Foam presents Shelter Island, the newest work of Roe Ethridge (1969, US). At the eastern end of Long Island, New York, the photographer turned to his family and the characteristically American ‘Kit House’ they rented for the summer of 2015. There he became fascinated by a range of stored away possessions from the homeowners and their children.
Employing an array of classic photographic genres – from portraiture to still life to landscape – Ethridge captures his subjects and surrounding environment in intimate detail. The artist combines the glossy effect of commercial photography with the sensitivity of fine art photography. The outcome is a body of work that is both familiar and uncanny, and nostalgic as well as contemporary.
Evocative and cozy, the objects as props narrate a lifetime of childhood summers spent in a distinctly American tradition. We see stacked Coca-Cola bottles, a boy playing with a baseball bat, a colourful kite. Shelter Island, however, is less of an idealisation of these symbols than a melancholic expression of the end of summer malaise. The sun shines brightly in these images, yet a bouquet of flowers is seen well past its prime, the bottles appear neglected and gathering dust, and the kite is seen plunged into water and inert. An image of Pamela Anderson eating grapes and a grid of iPhone screenshots made by the artist’s daughter expand the Shelter Island story. In Ethridge’s specific technique, the passage of time, and of youth, is made both personal and intimate, yet stylised and highly mediated.