Through the Lens of Desire
“Relationships, real or imagined, are at the center of this work. Growing up queer, I searched for a history that spoke to me—included me. In my family history, there were no couples that mirrored my own intimate relationships. That didn’t keep me from imagining such couples.”
In her photography series Through the Lens of Desire, Kris Sanford envisions an imaginary queer past using found snapshots dating from the 1920s through to the 1950s. Sanford selects black-and-white photographs featuring men together and women together and then crops each image to isolate the points of physical contact between the two subjects. The circular shape of her selections reinforces this act of looking closer, as if through a microscope, to glean the new information about these unknown pairs, yet her edits purposefully leave out the individuals’ faces and other defining features. Although their gestures are often subtle and may be expressions of platonic intimacy, the anonymity of these unknown figures allows them to embody Sanford’s own desires and experiences that have long been left out of the dominant historical narrative.
Kris Sanford grew up in southeast Michigan and received a BFA in photography from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. She received her MFA in photography from Arizona State University, where she served as art editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. Sanford has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, including group exhibitions in Amsterdam, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, London, Miami, and New York. She was selected as a finalist for the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2015 and included in the 2016 Critical Mass Top 50. Recent awards include the Fellowship 17 International Award from Silver Eye Center for Photography and the Visual Studies Workshop Residency Award through Critical Mass 2016. Her photographs have been featured in Fraction Magazine, Light Leaked, and Slate. She is currently an assistant professor at Central Michigan University and she is represented by Catherine Couturier Gallery in Houston, Texas and Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Through the Lens of Desire is part of the Embodied: Asserting Self exhibition series, which is generously supported by Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer.