From parking lots and highways to suburban houses and hotel lobbies, Henry Wessel’s technically sophisticated photographs depict America’s social landscape.
Described by Wessel as a ‘work without words’, Incidents is a portfolio of 27 photographs recently acquired by Tate, depicting ordinary moments in the everyday lives of strangers. Captured from his car, on the street, or in other public places, and taken with minimal interaction with the subject, these commonplace scenes are framed by Wessel as if they were isolated moments from a grander narrative.
Incidents was not originally produced as a series. Instead, it emerged from Wessel’s process of returning to his archive of contact sheets and discovering connections between images taken years or even decades apart. Wessel has said that this manner of working distances him from the subjective experience of shooting.
Wessel has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1971, attracted by the distinctive light of the West Coast, which remains central to his practice. The images in Incidents are printed in a range of grey tones with minimal contrast to capture that bright, soft quality. ‘My craft is duplicating the light that exists in the physical world. That’s my measure of a good print,’ he has said.
Henry Wessel was born in 1942 in New Jersey. He lives and works in Point Richmond, California.
Curated by Simon Baker and Shoair Mavlian
Text by Emma Lewis