About the Photographer
American, b. 1969
In his series Camera Club (1995-1997), Chris Verene employs his camera furtively, but without entirely concealing it from view. Verene infiltrated the world of "camera clubs," groups of men who lure young women into modeling nude or seminude by placing classified ads in newspapers and pretending to be professional fashion photographers. He posed as a camera club photographer, joined the group and played the part, but then turned his camera on the photographers themselves. By positioning himself behind the men and pretending to be tinkering with his camera – loading his film, testing his flash – Verene could easily release his shutter without arousing the suspicion of his already distracted colleagues.
The resulting pictures telescope the usual photographer's gaze and emphasize the predatory nature of photography. Verene's compositions mirror the power dynamics of the situation: the men's backs, hairy legs, and balding heads dominate the picture plane and their lurching posture reveals their avidity. In contrast, the women in the background are small in scale; Verene protects their identities by keeping them generally out of focus.
For almost 20 years, Verene has photographed his hometown of Galesburg, a small working class railroad town in western Illinois. In these pictures Verene documents with dignity and a wry sense of humor both joyful events, like a cousin's wedding, and the hardships of poverty, divorce, and death. Other projects include a continuation of the Camera Club series, the Self-Esteem Salon. A performance oriented project Verene coined as a public response to the Camera Club images, the Self-Esteem Salon involves a series of "therapeutic portrait sessions" geared towards models in need of a fresh look or makeover.
Born in Galesburg, Illinois, Chris Verene was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He received a BA from Emory University and an MFA from Georgia State University. In addition to being a photographer, Verene is also a performance artist and musician in the indie rock band Cordero. His works have been presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and in Times Square, New York. His photographs are held in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Whitney Museum and the High Museum. Verene lives and works in New York where he is an Assistant Professor of Photography at The College of Staten Island, City University of New York.