Hubert Burda Media


An exhibition of American photographer Alex Prager’s work opened last night at Lehmann Maupin gallery.

What is it about crowds that inspired you to create the series, Face in the Crowd?

I’ve always had a strong interest in shooting crowds because of both the aesthetic characteristics – the different characters, textures, coluors, and shapes that make up crowds – and the psychological implications of being in a crowd. Crowds can play an interesting role in life. When I found myself travelling more than I’d ever travelled before, I was finding that the crowds of people could, on some days, be a sea of anonymous faces that tended to act like a barrier or obstacle, and on other days, I would become immersed in the individuals that make up a crowd. During this time in my life, I discovered I had trouble speaking in front of crowds and through my perception of these groups, crowds took on a life of their own, and had a way of controlling me to some degree. They evoked physical reactions. To look into the subject of crowds and make a body of work on it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

You’ve included a video piece that complements the photographic works. How does creating a video installation differ from a still?

To me, film is still a very new medium and each time I work in it, I discover a new way to communicate with it. Film is unique because the use of sound, music and many other components that make up film as a medium – and not photography – allow me to show the emotional side of the story better, or at least show the psychological side of it, in a more intense way. Comparatively, still images allow me to show the stillness of the mind and the anticipation of what might be. The stillness adds an eeriness to the moment because you know you are looking at just one moment, but you don’t know yet what lies beyond. Additionally, the stillness of images conveys loneliness more strongly, which I noticed while editing Face in the Crowd. With both media, intention is really key.

The exhibition in Hong Kong continues the series Face in the Crowd – how are these pieces different to the work we’ve already seen?

The works on view at the Hong Kong exhibition serve as a continuation of my exploration of crowds. In this sense, I’m still very much interested in exploring crowds, and the individual characters that make up crowds. I can’t imagine a time when people and their behavior isn’t a source of inspiration for me. There’s this quote that sums up how I felt after I made Face in the Crowd: “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love, once you’ve heard their story.”

The exhibition in Hong Kong will feature five new large-scale photographic works, as well as a film work. I have a sense that my exploration of crowds will be a familiar thing to the city’s audiences and that the experience in Hong Kong will echo my experiences living in cities like New York and London, where crowds are similarly ubiquitous.

Why did you choose to use an established face such as Elizabeth Banks in your video piece about faceless crowds?

The work was my attempt to present a new view on urban isolation and loneliness. The work follows our female protagonist from her apartment into the throngs of a crowd, displaying the chaos, movement and psychology that embodies crowds. For this, Elizabeth Banks was the perfect woman to feature because she is so dynamic. She is a true all-American beauty and with someone like that leading the way through the crowd, we would want to follow her.