A strange picture of perfection
by Maggie Finch


Beauty and promise

Molly, 2009
Molly 2009
type C photograph
91.4 × 121.9 cm
Collection of the artist, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York and Hong Kong

The protagonists in Prager's photographs often appear to be locked in situations of peril – confronting choices which may have devastating, or perhaps remarkable, consequences. In Molly, 2009, a young woman, holding a takeaway coffee cup and standing beside two abandoned bicycles, is seen looking up at a thick rope dangling inexplicably into the frame. As she stands transfixed the wind catches her dress, revealing a glimpse of her underwear. There is a tension here between a sense of optimism and beauty, and a possible fatal demise – the same fraught emotional state that runs throughout Prager's Week-end series, 2010. She has described her intention behind these photographs, not without humour:

I saw a theme of apathy and impending death running through these pictures – the death of dreams. Originally, I was going to call it, Weekend, without the hyphen, but by adding the hyphen, it emphasizes the word, 'end,' so it could also mean, 'Weak End.' That adds a layer of comedy to it which I like.5

Cathy, 2009
Cathy 2009
type C photograph
61.0 x 80.0 cm
Collection of the artist, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York and Hong Kong
Maggie, 2009
Maggie 2009
type C photograph
61.0 x 97.0 cm
Collection of Dr Clinton Ng, Sydney

Although the locations of these works are not specified, their sundrenched appearance alludes to Los Angeles. The illusory, intriguing quality of the city continues to inspire Prager – it is her eternal muse:

This series is, in a major part, inspired by Los Angeles … [Los Angeles] is a beautiful place. The magic is still here. Everything is possible, but there is a very dark element here too. I think that's what makes Los Angeles so inspiring. You can feel it when you've been here for a few months at a time. The sky is always blue, the birds are always singing – it's a strange picture of perfection – but there is this eerie monotony that creeps in after a while. I think it can slowly drive people crazy – that sense of unease under the surface of all this beauty and promise … I stage my pictures with this place in mind – a place where dreams die quietly.6