First and foremost in Svenson’s practice is to seek out the inner life, the essence, of his subjects, whether they be human, inanimate, or something in between. He uses his camera as a reporter uses text, to create a narrative that facilitates the understanding of that which may lie hidden or obscured. This narrative, at times only a whisper or suggestion, weaves throughout his divergent body of work.
New York-based, Svenson’s photographs have been shown extensively in the United States and Europe and his work is included in numerous public and private collections, including the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, and New York Public Library. Self-taught, with an educational and vocational background in special education, Svenson is the author/photographer of numerous books, including Prisoners, Sock Monkeys (200 out of 1,863) with Ron Warren, The Neighbors and the upcoming Unspeaking Likeness, a collection of photographs of forensic facial reconstruction sculptures.
The Neighbors project began when I inherited a long-focus lens and started photographing the occupants of the glass-walled apartment building across the street from my Manhattan studio. I was transfixed by the divergent narratives, obstructed by reflections and the patina of dust on glass, that were created in the segmented windows. The people were unaware at the time that I was taking their photographs and I was stringent about not revealing their identities — not photographing them as specific, identifiable personages, but more as anonymous representations of human kind, of us. Therefore, I only reveal the turn of the head, the back against a window, the legs under a table – the quotidian activities that signify our collective human behavior.
Focusing on the dirt coating the windows created the optical effect that the action was appearing within the glass rather than behind it — this unexpected consequence giving the photographs a painterly effect that references such artists as Delacroix, Vermeer and Hopper, while at the same time bowing to the influence of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”.
Svenson’s latest solo museum exhibition was The Neighbors at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, 2016, and his most recent gallery exhibition was The Workers at the Julie Saul Gallery, New York City, 2015. He is currently working on a new body of work, The Forest, shot in Sweden, that explores the dichotomous relationship between photography and painting, the intersection where perceived reality and fiction meet.
If you’d like to view more of Arne’s work, please visit his website!