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Jason DeMarte

As Good As Real

by Sean O'Toole / 03.09.2010

If you look past the funky graphic interjections, mostly green, pink and orange dots, you’ll see that photographer Jason DeMarte’s work is situated in familiar territory. Like Hiroshi Sugimoto, Jo Ractliffe or Lien Botha before him, DeMarte, a US photographer currently showing at Cape Town’s Wessel Snyman Creative, likes taking photos of diorama scenes.

Born in Louisiana (1973), DeMarte spent most of his childhood growing up in Colorado, an area whose endangered natural splendour also features prominently in the photography (and writing) of the masterful Robert Adams. Currently an assistant professor of photography at Mississippi State University, DeMarte’s work doesn’t hide the fact that his is a form of post-production photography made possible by Photoshop.

Utopic, the name of his Cape Town exhibition (on until September 21 at 17 Bree Street), juxtaposes photographs of fabricated and artificial flora and fauna with commercially produced products such as processed food, domestic goods and pharmaceutical products.

Jason DeMarte

“I’m representing the natural world through completely unnatural elements to speak metaphorically and symbolically of our mental separation from what is real,” says DeMarte of the series, of which the dot is an integral component. “The dot for me represents that desire in its simplest symbolic form, a placeholder for whatever it may be that one feels he needs to be happy.”

Vivid, surreal and kitsch, sometimes all at once, DeMarte’s work suggests that social critique needn’t be couched in stern language of documentary realism, as is often the case with South African photographers.

Incidentally, it was Hiroshi Sugimoto who made the observation that when looking at stuffed animals through one eye – like a camera – all perspective vanishes. “However fake the subject, once photographed, it’s as good as real.”

Jason DeMarte

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