There are multiple entry points into Dannielle Bowman’s What Had Happened, a series in progress. Bowman makes excellent use of the pleasures of photographic space, described in elongated tonal-gradations of black, white, and maximum greys balanced against compositions etched sharply by California-noir shadows—Robert Adams meets Maya Deren in the Los Angeles suburbs. These elements lure the viewer to linger within the work. Aside from the surplus of visual gratification, the work simmers with the tension of a story mostly withheld. What has happened? On one level, these pictures are about the neighborhoods in and around the artist’s family home in Los Angeles. On another, Bowman’s work describes the passage of time and memories of home—or more precisely, the homes one makes on leaving old ones; about the search for better places in which to put down new roots and grow. Dig further, and the work begins to hint at even more specific histories—those of the Great Migration, which drew African Americans from the South (like Bowman’s own grandparents) into not only the North, but also the American West. The clues are not part of the standard-issue, broad brush–stroke narrative of the African American diaspora; they are found in details, such as the framed family photos on the mantle and the bump ’n’ curl hairdo worn by the woman standing on her flamingo bedecked lawn.
Juxtapoz Magazine – Dannielle Bowman’s “What Had Happened” Wins the Aperture Portfolio Prize