Susan Lipper’s series Bed & Breakfast, 1998 was a commission for PhotoWorks’ Country Life which was a project initiated by Val Williams in 1995 where artists would take as their reference point the photographs made by West Sussex photographer, George Garland (1920s to 1960s). Garland’s photographs were images of Sussex country life – weddings, fêtes, political rallies and so on. His photographs were representative of a calmer way of life, away from the frantic hustle and bustle of modern city life.
Lipper is an American artist and as such her views are those of the outsider, focusing on the small details of items encountered that strike a disharmonious chord with her while staying at various Bed & Breakfast residences.
Lipper’s small details and fragments of events and scenes remain disconnected as though part of some indecipherable language or ritual.
There is a strange mix of items in the image above: the bone handle knife (which takes me back to my childhood – my mother had a cutlery set very similar), the Chinese patterned side plate juxtaposed to the wavy plastic apricot table mats atop two linen table clothes and mix of other stainless steel cutlery, the crinkly paper serviette and the little basket of jam and butter. The place setting has been quickly laid as evidenced by the position of the fork – the handle resting carelessly on the side plate. The items are very eclectic and there is a sense of discord: the exotic mingling with the everyday. The decorations in the rooms are floral and fussy, very reminiscent of the 60’s – all striving for the “olde world charm”.
For those people not familiar with English B&B’s, the images will definitely strike a chord of disharmony, but for those who grew up with them, or encountered them on their travels, the images constitute a sense of nostalgia, representing times long gone and bringing old memories to the forefront once again. Lipper’s account of Sussex is an entirely subjective one, as it represents her reaction to a certain way of life.
Hemmed in by petty-mindedness in peach, this testament to curtain twitching reverberates with tongue tutting and tradition-lite.
In contrast Penny Klepuszewska’s series Living Arrangements documenting the home in old age is very focused and less ambiguous. All her images are shot against a black background rendering them very studio-like. Her images all shout out loneliness, and isolation, from the single plate with the residue of baked beans resting on the spoon, to the single plastic tumbler next to the wireless, to the single set of clasped hands on the table. There are no extraneous factors that can distract the viewer’s attention from the subject. We are forced to face up to the solitude emanating in this images and question our own lives, or that of our aged parents. Is this what we want for them (or us)?
Chandler, David (n.d.) Bed & Breakfast [onlne]. Susan Lipper. Available at: http://www.susanlipper.com/text_bb_chandler.html. [Accessed 27 June, 2017]
Evans, Jason (n.d.) no vacancies [online]. Susan Lipper. Available at: http://www.susanlipper.com/text_bb_evans.html. [Accessed 27 June, 2017]
The Sproxton Photography Award (2006). Penny Klepuszewska [online] Available at: http://www.sproxtonphotographyaward.org/winners/penny-klepuszewska/ [Accessed 27 June, 2017]