Pictura Gallery

Melissa Ann Pinney | In Their Own Light

April 11, 2024| curatorial

49 I8189

We've been dreaming of an exhibition with Melissa Ann Pinney for some time now, and the time has finally come! We had a lovely opening, artist talk and kid's workshop in conjunction with the opening of her show this weekend.

Curatorial Statement

Melissa Ann Pinney has spent over 5 years photographing students in Chicago public schools. She’s been offered access into the interior space of teen and preteen life and in her photographs we meet students inside their world. Many photographers collaborate with kids until the kids know what the photographers want and deliver just that. But the young people in Pinney’s photographs seem to be setting their own terms. Pinney even names this in the series title the students are presented in Their Own Light. They appear calm and nothing feels contrived. The camera does not feel like the awkward interloper It’s clearly been invited to the party.

Public schools are by no means a portrait studio. But Pinney manages to create the qualities of formal portraiture with candid situations. The images are composed yet unguarded. Pinney is attentive and observant of both the students and the light. She seeks out light that is unusual in an institutional space. When the sun changes over the course of the day and the windows start to glow she is there to record it. Pinney uses radiance to communicate the preciousness and value of the individuals she photographs. They are gentle and resilient. They are luminescent. 

Pinney has a way of getting us to really see the individual. The final image in the exhibition shows a crop of high schoolers lingering outside the school in the shade perhaps waiting for the bell. Warm light falls on one face only. The school is behind him as he looks ahead. Each of the figures in the shadow could just as easily be in his position but in this moment we see only him.

The photogenic quality of real life even school life is offered back to the expressive teens and preteens in the pictures. Pinney’s skill as an image maker affirms and helps convey their self-expression. The students’ interactions and the small moments of the school day are documented beautifully during a time of social cohesion and rapid growth and change.

- Mia Dalglish + Lisa Woodward

See full exhibition info here.

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