Lishui Photo – Jessica Kaufman






My path has crossed with Jessica’s on many photo review occasions, from Houston to Portland, and her work has always stood out. She was asked by the Lishui Festival to show her lovely work in China, and I am happy to highlight her work here. Her series, Panopticon, is well crafted, luscious, silver prints of open spaces.

Here is Jessica’s statement on Panopticon

No one

bears witness for the

witness.

–Paul Celan


I approached this series as I have all others: with the intention to investigate, or call attention to, how

identity shifts and changes when catalyzed by experience, and more dramatically, trauma. For this

project, I again was drawn to the landscape as muse, but uncharacteristically chose one loaded with

meaning, burdened with a history so cumbersome that I initially was afraid to pursue it.

The title of this series, Panopticon, refers to an 18th century circular prison model that allows for

secret surveillance of all prisoner activity through natural illumination. The subject matter is the

grounds of Nazi concentration camps. Far from being documentary in nature, these photographs are

decontextualized excerpts through which I sought to dispose of most recognizable clues to the

specific places, and focus on the surrounding, and surviving, environments in order to recast them as

sites for new meaning. The resulting images, mutated through a technical process that relies on decay

as an operative force, do suggest trauma, but don’t require a reaction that encompasses a response to

iconic horror. Instead, I make this work in the hope of inspiring a dialogue between the viewer and

imagery that fuses indeterminate disturbance with transcendent beauty.

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