographed. These young women seem to be making a poignant effort to achieve a kind of sexiness, glamour, or independence that might transport them, if only momentarily, from the confines of their ordinary lives.