Ben Gest’s figures are dressed in their finest and clearly are about to head to important social events. They are getting themselves ready—prepared to be at their best, somewhere among others. Yet, emotionally removed from their surroundings, they have stopped in the middle of what they were doing. They are lost deep in thought, or otherwise not quite ready to face the demands of a social engagement. They have paused for a moment to take that last deep breath.
Gest’s images are unique in their aesthetic—their visual language is one of painting rather than photography. In these images space conforms to the photographer’s vision, and not to the rules of optics as conventional photographs do. It may not be very obvious how these images are different from regular photographs, but that they are not ordinary images is immediately clear. These photographs reflect how Gest wants us to see the world—one thing at a time. Similar to the way the human eye sees, we get to look at a person’s face, their hands, their clothes, and any other noteworthy detail, while all else disappears unnoticed and somewhat out of focus. As an artist, Gest de-emphasizes the painstaking steps he takes to achieve his digitally produced images. Only the final photographs counts.
Life-size, standing or sitting in their frames, the people in Gest’s photographs have allowed us into their personal space. Alone in their head, not moving but far from being passive, they collect themselves for what is ahead. We don’t dare disturb them, however we cannot help but look.
Director, Light Work
Ben Gest was born in 1975 in Caldwell, NJ. He received his BA in Visual Art from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and his MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. His work has been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions nationwide, most recently at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago. His work is part of Light Work’s Permanent Collection, as well as The Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; and the LaSalle Bank Photography Collection. Gest is currently an adjunct professor of photography at Columbia College Chicago. He has received many grants and awards, and participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence program in August 2005.